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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One image to shame our government

One image has shaken us out of complacency


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.


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.


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.


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.

070915BODYCARTOONGuy Body’s view


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.

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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

And the bromance with another prominent neoliberal-man.


 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.”


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

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

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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


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”

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 :

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.


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

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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.

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.


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”.

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

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