One image to shame our government

One image has shaken us out of complacency

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So at least we hope. People who do care are deeply shaken. Just watch Naomi Klein this weekend in the Sidney Opera House addressing the Festival of Dangerous Ideas. The battle hardened author and activist who has seen it all before in her – must see – address loses it in tears and has to recover her composure talking about this little boy.

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Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Mediterranean beach represents hundreds of thousands of victims of the crimes of  Messrs. Bush & Blair and their “coalition of the willing” hangers-on invading Iraq in 2003 without any valid reason. This little corps however embodies much more than that. It is the embodiment of our sins going back to WWI and the so called “peace” treaty of Versailles. That treaty was in fact the root of not only WWII but the conflicts in the Middle East ever since up to this day.

Aylan not only came from Syria but he was a Kurd. Remember these are a people of 20 million. The Allies after WWI breaking up the Ottoman empire denied them their own country unlike other tinpot sheikhdoms in the region. They instead became the oppressed minorities of all neighbouring states mainly Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. A clever ploy to create disunity and make it easier for the Western powers to keep interfering. The Kurds are the only people who offer resistance to the onslaught of the murderous ISIS regime in the hope to finally after 100 years get their own independent state. For that they get attacked not only by ISIS and the Syrian regime but bombed by NATO member Turkey.

No price for guessing who does not only do the bombing but supplies the arms to all sides to keep the conflict going.

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Refugee crisis hits Europe

Up till recently the millions of refugees from the conflict in Syria and Iraq just ended up in neighbouring counties mainly Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. There they have been languishing in inhumane conditions as their hosts lack the resources to adequately care for them. Others like the Palestinians after the expulsion from their homeland, which became Israel, have now been living in camps for two generations almost 70 years without peace and without even hope for peace and a better future.
Finally the pressure has become to great and the sheer numbers unmanageable and an avalanche of desperate people has begun to move. Like an avalanche they are unstoppable. Now the disaster the “West” contributed so much to ended up on its door step. It is not someone else’s problem anymore.

The scenes we watch from inside Europe differ between deeply distressing and full of humanity and hope.

Have you noticed that the distressing images are mostly created by the actions of the various governments. While humanity is shown by the people opening their arms. Hope is of course what drives the thousands on the move. This indicates that it is the economic political system, which is at fault by creating the crisis and then failing to deal with it. Most of the people on the other hand are still a positive force. They have not forgotten empathy with their fellow men.

These people might after applying the bandaid just wonder if it might not be a better idea to tackle the root causes of this historical migration. They might realise that what we really need to do is change the economic political system. But lets not get ahead of ourselves because of some rays of hope.

Germany vs New Zealand

Germany must from our New Zealand perspective be a puzzling case of mavericks against the tide of anti asylum seeker sentiments in many other countries. One of the most hideous examples being displayed by our mates across the ditch. Just watch Naomi Klein making the connection between destroying Nauru, a tiny Pacific island nation, first physically by extracting all the phosphate and now turning it into a black hole detention camp to make refugees disappear.

New Zealanders read with incredulity a NZ Herald headline: ‘The right to political asylum has no limits’ – Angela Merkel.
The chancellor is just stating the fact. This is due to four words in the German Basic Law (constitution), which in article 16, paragraph 2 sentence 2 states “Politisch Verfolgte genießen Asylrecht.” (Politically persecuted people have a right to asylum). This is not only part of the constitution but part of the articles of basic human rights. These by their nature come without any (budgetary) restrictions. You cannot have for instance the first and most basic human right – the protection of human dignity – restricted by something like ‘as long as it doesn’t cost us anything’.

This is just one example that Germany has learned from its own recent dark Nazi history.

As Justin Huggler writes in the Telegraph: The contrast to other countries could not more dramatic. Calais is under siege; Britain is on alert to stop asylum-seekers creeping in through the Channel Tunnel. Migrants are lying on train lines in Hungary. Czech police have been pulling them off trains and writing identity numbers on their arms.
Meanwhile in Germany, they are being welcomed with teddy bears. When the latest wave began to reach Munich, hundreds of ordinary Germans took the day off work and went to the train station to donate food and clothing.  

Associated Press reports:
This stance has added to the desire among many migrants to strike out for Germany.
Merkel said it was touching to see hundreds of migrants chanting “Germany, Germany” at a railway station in Budapest earlier this week.

Can you imagine any empathetic, warm, touchy feelings from Tony Abbott or John Key hearing refugees trapped on leaky boats chanting “Australia” or “New Zealand” for that matter ? For them it is cold sweat.

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The only thing giving our Prime Minister a worse nightmare is loosing ground in public opinion. So Mr Key was forced to budge and take in a few more refugees as Bryan Gould aptly describes as “Refugee stance an example of policy by polling”.
We are shouting : John, do something  YOU SON OF A . . . . . . refugee ! And it needs his pollsters to make him move not the memory of his Jewish refugee mother. Utterly disgraceful. John Key shows – again – that he has not one moral fibre in his body.

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Opportunity

The most overlooked aspect of the German approach compared to that of for instance its  Eastern European neighbours is that to a large part the discussion is defined differently. Other countries talk about short term costs, possibility of civil unrest and the fact that most of the refugees are Muslims to pander to their own rightwing xenophobic minorities. Germany instead is clever enough to see and talk opportunity. Another lesson from post WWII history.
Modern Germany was born as a country of refugees, and it relived the agony through the long years of its postwar division. Between 1945 and 1950 West Germany took in a staggering 8 million refugees. Communist East Germany took in another 4 million.
But even after (West-) Germany absorbed all the German refugees it took in millions of so called Guest Workers from southern European countries and Turkey. And after that refugees like today. The country greatly benefitted from the influx of entrepreneurial people willing to work hard for a better life. The so called post war “economic miracle” would not have been possible without all these people.

The shame of our government is that it is not only being immoral but also shortsighted and stupid.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Ayn Rand’s monsters : Neoliberal-Man

Neoliberal economic theory based on fiction

All capitalist market economic theory is based on the existence of an all informed rational creature acting solely in it’s own individual self-interest. Such creature is rather like the mythical unicorn. It does not exist. Even if it ever did roam this earth it went extinct with the advent of advertising.

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This of course is a fatal flaw in our still prevailing economic theory, which stubbornly refuses to die. However true to its origins in theology economics is not an (empirical) science but rather a believe system, ideology or dogma. It does not deal in reality. Like their theologian brethren looking at the bible instead of life around them economists are obsessed with books some almost as ancient like the 18 century “bible of capitalism”, The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

Neoliberal Man

The arguably most influential neoliberal author was cult leader and sexual predator Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982). Instead of looking for the elusive creature ‘homo economicus’ she  like Frankenstein

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created a monster in her own image: Neoliberal-Man.

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Ayn Rand helped make the United States into one of the most uncaring nations in the industrialized world, a neo-Dickensian society where healthcare is only for those who can afford it. Where young people are coerced into huge student-loan debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.
“Ayn Rand’s “philosophy” is nearly perfect in its immorality, which makes the size of her audience all the more ominous and symptomatic as we enter a curious new phase in our society….To justify and extol human greed and egotism is to my mind not only immoral, but evil.” — Gore Vidal, 1961
Just watch her on Johnny Carson explain the core concept of her teaching, the central value, which is selfishness.

After 35 years of the Chicago School of Economics Thatcher/Reagan/Rogernomics onslaught on our traditional (Christian) values a new type of – I hesitate to say – “human” being has emerged typified by the Michael Douglas’ character of Gordon – greed is good – Gekko.

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The neoliberal-man does not only exist in fiction but in the “real” world. The frontrunner of the Republican Party for President of the United States is self declared billionaire and reality TV star Donald Trump. I am hesitating to call it the “real” world as the lines between reality and reality TV seem to be blurred like in a dream or rather nightmare.

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This man typifies the neoliberal-man perfectly. As far as we can tell his persona and campaign is all about himself. “I am rich. I am a winner. I like winners not losers who got  captured and suffered years as prisoners of war (John Mccain). My critics are losers who should go away.”

Neoliberal-Man in New Zealand

Like homo sapiens came out of Africa Ayn Rand’s monster migrated out of the US mainly around the five eye English speaking world. When I came first to New Zealand in 1981 it hadn’t arrived yet. I fell in love with the people who struck me not as selfish but friendly, caring and hospitable. Then in 1984 all hell broke lose with the arrival of neoliberal dogma in the form of Rogernomics.
After 30 years of indoctrination within one generation we have created and worship our own neoliberal-man. The poster boy is – “I like victory, I like positivity, I like a bright outlook and a prosperous forecast” – Mike Hosking. He has got all the trimmings.

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The Maserati Hosking went into a hissy-fit over when a “moron” put a ding in it the other day. The dolly-bird trophy wife.

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And the bromance with another prominent neoliberal-man.

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 If you look at these guys you really wonder.

In his own words he is proudly under-educated – as we all can tell – and a proudly non- journalist broadcaster. He is so full of himself that he cannot even see the difference between narrow minded biased opinions and ideas. He used the word ideas over a dozen times in his recent opinion piece in the NZ Herald. It normally would be associated with -and drawn as – a bright light bulb. Nothing bright about Hosking’s non-ideas/opinions.

“If one overarching thing has come out of this past week, it’s the fear some seem to have of ideas. That a person with a lot of ideas is apparently an issue. That a person whose ideas don’t suit others is somehow biased, and lacks objectivity.
If you’re afraid of ideas, you’re afraid of life.”

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The man is seriously deluded and can safely be digested only in the form of Jeremy Wells’ satirical Hosking Rants. However his almost clinical delusion is his problem.

What is our problem ?

Clinical psychologist explains how Ayn Rand helped turn the US
into a selfish and greedy nation
by BRUCE E. LEVINE

Ayn Rand’s books such as The Virtue of Selfishness and her philosophy that celebrates self-interest and disdains altruism may well be, as Vidal assessed, “nearly perfect in its immorality.” But is Vidal right about evil? Charles Manson, who himself did not kill anyone, is the personification of evil for many of us because of his psychological success at exploiting the vulnerabilities of young people and seducing them to murder. What should we call Ayn Rand’s psychological ability to exploit the vulnerabilities of millions of young people so as to influence them not to care about anyone besides themselves?

When I was a kid, my reading included comic books and Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. There wasn’t much difference between the comic books and Rand’s novels in terms of the simplicity of the heroes. What was different was that unlike Superman or Batman, Rand made selfishness heroic, and she made caring about others weakness.

Rand offered a narcotic for confused young people: complete certainty and a relief from their anxiety.

I have known several people, professionally and socially, whose lives have been changed by those close to them who became infatuated with Ayn Rand. A common theme is something like this: “My ex-husband wasn’t a bad guy until he started reading Ayn Rand. Then he became a completely selfish jerk who destroyed our family, and our children no longer even talk to him.”

Rand did have a God. It was herself. She said:
I am done with the monster of “we,” the word of serfdom, of plunder, of misery, falsehood and shame. And now I see the face of god, and I raise this god over the earth, this god whom men have sought since men came into being, this god who will grant them joy and peace and pride. This god, this one word: “I.”

Do you fancy yourself – as I permanently hear – of living in a caring society in New Zealand ? If you don’t see any problem with neoliberal-man look into the mirror. You might be looking at one of Ayn Rand’s monsters.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

Posted in Economics, Media Grabs, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Spies’ PR campaign undone by lies

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Intelligence Services’ PR campaign

Our intelligence services have used the New Zealand Listener magazine for a nice touchy- feely PR campaign. Under the cover story Secrets & Spies we learn amazing things. Not only are the three agencies presently run by civil service career women. No, there is more. One is living in a 25 year loving lesbian relationship. One was as a teenager taken by her parents to an anti-Springbok march. One was in the 1970-is even a member of the Trotskyist Socialist Action League.
The journalist was clearly sucked in by a powerful woman ‘I rather cheekily ask whether I can have a look at the inner sanctum of the SIS, thinking it would be off-limits. “of course you can come to my office,” comes the spontaneous reply‘.
The whole backstory of the three women is revealed just to make us feel that the spymasters are people like us. Six years in the freezing works almost becoming the first female butcher. Daughter of 10 pound poms or of mixed Gujarati/Irish pedigree. Compared to the old ex-military / foreign service guard these women look more democratic and representative of the people than the ruling classes. Another image which the spies will want to portray. The more we think of them like us the more we will trust them that they exercise their immense powers for and not against us. However this look is as deceptive as everything else spies do.

On the other side of the world

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Edward Snowden wins Sweden’s ‘alternative’ Nobel prize” reads the headline of the BBC NewsWhistleblower Edward Snowden received several standing ovations in the Swedish parliament after being given the Right Livelihood award for his revelations of the scale of state surveillance.
The awards jury, in its citation, said Snowden was being honoured “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights”
 (Guardian).

Back to the New Zealand PR job

All three ladies are lawyers, which should already raise a warning sign. How do they answer the Listener’s question about the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden : Traitor or hero ?

Interestingly only the one in the supervisory role of Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was positive by saying about Snowden’s impact “I think the fact that there are now these inquiries at a high level – such as what is this capacity for the collection of bulk data , how is it controlled – is a really good thing.

The directors of the GCSB and SIS, who do the actual bulk spying for the US and on our Pacific neighbours and our own citizens ‘are less charitable’.

They still deny the fact ‘that the GCSB was monitoring willy-nilly the communications of New Zealanders‘. SIS Director Rebecca Kitteridge tells the Listener seemingly with a bare face that :

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If Snowden had genuine concerns, they should have been raised in a way that didn’t compromised the work of intelligence agencies “in the way it has … there were other ways he could have surfaced this information without putting it into the hands of countries that are not friendly to the Western alliance“.

Lies vs Facts

Kitteridge is undoing all her nice PR work by telling us a bare faced lie by creating the impression that Snowden had been ‘putting information into the hands of countries that are not friendly to the Western alliance’. (Picture: Traitor selling secrets to the enemy) You’d expect the head of a spy agency to be a professional lier like her US colleague NSA Director James Clapper lying under oath to Congress about mass surveillance of US citizens. However to tell lies so stupidly obvious to see for anyone who followed the Snowden revelations is another level.

Edward Snowden as any whistleblower had reached the point where he realised that raising his highly ethical, moral and constitutional concerns internally did not work and that whistle-blowing was his only option. Then all he did was to give information to US journalists working for the Guardian, which later shared it with other publications like the NY Times and the German Der Spiegel. They had and have full editorial control over what they do with the information without Snowden having anymore say in it. They over time published the Snowden files piece by piece only after careful considerations about any risk to national security. In the years since the first publications even the belligerent US spies have not been able to point to one single piece of published information from the Snowden files, which had jeopardised national security. You know how eager they would have been to provide proof for their claims.

Case in point was last week’s revelation about “AT&T’s ‘extraordinary, decades-long’ relationship with NSA” (Guardian), “AT&T Helped U.S. Spy on Internet on a Vast Scale” (NY Times) or “Snowden-Unterlagen: AT&T half Geheimdienst NSA beim Ausspähen” (Der Spiegel) published in parallel by the three publications telling the same story of the telecommunications giant AT&T being complicit by assisting the NSA to spy on among others US citizens and the United Nations in New York.

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Of course ‘countries that are not friendly to us’ read Western media rubbing their red hands in glee seeing their Western colleagues being caught redhanded breaking the law or act unethically while they are not (yet). If the unfriendly powers learned anything new then it must have been the sheer scale of Western mass surveillance. They will now enviously increase their own efforts to do the same to their citizens.

Trust restored in our spies ?

Despite the head honchos wearing bras these days the old ruling class male spy spirit from the bygone era of the cold war is obviously alive and kicking. I can understand that the spies under attack for having broken the law try the oldest trick in the book of spin  called “dead cat” or “red herring”. Let’s not talk about the spies breaking the law with mass surveillance of us citizens. Let’s instead pull out a dead cat for everyone to talk about instead. Like how we learned about it: Whistle blower or traitor.

But do our top spies have to lie so blatantly ? Snowden is considered a hero around the world. Winner of among other awards the Swedish alternative Nobel Peace Price. They on the other hand or at least one of them is lying to us.

How can we trust people who lie to us ? Do you ?

I don’t.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

Posted in Media Grabs, politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

War on drugs : The collateral damage

Propaganda vs economic reality

Government propaganda from time to time feeds us figures on the war on drugs. We read of the biggest drug haul this year or ever. Just google “drug haul” to get a taste. We read the million dollar phantasy figures about the “street value” of confiscated drugs, which in themselves or in the wider context of the illegal drug economy make no sense. All to created an image of our totally non-sensical drug policy actually achieving something positive.

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Any economist will tell you that according to his/her textbook all you will achieve by reducing the supply is rising prices. This in turn will lead to more crime to pay for more expensive drugs to feed your habit or just to have a good time. The economists believing in market theory agree that you cannot solve any real or perceived drug problem by fiddling with the supply side. Nobel-Prize Winning Economists: The War On Drugs Is A Catastrophic ‘Billion-Dollar Failure’ reads the headline in Business Insider Australia. “The pursuit of a militarized and enforcement-led global ‘war on drugs’ strategy has produced enormous negative outcomes and collateral damage.”

The human face of the collateral damage

Looking at this catastrophic big picture we tend to forget the human costs behind the figures. I just pick two recent examples.

One is the very unsettling case of a “Northland Local Hero” Kelly van Gaalen or as Jack Tame headlines it A sad case of unnatural justice.

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Arts and culture winner Kelly van Gaalen, of the Kaikohe Community Arts Council,
with Mayor Wayne Brown. Photo / Peter de Graaf

She’s a former member of the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board, the former chair of the Kaikohe Community Arts Council and the former promotions manager for the Kaikohe Business Association. Last December she was one of 15 recipients of Northland’s Local Hero medal, acknowledging her efforts in a community that has had more than its share of tough timesLast year her family was the victim of a home invasion. Three men broke in and beat up her husband. In the aftermath, police officers discovered a 684g  bag of dried marijuana in the van Gaalens’ homeThere were no incriminating texts on van Gaalen’s phone, no wads of cash under the floorboards and no sawn-off shotguns on the kitchen bench.
Did the police use discretion and destroy the drugs? Did the justice system allow her to stay home and raise her kids? Did the 32 character references provided in court allow for a discharge without conviction or a community sentence?
Nope. Despite her “extremely worthwhile contribution” to Kaikohe, in the words of the presiding judge, the 38-year-old’s plight ended in lunacy
.
Van Gaalen, home invasion victim, mother of three, Local Hero medal recipient and general menace of Kaikohe, was sentenced to two years in prison.

You are lost for words if you hear of such crazy sentences as you like to think that this could only happen in crazy America and not sensible little New Zealand. However the word “sensible” has been sullied by a group of rednecks calling their pressure group the “Sensible Sentencing Trust” when it is anything but sensible.
How can this judge sleep at night ? How can he/she look in the mirror in the morning ?How can he/she live with the creature looking back being a nasty cruel sadist who probably started pulling off the wings of flies, graduation to blowing up frogs and now destroying the life of an obviously good women and damaging her children in the process.

The other example is a report in last month NZ Herald titled “At risk visitors barred from entering New Zealand“. It tells us that the total number of people who were refused entry stood at 1345, an increase by 319 when compared with 1026 the year before. The implication being that we can sleep tight at night in the knowledge that our vigilant immigration officers are keeping the badies out.

Unfortunately the truth can be quite different as one of these cases I was involved in demonstrates. She is an 18 year old European high-school graduate who had traveled through some Asian countries and wanted to visit a New Zealand schoolfriend. She was picked out at arrival from Bangkok and interrogated about drug use. She was honest enough to say that during her travels she once smoked pot and once had used ecstasy. She also admitted to have used cannabis 2 or 3 time a year before in her home country. Then the immigration officer went into her facebook page and took a screen shot of an old entry under the section
From:                              Lives in:                                  Studied at:
Worked in: My Deep Dark Basement Where I Grow My Weed And Store My Whores

I wonder how thick a person must be not to recognise this entry of a 15 year old girl on facebook to be a joke. However honesty together with an old joke on facebook were enough to refuse her entry because as her file states : “Section 16(1)(a)(i) – Drugs”
Section 16 of the Immigration Act says:
(1) No visa or entry permission may be granted to any person who—
(a) the Minister has reason to believe—
(i) is likely to commit an offence in New Zealand that is punishable by imprisonment

That is the legal part of it. The logic behind this decision is that we don’t want people who might smoke dope while visiting our country. If you would take that approach seriously you would for instance have to ban three quarters of all the overseas revellers having a good time at the Queenstown Winter Festival from ever entering the country.

The teenager after a night in a police cell being returned to Bangkok and consequently refused entry there and put on a flight back to Europe, which cost her thousands.  From now on if she would want to travel to a country where a visa is required she would need to tick the box [Have you ever been refused entry? YES/NO]. The consequences of which are obvious. Her travel will be greatly restricted. What crime did she commit to deserve such harsh punishment ? Being honest ? Any young kid denying the drug use question would in all likelihood be lying. This one was stupid enough to admit what is today considered as normal: Having experimented with dope.

The moral hazard

The message we are sending to our teenagers and to the ‘Northland local hero’ for that matter is to never tell the truth to authorities. This is exactly what I told the teenager  as her life lesson to take from her experience with NZ immigration. As a lawyer I always advised my clients to say nothing. Now I am free to advise to lie as the figures of authority lie to us all the time starting with our Prime Minister.

How stupid the hero was. Her explanation was she had two marijuana plants and one grew especially well. She had smoked the drug daily since her teens and shared her supply with as many as 20 friends. This honesty landed her in jail for no good reason whatsoever.

The collateral damage of the war on drugs are not only destroyed lives but the collapse of the moral fabric of our society.

 

PS:  What irony. Writing this blog I came across an item in the NZ Herald titled “To puff or not to puff, that is the question”.

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It reported that scientists have discovered that 400-year-old tobacco pipes excavated from the garden of William Shakespeare contained cannabis, suggesting the playwright might have written some of his famous works while high.
Try to imagine a judge saying to Mr Shakespeare: Despite your “extremely worthwhile contribution” to English literature I sentence you to 2 years imprisonment for possessing and smoking cannabis.

PPS: Recommended reading:  War on drugs is war on us  

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

Posted in Media Grabs, politics, Society | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Lurch to the neoliberal right

I can’t help it to have the benefit of knowledge and experience, which only comes with age. Unlike everybody under 50 who grew up under the intense ‘greed is good’ indoctrination of the neoliberal Reagan/Thatcher/Rogernomics era I actually remember that – contrary to what we were told – there was and is an alternative.

Bryan Gould in an excellent piece tells the story I experienced since my arrival in New Zealand in 1984.
“Most of those of middle age or younger will have grown up in a world where it has been widely accepted that markets are more or less infallible, that government spending is inevitably wasteful and a drag on economic development, that running a country is just like running a business, that we all benefit if the rich get richer, and that private profit justifiably and inevitably overrides all other considerations.
One of the most significant consequences of this re-definition of the political landscape has been the acceptance that what would once have been regarded as at the extreme outer edge of what is politically possible is now the new centre ground. Any divergence from this central position is, by definition therefore, literally eccentric; and any move away from “free-market” orthodoxy is condemned as either a return to the past or an irrational lurch leftwards.”

We have forgotten how extreme by historical standards this new ‘centre’ ground really is.

I remember Berkley in 1969 when Ronald Reagan was governor of California. If we wanted a fun night out we went to the pictures to see old movies with B-list actor Reagan in it. They were screened just for us students to vent our anger at his defunding policies towards one of the world’s leading Universities. We always were armed with rattles and whistles and other noisy instruments to make a racket whenever Reagan appeared. If anybody would have told us that Reagan would within a decade become US president we would have declared the person insane.
He would not only become president but give a whole era his name. The ground had shifted.

Neoliberal juggernaut running out of steam

Today there are signs that people actually don’t believe the dogmatic neoliberal rhetoric anymore. After the global financial and economic crisis in 2007/8 people being at first dazed and confused now realise that they had witnessed the collapse of the edifice of neoliberal dogma. Capitalism had to be saved by socialism. The rich had pocketed the profits (and bonuses) and the losses had to be socialised by government bailouts paid for by the poor. You don’t find that recipe in any neoliberal economic textbook.

One of many examples around the world of people waking up to this reality just plays out in the UK where the Labour Party is holding its most democratic leadership contest ever and low and behold the ‘left wing’ candidate Jeremy Corbyn is leading the pack by a country mile.
Corbyn’s campaign has been unique in the Labour leadership campaign in actually offering coherent policies and a fleshed-out economic strategy: a radical housing programme; tax justice; democratic public ownership of utilities and services; a public investment bank to transform the economy; quantitative easing to invest in desperately needed infrastructure; a £10 minimum wage; a National Education Service; a costed abolition of tuition fees; women’s rights; and so on (Owen Jones in the Guardian).

These are policies the public actually agrees with.

Even a leading Tory minister said that Mr Corbyn’s populist left-wing policies could prove difficult to beat. 

Savage backlash from the right in politics and media

The proponents of neoliberal dogma in politics and corporate media are going ballistic. They are running scared that we, treated as and called children for so long, finally do the childish thing and point out that the neoliberal emperor wears no cloths.
The reaction of the right in Labour and the media was savage. Calling Corbyn supporters “morons” is par for the cause and Tony Blair topped it off by saying “that if your heart is telling you to vote for Corbyn, you need a heart transplant.”

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In little New Zealand our ‘little’ political commentators in the mainstream media are also living in a parallel world by accusing their opponent of living in a time warp.
Case in point John Armstrong in a recent opinion piece in the NZ Herald.
A party critical of current government policies is “marooned in a time bubble of the economic boom of the 1950s…. Its unwillingness to confront that myth of a better past will ultimately be the death of it…. The party seemed more intent on swimming against the prevailing political currents, seemingly as much for the sake of being seen to be different from its competitors as upholding its core principles… Times have moved on.”

For the neoliberal prophets events in the past like the crash in 1929 and the New Deal in the US to fix it and the post WWII economic policies leading to the boom of the 1950s are reduced to mere myths. Any evidence of the alternative must be wiped from our memory bank. Any political party’s unwillingness to confront that myth of a better past will ultimately be the death of it as those who lived through those times and who gain comforting reassurance from (it) pass away (Armstrong). It looks that he can’t wait for me/us to die as if the historic evidence would die with us.

For the proponents of the current economic system the global financial and economic crisis of 2007/8 and all crises preceding it seem also to be just myths not to worry about. That is the cloud cuckoo land they live in. Reality does not exist only ideology.

Back to Gould :
“That may be about to change. As the tide of ‘free market” orthodoxy has reached its high-water mark and appears to be receding (at least in most parts of the western world other than the euro zone), it is more and more likely to leave exposed to public view those new policy initiatives that seem to have little to do with common sense and practicality and to reflect much more clearly what are doctrinaire preoccupations.
Consider the following recent instances.
The government’s ideological preference for private over public provision has led them to engage Serco – an international firm already notorious for its failures in a range of countries – to run some of our prisons. The outcome? The shambles – and the unacceptable and damaging shambles at that – now revealed at Mt Eden prison. 
Charter schools? An idea that has already been shown in its country of origin, Sweden, to produce disastrous results in terms of educational standards, and is now in the process of proving that point all over again in New Zealand, at the expense of some of our most needy and disadvantaged children.
And what about the wacky idea of financing the delivery of social services to some of our most vulnerable citizens, including the mentally ill, by selling bonds to private investors who will then expect to make a profit from their “investment”?
The usual view of the left as doctrinaire and the right as pragmatic is changing. It is now the right that espouses the ideological approach and that will go on doing so for as long as it is not held to account and its bluff is not called.

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                                                                                         Guy Body / NZ Herald

The left has the opportunity to offer new alternatives to free-market orthodoxy that are not the product of doctrine, but are simply sensible and will produce better outcomes.” 

I couldn’t agree more. The pendulum had reached it’s furthest point and can go only one way, which is swing back.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Don’t touch that sausage

Making laws and making sausages are very similar. The public will generally consume the final result, but you wouldn’t want them to watch exactly how they are made.”

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TPP minister Tim Grosser

The arrogance and contempt of this government has no bounds

This is a third term government and it knows that it is likely to be its last. They seem to have decided to go for broke. They are hellbent to push all sorts of policies through without any regard for the people of New Zealand. They have given up on us, the voter. Can you get any more patronising than Grosser talking about the secret negotiations of the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) saying to Hilary Barry :

We need adults to do this not breathless children to run off at their mouths when the deal is not actually (cl)inched.”

This statement and the thinking and attitude behind it deserve a closer look. And we have to keep in mind that Grosser just represents ‘official’ government thinking and attitude.

Winston Peters in a radio live interview put it rather succinctly talking about Grosser’s arrogance :
Tim is the brightest trade minister the country ever had indeed the whole Commonwealth perhaps the whole world if you would listen to him.”

That Grosser and the government think they are the big know alls is only part of it. The other is the insult to the rest of us “breathless children” daring to ask questions or even question the whole deal and its secrecy.

We have to be thankful for this insult as it exactly describes how the government has been treating us. We cannot pretend any longer to be happy with anything going on with the TPPA if we – the voter, citizen, sovereign – are treated as children by our government. That cannot possibly be right. We should be owning the government not the other way round. So the theory of our democratic system goes.

Another word for how the government treats us citizens is the mushroom treatment, keeping us in the dark and feeding us (horse) shit.

The secrecy and lies around the TPP negotiations are unparalleled. We are told that these kind of agreement are always negotiated in secret, which is the first lie. It is not western  democratic tradition to negotiate deals affecting all of us immensely in total secrecy from the citizens. It is unheard off that just one interested side sits at the table writing the text. They are the international corporations like big pharma, big agri(cultural) business (Monsanto), big US entertainment industry (Hollywood), big food/sugar/fizzy drink drink industry, big tobacco, big alcohol. The other interested parties are totally shut out and kept in the dark. These are the doctors, unions, environmentalists and others representing us as citizens, consumers, patients, workers and just ordinary New Zealanders wanting to enjoy a clean environment and to be able to swim in our rivers as our parents did.

Governments and corporations resort to secrecy not to deliberately make us suspicious and angry.  They are forced to use this tactic as the only way to pass the deal in the hope that we are not looking.

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Our Prime Minister who has some experience in telling lies to the people of New Zealand has now has the unenviable task to own up to his lies about the TPPA. Examples :
Up till now – Concerns about Pharmac and the price of medicines just scaremongering.
Now – The price of medicine will go up. Nothing to worry as you will not pay higher prescription charges just higher taxes.
The biggest lie seems to be calling the TPPA a “trade” agreement when only a minuscule bit is about trade. Most of it is about intellectual property rights, investment rules, internet freedom or how to curtail it. The most hideous bit being the right of overseas corporations to sue New Zealand in private overseas Kangaroo courts if they don’t like any policies or legislation regarding work safety, consumer protection,  minimum wage, protection of the environment and the list goes on just by claiming that the legislation will negatively affect the bottom line of their investment.
We are sold this agreement with the promise of gains in (dairy) exports leading to the holy grail of all politicians “economic growth”, which turns out to be another lie.

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US Govt Dept of Agriculture did an analysis of the benefits of the TPP Agreement to all the participating countries, in the best case scenario where all agricultural tariffs and trade related quotas were abolished. The benefit to NZ in 2025 ? Just 0.01% increase in GDP. Worth trading our sovereignty for an extra 0.01% of GDP in 2025 ?

Who is the ‘double-agent’ selling our country to the Americans ?

 In his radio interview Winston went on to call Grosser “a double-agent against our interests – selling out our country to the Americans“. And Winston had some strong arguments for his strong words.
But who is the real ‘double agent’ betraying our country. Could it be the son of a refugee who doesn’t know New Zealand history (the country was colonised “peacefully”) ? He, who doesn’t remember his own position in our history (can’t remember which side he was on as a young student during the 1981 Springbok tour) ? He, who spend most of his working life overseas with one of the most odious gone bust banks on Wall Street ?

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He, who as a “non-politician” was parachuted from Wall Street into New Zealand’s parliament ? He, who tries to sell the country to his corporate mates ? He, who still holds a US green card and will bugger off to his home in Hawaii or back to Wall Street as soon as his mission here is accomplished ? He, who by pushing the TPPA and surrendering our sovereignty to overseas corporations shows that he has no loyalty or allegiance to New Zealand ?

Look Winston, what you have done with your “double-agent” remark. You made us remember, think and question.

Which brings us back to the sausage, which you wouldn’t eat if you knew what was in it. Which means that what’s in it must be really bad. Comparing the TPPA with that sausage our trade tzar Grosser surprised us with honesty. “You don’t want to know what is in the TPPA otherwise you wont swallow it”. And he is treating us accordingly by keeping things secret from us.

At least we now know :

Don’t touch that sausage !

PS :
While writing I got the good news that for now no agreement had been reached. This was not unexpected as one of the non-agreements was over dairy.
I can already tell you the spin you will hear from government.
“We fought valiantly for the best possible deal and in the end rather walked away from a bad deal.”
The truth is different. In the end there was no deal on offer we could have walked away from. Members of our team told us that New Zealand did and was prepared to even more “compromise“, read sell out. But there was nothing on the table to submit to.
Still the government and the media will celebrate our brave trade minister for protecting our interests by not signing a bad deal.

Exactly the opposite from what happened.

In politics what counts is not the truth but perception.

 by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

 

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Public bad Private good – A myth that won’t die

The Privatisation myth lives on

One of the cornerstones of neoliberal dogma is privatisation of public assets and services.
PRIVATISATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatisation has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.

The claim by the neoliberal zealots that privatisation leads to greater efficiency and cost savings is not supported by any evidence but just a matter of faith. No number of myth busters seems to be able to debunk it.

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The Truth is that there is no advantage of private over public whatsoever rather the opposite. Just take a glimpse at the New Zealand’s public health system in comparison with the US private healthcare system. For good measure throw in Cuba where I also marvelled at the American old-timer cars from the 1950-ies.

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The list of failings of private corporations is endless and still replenished every day. It is the public having to pick up the pieces. The latest headlines are about Serco. A company, which starts its website with the words:

With rising service expectations, finite resources and budget deficits find out how Serco helps governments across the world deliver better services for less.”

This sentence is a prime example of indoctrination and corporate spin and warrants a whole essay on its own. However I want to draw your attention just to the last four words.
This bit is classic alchemist stuff straight from the Middle Ages. Those days gullible people were relieved of their money by investing in some alchemist scheme with the promise to make gold out of (mostly) lead. Today the promise is the same impossibility to “deliver better services for less”. This has been a con-artist’s trick forever and greedy  people fall for the “more for less” trick every time.

Money for nothing

It is always the same sales pitch from the neoliberal prophets. We somehow will get something for nothing if only we privatise because public ownership makes a bad job of it and private corporations and the market will do better.
Remember the selling of our power companies and creation of an electricity “market” with the promise of lower power prices. The result was a disaster not only for the government’s coffers but for the power consumers who were meant to benefit.

The strategy is always the same :

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And even if things are still working and are the envy of the rest of the world like New Zealand’s Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) the government tries to  undermine the organisation as it wants to privatise ACC. A crisis was invented to make the case for privatisation. A couple of years back our government tried to tell us that the ACC was broke by just changing the accounting rules for no other reason. Now after we dodged the bullet and the ACC is still ours the organisation recently had to lower its levies because it is swimming in cash.

Back to the money for nothing pitch in another example, public private partnership toll roads. They are sold to us with the same argument of getting something for nothing either cheaper or sooner. This is to be achieved only by involving the private sector and create a totally new industry in New Zealand: toll collectors.
What we are not told is that motorists end up paying for this extravagance. The costs are 40% to 50% higher compared to what it would cost being run by the Transport Agency itself and financed by a (regional) petrol tax increase of a couple of cents. This stems from the simple fact, acknowledged by the Land Transport Agency, that out of every dollar collected by toll only 60 cent go towards the road. The rest are collection costs (new industry). A petrol tax increase on the other hand comes without any extra costs.

The true cost of Privatisation

The true cost of most of the privatisation folly is however not even monetary. It is the hurt and suffering it inflicts on our fellow human beings.

In the case of the private prison company Serco it is the cost of live and limb. Inmates in their prisons are pushed of balconies or entertain themselves with organised fight clubs as they are bored stiff with little to no activities in understaffed prisons. Cutting costs and corners is their only way of making money. Their biggest cost are staff. So that is where the cuts are.

Serco as an international corporation has developed into a form of Über-government dealing with all the waste of our capitalist system from nuclear to human like refugees, prisoners and the mentally ill. Consequently they are in line for the next government privatisation project the so called “mental health bonds” (see my previous blog: Government experiment on the mentally ill without Ethics Committee approval). Imagine the damage they will do to the most vulnerable in society. The increase of suicides by people pushed of the benefit into inappropriate work just for the bonus Serco will be paid for doing the pushing.

Important to note that all over the neoliberal capitalist world governments have singled out the most vulnerable of society refugees, children, patients, prisoners, the mentally ill for the Serco treatment. These are the people who have no voice, no vote, no way to resist or fight back.

Just google Serco and find headlines like “Serco’s Fiona Stanley Hospital sterilisation contract terminated after failures” (ABC) or “Serco is failing, but is kept afloat thanks to Australia’s refugee policy” (Guardian) while in New Zealand you still see headlines like this “Anne Tolley still happy for Serco to run social services for children” (Stuff). or go to the Serco Watch facebook page to follow the international horror story, which is Serco.

The moral cost

Our capitalist model is of course amoral. It exists in an ethics free realm beyond any moral consideration and is ironically still believed to deliver positive results.

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However after 30 years of neoliberal rampage I am happy to report that there are still some moral people in New Zealand. To quote just one letter to yesterday’s NZ Herald :

To hand these people (prisoners) over to an overseas company whose sole aim is to make money out of them is an appalling denial of human rights and shows a lack of concern by the government for the welfare of those it locks up. It is both morally and socially indefensible. (thanks A.J.MacKenzie)

Even Finance Minister Bill English conceded in 2011 that prisons were a “moral and fiscal failure“. His morality however faded when it comes to letting overseas corporations make money from the most deprived in society. Then neoliberal dogma “greed is good” rules over any morals.

The myth of public bad vs private good does not want to die.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

PS. Sorry for all the memes being black today. Sadly the subject is black.

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War on drugs is war on us

Drug laws are based on racial discrimination against the Chinese.

This fact should get your attention in the current climate in New Zealand where everyone pretends to be so politically correct about racism against the ethnic Chinese.

Drug laws are still discriminating on the basis of race. They do only harm. They have no scientific justification whatsoever. Some are based on bigotry and xenophobia and were partly introduced for the commercial benefit of a couple of industrialists and as a make-work scheme for law enforcement.
The chances of catching up with the rest of the world on drug law reform are slim as large numbers of members of Parliament as of the general population consists of bigots and xenophobes as far as drugs are concerned.

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The facts

The prohibition of drugs (alcohol) occurred first under Islamic sharia law.

Britain fought three wars to force China to allow opium into their country. These so called opium wars have ever since been the cause for Chinese mistrust and resentment against the western powers.

The 1861-65  American Civil War led to great numbers of wounded veterans using opium products to relief their suffering. They lived out their lives without ill effect other than constipation. The use of the drug in all its forms was wide spread and legal.

The first US drug law was passed in San Francisco in 1875, banning the smoking of opium in opium dens. The reason cited was “many women and young girls, as well as young men of respectable family, were being induced to visit the Chinese opium-smoking dens, where they were ruined morally and otherwise.”
The distinction between its use by white Americans and Chinese immigrants was thus based on the form in which it was ingested: Chinese immigrants tended to smoke it, while it was often included in various kinds of generally liquid medicines often used by people of European descent. The laws targeted opium smoking, but not other methods of ingestion.
It went downhill from there till all forms of consuming opium and its derivates were criminalised together with ever more substances based on equally questionable grounds.

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Criminalisation of cannabis happened in earnest in the US in the 1920-ies and 1930-ies driven by rampant racist Harry J. Anslinger as a make-work scheme for his Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He was supported by two interests to destroy the hemp industry. Newspaper mogul William Randolph Hearst’s empire of newspapers used his poublications to demonise the cannabis plant and spread a public perception that there were connections between cannabis and violent crime (reefer madness). The goal was to destroy the hemp industry, which posed a threat to Hearst’s wood pulp interests. The Du Pont family, which had patented synthetic fibre (Nylon) had the same interest to destroy the hemp industry as potential competition.

Racial discrimination is still part of today’s drug laws in the US and in effect in New Zealand.
For example in the US the penalties for possession of cocaine – the preferred drug of middle class white people – are substantially less than for crack cocaine mainly used by lower class black people even if the substance is chemically the same. In New Zealand the drug related incarceration for drug offences is also disproportionally higher for Maori.

Many people believe as they have been told that drugs lead to addiction. This claim is bogus as not only new research shows but as we all can observe in our daily lives.

Johann Hari debunks the addiction myth. “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think” is the title of his report in the Huffington Post.
The addiction myth was first established through rat experiments.
The experiment is simple. Put a rat in a cage, alone, with two water bottles. One is just water. The other is water laced with heroin or cocaine. Almost every time you run this experiment, the rat will become obsessed with the drugged water, and keep coming back for more and more, until it kills itself.
But in the 1970s Professor of Psychology Bruce Alexander noticed something odd about this experiment. The rat is put in the cage all alone. It has nothing to do but take the drugs.  So Professor Alexander built Rat Park. It is a lush cage where the rats would have colored balls and the best rat-food and tunnels to scamper down and plenty of friends: everything a rat about town could want.
In Rat Park, all the rats obviously tried both water bottles, because they didn’t know what was in them. But what happened next was startling. 

The rats with good lives didn’t like the drugged water. They mostly shunned it, consuming less than a quarter of the drugs the isolated rats used. None of them died. While all the rats who were alone and unhappy became heavy users, none of the rats who had a happy environment did.
Professor Alexander then took this test further. He reran the early experiments, where the rats were left alone, and became compulsive users of the drug. He let them use for fifty-seven days — if anything can hook you, it’s that. Then he took them out of isolation, and placed them in Rat Park. He wanted to know, if you fall into that state of addiction, is your brain hijacked, so you can’t recover? Do the drugs take you over? What happened is — again — striking. The rats seemed to have a few twitches of withdrawal, but they soon stopped their heavy use, and went back to having a normal life. The good cage saved them.

Addiction can be summed up in one observation It’s not the drug it’s the cage.

Here’s one example of an experiment that is happening all around you, and may well happen to you one day. If you break your hip, you will probably be given diamorphine, the medical name for heroin. In the hospital around you, there will be plenty of people also given heroin for long periods, for pain relief. The heroin you will get from the doctor will have a much higher purity and potency than the heroin being used by street-addicts, who have to buy from criminals who adulterate it. So if the old theory of addiction is right — it’s the drugs that cause it; they make your body need them — then it’s obvious what should happen. Loads of people should leave the hospital and try to score smack on the streets to meet their habit.
It virtually never happens. Medical users just stop, despite months of use. The same drug, used for the same length of time, turns street-users into desperate addicts and leaves medical patients unaffected. 

Racist make-work scheme for law enforcement.

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   Customs Manager Cargo Operations Bruce Berry with 500g
Methamphetamine concealed in a toy bus.
Photo / Jason Oxenham, NZ Herald this week

Law enforcement in New Zealand still parade their drug hauls as great victories while other civilised countries for example Portugal have moved towards enlightenment by successfully reforming their drug laws with stunning results.

When I watch the law enforcement PR campaign with photos like above I know who’s interests they serve. Instead of acknowledging that the The War on Drugs is ‘A Trillion-Dollar Failure’ (Rolling Stone Magazine) we are still made to believe that the person pictured is doing good. To be fair he does good to the private prison industry.

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The US have more people in prison – mostly for non-violent low grade drug offences -than the Soviet Union under Stalin during the worst times of the gulag. Corporations like SERCO, which has been in the news lately for running New Zealand’s private prisons are rubbing their hands.

But it is not only the inmates who shouldn’t be there and are coming out of prison raped, battered and turned into criminals. Imagine what we could do with the millions of dollars misspend on the war on drugs. Thousands of children could be fed a meal every day at school, housed in insulated warm houses and clothed for the winter. No more waiting lists for elective surgery and the list goes on.

The war on drugs is truly a war on all of us in more than one sense.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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From Greece to Germany. When will we focus on the elephant in the room ?

We are living in interesting times. The last few weeks were especially fascinating to watch. We are witnessing history in the making

First all eyes were on Greece. The narrative was all about the Greeks bringing their dire plight all upon themselves. They – we were told rightly or wrongly – are lazy and receive their pensions at 55 but refuse to pay taxes for their European first world education, health and social systems. All this being paid for by cheap loans from their European partners without any possibility to ever pay them back.
The culprit and disease were identified. The bitter pill austerity was administered over the last few years. Unfortunately the problem was not solved but made worse. The economy contracted by 25%. Unemployment especially for the young skyrocketed. Many were forced to leave their homeland to seek a future abroad. Many desperate victims of the situation killed themselves. Others died preventable death because of the collapsing health service. Even the IMF had to admit that their policies had made the situation worse not better.

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Blunder: The IMF has admitted mishandling the Greek debt crisis, leading to violent anti-austerity protests like this demonstration in Athens last November

Then just a couple of weeks ago the focus began to shift. The EU leaders went into one of their usual crisis- stop the clock at midnight- deadline- meetings to sort out Greece. Even if the Germans were not the only hardliners in the Euro zone it became very clear that chancellor Angela Merkel and finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble were leading the charge.
What the Greeks had not been able to do before by shining the torch on Nazi Germany’s occupation and atrocities in Greece during WWII and the fact the Greece was among the nations giving Germany debt relief in 1953

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the Germans with brutal efficiency managed over night. The focus shifted to Germany.

The New York Times under the headline “Germany Risks Its Reputation With Idea of Greece Exiting Eurozone” reported:
One could argue, as many have, about the correctness of the German prescription of austerity in a time of recession. But the brutality of the negotiations over Greece in Brussels has damaged Germany’s reputation inside the European Union, said François Heisbourg, a French analyst.
“I think the Germans have crossed a line,” he said, “and it will be very difficult for them to walk it back.”
Jürgen Habermas, a pro-European German intellectual, said that Ms. Merkel and her coalition government, including the center-left Social Democratic Party, “have gambled away in one night all the political capital that a better Germany had accumulated in half a century.

And it came thick and fast. In the UK Guardian under the headline “The euro ‘family’ has shown it is capable of real cruelty” we could read “This “bailout”, which will be sold as being a cruel-to-be-kind deal is nothing of the sort. It is simply being cruel to be cruel.”
The Huffington Post headline “Deutschland Deathgrip” lead to a Washington Post article with the following image:

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Even the German News Magazine Spiegel Online called the terms imposed on Greece “The Catalogue of Cruelty”.

And the Germans don’t understand what hit them. They feel the misunderstood victims. Everyone especially the English speaking world is picking on them. And they don’t like to be reminded of the past if it doesn’t fit their picture. With the European Union project the Germans are led to believe that they are just the paymasters for other mostly southern European countries’ frivolities. That they as the biggest economic power are also the greatest beneficiaries from the market of 500 million people is often forgotten. They just visit Spain and see a perfect roading infrastructure. They visit Lecce a beautiful restored Baroque town in Southern Italy. And they see the signs “Financed with the help of the EU” and feel that they personally paid for it.
If you remind them of the debt conference in London 1953, which made the German “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) possible they either weren’t told or don’t want to know. Unlike the earlier Holocaust they accepted as drummed into them and accordingly still slip Israel little presents like nuclear capable submarines no mercy is shown to Greece, which years later had forgiven Germany’s debt.

Another problem is that many if not a majority of Germans see the problem in a moral dimension. It has something to do with the fact that the German language has the same word for debt and guilt. Debt has to be paid. Otherwise rules would be broken, which is another anathema to most Germans. Again conveniently forgetting that Germany also broke European rules even if not with the disastrous consequences as Greece.

It was interesting for me that some of my ex-German friends here even after more than 30 years in New Zealand were feeling the same as some friends in Germany. One wrote that Greece needs a Hercules to clean out the pigsty. Germany should be thanked for showing the wayward child the right (German) way of order and paying taxes.

Economic historian Jacob Soll a few weeks ago attended a conference on Greek sovereign debt in Munich. He describes his experience in the New York Times. After long scholarly discussions the mood changed.
When the German economists spoke at the final session, a completely different tone took over the room. Within the economic theories and numbers came a moral message: The Germans were honest dupes and the Greeks corrupt, unreliable and incompetent. Both parties were reduced to caricatures of themselves. We’ve heard this story throughout the negotiations, but in that room, it was clear how much resentment shapes the views of German economists.
When I noted that no matter how badly the Greeks had handled their economy, German demands and the possible chaos of a Grexit risked political populism, unrest and social misery, they were unmoved. Debtors who default, they explained, would simply have to suffer, no matter how rough and even unfair the terms of the loans. There were those who handled their economies well, and took their suffering silently, like Finland and Latvia, they said. In contrast, a country like Greece, where many people don’t pay their taxes, did not seem to merit empathy.

And here we come to the crux of the matter. The issue is not about lazy Greeks and angry Germans. It is not even about design faults of the Euro or the European Union. All these are sideshows. Nobody talks about the elephant in the room.

The elephant is the neoliberal capitalist system dominated by the finance industry. A system, which is built on debt. Private banks legally print money out of thin air to lend to governments for the taxpayer to pay interest. A system, which needs ever increasing debt to “grow” the economy, which in reality means grow the interest burden on the rest of us for the benefit of the private banks. A system, which inherently staggers from crisis to crisis. An economic dogma, which does not allow for empathy with the suffering of real people. Money over people. A dogma, which hates democracy. Remember the outrage of the European power brokers and international institutions, when Greece dared to have a referendum on austerity.

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The good thing is that the Greek suffering and struggle is becoming more and more visible beamed into our living rooms for everybody to see. I watched recent German TV reports from Greece. It reminds me of the Vietnam war. There TV footage of the reality of that war were broadcast into US living rooms and brought an end to it. The people couldn’t stomach it anymore.

I am not to hopeful that “The end of capitalism has begun” as the headline of a recent article in the UK Guardian suggests.

However looking at the misery not only in Greece but all around us even in little New Zealand I am hopeful that we at last will start to focus on the elephant in the room.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

PS: Recommended reading my previous blog about the Greek tragedy http://zealandiablog.net.nz/greek-tragedy-dont-piss-off-the-gods/

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Racism in Real Estate ?

First the facts :

1.     The Auckland housing market has gone crazy over the last few years making it all but impossible for first home buyers on average incomes to buy a house. The situation has become so bad that a piece by Peter Calder in yesterday’s NZ Herald was titled “House rage – we’re right to be angry“.

2.     As a result of the neoliberal reforms of the 1980-ies and 90-ies New Zealand has one of the most open (to foreign investors) real estate markets among civilised countries. Our government unlike overseas jurisdictions has steadfastly refused to gather specific data on overseas investors in the overheated Auckland housing market. As a result anybody interested in property in Auckland is making up his own mind from observations at auctions and other anecdotal evidence of what the reasons for the price explosion are.

3.     The Auckland housing crisis has become a major problem for the government. They are blaming everything and everybody else but themselves for the problem like their favourite for all things the Resource Management Act and of course the Auckland Council.

4.     In this situation the recent quarterly sales figures for Auckland residential property were leaked from a major real estate firm. The names of the buyers were correlated with the electoral role and analysed by statisticians. The indisputable result points to one ethnic group buying four times as many houses compared to their representation in the population of Auckland even if the average income of that ethnic group of Auckland residents is well below the overall average.

So far so good. Everyone can draw his own conclusion as the Labour Party did and the NZ Herald running the story, which is that the discrepancy can only be explained by non-resident overseas members of that ethnic group buying residential property in Auckland as investment.

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As I have so far not named the ethnic group nobody will call me racist (yet) for stating the above facts.

What am I going to do if I want to keep it that way ? Call the Chinese our tangata whenua, the ethnic group our own Maori people came from thousands of years ago according to DNA evidence. Winston Peters already years back defended himself this way against the accusations of racism when he pointed at the Chinese immigration, investment or in whatever context ?

winston-peters-at-sir-wilson-whineray-s-funeral-getty-images                                      Is Winston Peters allowed to say “I told you so”?

It was interesting to watch the reaction from certain quarters against Labour alerting us to the above facts. Not surprisingly “Racism” was the battle cry.

Also a lot of little straw-men were built to be beaten down. The fact that you cannot individually be sure that a Chinese sounding surname means Chinese ethnicity, which my wife of pure anglo-saxon-norman heritage can attest too having a Chinese sounding maiden name. Or the fact that Chinese ethnicity does not distinguish between Chinese New Zealanders living here for generations or recent immigrants and residents and overseas Chinese investors. The published data clearly acknowledged that problem without changing its conclusions. So there was nothing really to criticise.

The Racism outcry is nothing but a red herring or as it is often called “the dead cat trick” by its Crosby-Textor practitioners when you pull out a dead cat and put it on the table and everybody forgets the serious subject they were discussing and all are talking about the dead cat.

The serious issues we should keep discussing, of which the Auckland housing market is only a part is the neoliberal dogma of globalisation with its effects on our sovereignty, our economy, our environment and even our education and health services. Look out for the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) currently negotiated in secret ! We should be discussing if our local consumers really want to compete with the prices of the Tokyo fish market for tuna or snapper or with the price for milk and cheese our producers get overseas. Or if our first home buyers in Auckland should compete with mainland Chinese who are looking for a safe haven for their abundant cash some of it even being laundered according to Chinese government concerns.

We also have to look at the usual suspects crying foul in this case “racism” when the failings of this National Party government’s policies to even collect reliable data come under attack.
We have the real estate industry, which of course thrives on the skyrocketing house prices.
We have Chinese community leaders who must by now own the National Party if the donation figures are anything to go by.
And we have the plainly ridiculous like
When asked about non-resident people from China buying houses her, Mr Li criticised New Zealanders’ spending habits.”Why do you spend $100 on beer while you can save it and spend it on your house one day?” Mr Li asked. According to the NZ Herald.
And we have the government and the National Party itself crying “Racism”. The same people who ran a recent election campaign like this :

billboard-beachesiwikiwi

Most disappointing is that some members of the “Liberal Intelligentsia” (Chris Trotter) have also fallen for the dead cat and chimed in. Bryce Edwards headlining his latest blog “Labour’s dangerous racial politics ” reporting that some old Labour Party members and staffers have resigned quoting one resignation letter :
In light of Labour’s calculated decision over the weekend to deploy racial profiling as a political tactic, I resign my membership of the party. I am stunned that Labour, as a matter of conscious political strategy, would trawl through a dubiously­ acquired list of property buyers to identify Chinese ­sounding names”. He adds, “I cannot, however, belong to an organization that considers racial profiling fair sport”.

Of course nothing is further from the truth as all the data showed and Labour pointed out was the huge discrepancy between the number of Chinese New Zealanders and residents in Auckland and house purchases. This leaves the most obvious conclusion that these houses are bought by overseas based (Chinese) investors/speculators. This is much needed information the government and the real estate industry do not want us to have.

The emphasis is on overseas investors/speculators who could come from any country. Russian oligarchs laundering their money would get the same attention if we had the numbers to prove that they might be distorting the Auckland housing market.

Chris Trotter in his blog on the subject “Perilous Whites: Labour, China and the Liberal Intelligentsia” writes :
If racism is at work in this matter, then it is not in the Labour Party. No, the racism at work here is born of the towering arrogance and ignorance of the Liberal Intelligentsia itself.

All this does not mean that there is no racism in New Zealand directed against the Chinese and any other ethnic minority even our own. Comedian Raybon Kan who also wrote an excellent piece used to make jokes out of it “You are Chinese wearing glasses, you must be good at math.” However this deserves another blog.

To answer the question if there is racism in real estate I would say yes if I heard from one vendor who wouldn’t accept an extra $100,000.- over the value of his house because the buyer is Chinese. Please let us all know if you find one !

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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