FIFA : So much more than a crime syndicate

Corruption allegations around FIFA are as old as the now over 30 year leadership of it’s newly re-elected president Sepp Blatter.

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FIFA under his leadership has been compared by insiders and outsider alike to the Mafia. The charges are that FIFA and/or it’s officials and/or member organisations have for many many years been receiving huge financial benefits in exchange for favours. The favours being awarding hosting rights for the world cup or other tournaments and easier access into the world cup. And new revelations emerge almost daily. On the eve of last weeks conference 14 people most of them top ranking officials and members of the executive were arrested in Zürich being indicted for corruption, bribery and money laundering by the US Justice Department. A parallel investigation into corruption in connection with the rewarding of the hosing rights for the next two world cups in Russia and Qatar are on-going in Switzerland.

John Oliver again has the best analysis of FIFA and the last world cup in Brazil.

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Including the power of FIFA to have laws changed in allegedly sovereign countries to the benefit of their sponsors, the slave labour problem in Qatar leading to thousands of migrant workers being killed on world cup building sites by the time the construction is finished, the non-for-profit tax-free status of the organisation with over a billion US dollars in the bank and FIFA demanding that host countries waste huge amounts of money and resources on stadiums never to be used again even if these countries have enormous problems with poverty.

All this is not news of course and if you care to google FIFA or Sepp Blatter you’ll find thousands of items almost all negative. Even Prince William in his capacity as president of the UK football association just fired a salvo at FIFA.
As reported in the media the FBI said it had uncovered 24 years of “brazen corruption … undisclosed illegal payments, kickbacks and bribes” by Fifa officials, and that corruption in the organisation was “rampant, systemic and deep-rooted”.
The US inquiry alleges South Africa was awarded the 2010 World Cup as a result of bribery, with the head of its IRS Criminal Investigations division accusing Fifa of running a “World Cup of fraud”.

Sepp Blatter and FIFA have become synonymous with bribery and corruption.

I never believed I would say that but in this case I am glad that the US is playing the world policeman as no other seems to be powerful enough to take on FIFA.

The man at the centre of course sees it differently accepting no responsibility for the beast he created saying that he cannot watch everybody all the time.

However, what happened since last week’s re-election of Blatter to the presidency of FIFA really blew my mind. Blatter in response to the criticism and the fact that he faced opposition for the first time in over ten years issued an ominous warning of future relations he stated: “I forgive but I do not forget when it comes to persons.”

One has to take this sentence in slowly like a glass of vintage wine and swirl it around your pallet to appreciate the full meaning of it.

This sentence and the thinking behind it have not been heard in civil society in any comparable context. It is unheard off a politician saying something like it after being elected against opposition, a business leader after opposition at an AGM or any other democratically elected leader threatening his opponents like this. One has to take the parts in separately: I forgive i.e. you can kiss my ring. The thinking behind it is that opposing Mr Blatter and citing corruption charges is something, which needs to be forgiven by the man himself. On planet Blatter who does he think he is ?
I do not forget when it comes to persons is clearly a warning of rather a threat.
Facing down his critics, Blatter raised the prospect of growing conflict between UEFA, European football’s governing body, and his main group of support in the African and Asian football confederations.
“It is a hate that comes not just from one person at UEFA, it comes from the UEFA organisation that cannot understand that in 1998 I became president.”
In response to growing calls for UEFA to boycott the next World Cup and demands that Fifa reruns the vote to pick the host nations for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, Blatter accused the “English media and the American movement” of conspiring against him.

There is no precedent in civil society for this kind of language and thinking. It is clearly the language and thinking of a crime boss and a wounded and therefore dangerous one at that.

Then the scenes of Blatter’s supporters, all paragons of un-corruptibility mainly from Africa and the Caribbean sucking up to him after the election fitted the picture of the coterie of a Mafia don.

Another sign of what is happening at FIFA are the comments in the media about the principled decision of the New Zealand football association to vote against Blatter being called “brave“. The subsequent reporting that Oceania will not get direct entry into the next world cup was interpreted as punishment for that brave/bad behaviour. We are being conditioned to accept that this is how things are at FIFA and there seems to be nothing, which can be done about it. Like : There is no alternative.

Which brings me to the question : Is Sepp Blatter’s FIFA a disease or is it just a symptom of our – greed is good – neoliberal system ? Is it a coincidence that Blatter’s creation has run in parallel with the Thatcher/Reagan/Rogernomics revolution ?

The more I think about it it appears to me that Blatter’s FIFA is more than just a crime syndicate. It is not deviant but rather symptomatic of the system we all have been living under over the last 30 plus years.

Wouldn’t it be ironic if it was the US justice system taking it/him down.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Campbell Live vs Kardashian’s Arse

The reaction of the mainstream media to the axing of Campbell Live was predictably superficial. No deep analysis nor compassion.

The analysis
must include the almost constitutional – if only we had a constitution – role of independent media in a democracy. Do I give away my age when I remind you that the media were once called the Fourth Estate in our democratic system of government after the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary. We even had a top shelf media focused TV program of the same name.
Independent media are ranked so highly because the central part of this balance of power system the legislature, that is the exercise of the will of the people through free elections of Parliament, relies on the people being informed and knowledgable about the issues and candidates. This information can only be delivered objectively and impartially by independent media.
According to neoliberal dogma this function of the media is best delivered – you guessed it – by the market. Competition in the television market will ensure that we get the information we are looking for. The list is long of what we should and want to be informed about like the effects of government policy on say child poverty, health, education or simple government abuse of power, secret service spying on citizens, secret ‘trade’ negotiations affecting our sovereignty.
With the demise of Campbell Live the only source of timely more in-depth  information on television on these important issues is gone. Going to be replaced by entertainment focussing probably focussing on Kim Kardashian’s Arse.

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In other bigger countries the media landscape might be diverse enough with niche channels giving you the information you want and need. In New Zealand with only two main television companies this choice is extremely limited if not non-existent if you regard the jokers Hoskins and Henry as the alternative.
This failure of the ‘market’ to deliver information , which holds the government to account is of course not acknowledged by our great leader. John Key is on record saying that Campbell Live’s primary role was to entertain rather than hold the Government to account.

Let’s make no mistake the lack of critical reporting on television is a sign of an authoritarian system. Just imagine our indignation if that were to happen in Rumania, Zimbabwe or Russia! However, it seems to be just fine for our neoliberal government with it’s hallmarks of secrecy (‘trade’ negotiations, GCSB, deployment of troops) and abuse of power (dirty politics, using the secret service to help a job application of a senior minister) to name only a few. What we have is a clear policy failure when television does not any longer fulfill in any meaningful way it’s crucial constitutional role in a democracy to hold power to account. However, it’s all part of the plan.

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The compassion is not with John Campbell but the people he has given a human face. The people who are now without a voice. The victims of Pike River or the Canterbury earthquake; the children in decile one schools with empty lunch boxes; the child victims of the soul and community destroying school closure policies in the aftermath of the earthquake; the mother and true hero of a most recent report raising four children on two jobs coming home at midnight leaving her with less than 5 hours sleep every night; the victims of insurance companies’ actions or rather inactions; the kids with horrendously malformed teeth, who got life changing help through Campbell’s campaigning and even the wonderful people of Samoa getting their first All Black test match ever in their home country. They and many more will disappear from our screens and our minds.

The most disappointing aspect was the willingness of most of us to unquestionably accept bogus economic logic behind the move even if that was clearly an excuse and smokescreen. Ratings were never the issue as shown when ratings went up without any effect on a decision done for ideological political reasons.

However economic imperatives are used because they are sacrosanct these days. To question them is heresy. A convenient device to suffocate all discussion of the fundamentals of our economic system.

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Nobody dares to say that “the market” i.e. ratings should not determine if we have a democracy in which voters can make an informed choice, that television news and TV current affairs are different to a can of baked beans. Nobody dares to say that we need public television funded by taxes as a costs of our democracy. Nobody dares to say that media ownership might come with social responsibility. The neoliberal dogma does not allow for such heretic thoughts as public good, social responsibility or even democracy.

I am not blaming the new overseas owners of TV3. They are not called a vulture fund for nothing. They do what they do without any loyalty or social conscience picking over the corpses in this case of MediaWorks.
The blame lies with neoliberal governments over the last 30 plus years who told us the well packaged web of lies. We must at least since the world economic crisis have realized that we have been fed bullshit with the biggest lie being that there is no alternative.

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I blame us for having become docile and obedient under the onslaught of neoliberal propaganda. This again shows my age as you have to be truly on the wrong side of 50 to even remember a time when greed was not good.

Sorry John, Kim won pants down.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

PS
Recommended reading: Positive news : Campbell Live is going – RadioNZ next

Positive news : Campbell Live is going – RadioNZ next

 

 

 

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Moving deck chairs on the Titanic while the band is playing

My ‘post-budget’ blog is off to a slow start. Listening to the commentariat constipates the mind. This is of course intentional. We are not to be enlightened but rather confused and distracted from the big picture.
One little morsel to demonstrate this is the information that an extra 25 dollars for the poorest of the poor was the first real (not inflation related) increase in benefits in 43 (!) years. We did not expect that from a minister of finance of a right wing neoliberal government.
That this was hailed as a big positive surprise just goes to show how over the last 30 plus years of neoliberalism we have been manipulated into accepting mean, nasty, vindictive governments. Vindictive towards the poor and of course generous to their wealthy supporters with tax cuts for the rich and billion dollar plus hand-outs for investors as in Canterbury Finance.
The Razzmatazz around budgets in New Zealand and Australia for that matter is a bit like the Melbourne Cup. Everyone seems to be in an office sweepstake eagerly awaiting the result if you are one of the winners or one of the huge majority of losers.
This is part of the big picture where ‘bread and circuses’ are all that is left in a declining civilisation. We still marvel at the colossal Roman ruins.

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And yesterday was – as we are conditioned to accept – very little bread and a lot of circus.

Then I listened to the Minister of Finance this morning. Talking about social policies he told us he was tasking the “Productivity Commission” with overseeing delivery of social service. And now I cannot keep Monty Python’s “Spanish Inquisition” sketch out of my head.

Spanish Inquisition

Both are as ridiculous as each other. You only have to go into the commission’s official government web-site with the heading “Productivity Growth for Maximum Wellbeing”. You have to wonder who comes up with such bull-shit and how stupid do the government spin-masters think we are. We all know that the neoliberal buzz word “productivity” is code for cost cutting, which is the only meaning it can have if applied to social services as there is no “product” produced.

If you watch Michael Palin in the Spanish Inquisition you see another parallel with the Productivity Commission. Both have four weapons: Fear, surprise, ruthless efficiency and a fanatical devotion to the Pope i.e. neoliberal dogma.

We also hear that the finance minister is dangling the old chestnut in front of us: tax cuts in an election year. No prizes for guessing who will benefit most from those tax cuts. One thing is clear however that it is all part of the long term neoliberal agenda to shrink the state / government to make it easier prey for the corporate takeover. So far they managed to introduce charter schools as the first step to privatise education, private prisons, more private healthcare even more outsourcing of social welfare to private providers. There is obviously money to be made even from the poorest of the poor.

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All the while sailing on the Titanic our (rock star) economy is heading for the rocks and our climate is heading for the iceberg.

How long does any sane person think our economy can roll on making the (mostly non-working) rich ever richer at the expense of the (mostly working) poor ? When will the engineers and profiteers of this neoliberal economy start fearing the dispossessed masses  and realise that it will not do to tell them to eat cake ? When do they think the 99% will wake up ? When the top 1% own 70%, 80% or 90% of all wealth ? That is the trajectory we are on. At some stage the manipulation of the majority will stop working.

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As long as we are running this kind of economy we are also wrecking the planet. There is scientific consensus that if we don’t change direction from New Zealand’s “Drill Baby Drill” fossil fuel economy we are heading for not 2 degrees but 4 or even 6 degrees global warming with sea level rises measured not in centimeters but meters in the not too distant future. When will we start making the right decisions ?

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Sailing on the Titanic we just shuffled a few deck chairs around. The government for instance moved money from Kiwi Saver to the 25 dollar social welfare increase and lowering ACC levies and introducing departure and arrival tax. I really don’t want to belittle the importance of 25 dollars to the poorest of the poor. However, in the long run there is only one solution.

We have to change direction and we better figure out how to do it soon.

Right now the Titanic is firmly set on autopilot heading for disaster. But lets look at the bright side. The band is still playing.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Corruption – its much more than that

Thanks to public radio I just  heard an almost hour long excellent Kim Hill interview on Radio New Zealand National. She spoke with Sarah Chayes reporter and author of

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Here is someone who actually knows what she is writing and talking about.

After covering the fall of the Taliban and the early weeks of post-Taliban Afghanistan, Chayes decided to leave reporting and stay behind to try to contribute to the rebuilding of the war-torn country. She lived and worked in the former Taliban heartland, Kandahar, for most of the next decade. In 2005, she founded a small manufacturing cooperative, which produces high-quality natural skin-care products from licit local agriculture. She speaks the Pashto language.
In 2010, Sarah Chayes became a special adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen. In this capacity, she contributed to strategic US policy on Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Arab Spring.
She also extensively visited other corruption riddled countries like Nigeria and Egypt.

The review of her book in The Telegraph by Oliver Bullough sums up her findings:

The book opens with an account of an acquaintance from Kandahar who was assaulted by police for refusing to pay a bribe, and who then had his phone smashed when he reported it. She heard the story from the man’s brother, a former police officer himself, who was furious and told her: “If I see someone planting an IED (improvised explosive device) on a road, and then see a police truck coming, I will turn away, I will not warn them.”
Much Western analysis has referred to countries such as Afghanistan as “failed states” but, Chayes argues, this is misguided. Their rulers have no intention of providing the services we think a state should provide, but want only to get very rich. Looked at from this perspective, Afghanistan is successful.
In examinations of insurgencies in Nigeria, North Africa, Uzbekistan and elsewhere, she argues that this problem is not something unique to Afghanistan. Many governments are machines for fleecing their citizens. Citizens become tired of paying off corrupt officials, and try to stop. The officials force the citizens to pay up. The citizens, angered, fight back. Violence erupts: leading to bloodshed, terrorism, human rights abuses, and the rest. If we respond only to the last part of the process, we will be defending the thieves, thus making the problem even worse.

In the interview Chayes describes how as a foreign journalist in Afghanistan she was initially sucked in by the Karzai (subsequently President of Afghanistan) clan before she gradually discovered that is was what can only be described a Mafia – like criminal organisation turning the whole state into a successful criminal enterprise.

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The fact most of us western taxpayers are and should rightly be concerned about is that most of the loot is coming right out of our treasuries in the form military assistance and all kinds of foreign aid money. These criminal governments are actually on our payroll. And hardly anything serious is done about it. For instance literally billions of US dollar bills flown by big cargo planes into Iraq disappeared without trace and nobody in the US administration seems to bid an eyelid about it.

However, this should not be surprising as Chaye’s most remarkable observations reveal.

She observes that this corrupt and criminal behavior became more prevalent with the ideological backing of the Reagan/Thatcher brand of neoliberal “greed is good” form of Anglo-American capitalism with a capital “C”.
She points to the active support given to the thieves not only by western banks and law firms to funnel the loot out of the countries into the safety of tax havens and secret bank accounts but our governments, which seem to condone any crime of these regimes as long as they are seen as ‘loyal’ to us and are the enemy of our enemy, the insurgents.
Then she remarked on the corrupt criminal system in Nigeria where she observed that the country’s elites just took over the exploitative colonial system the British had left them together with the oil companies collaborating with the regime to fleece their own impoverished citizenry.

However, Chayes as an American fails to see the wood for all the trees. How can she seriously expect the US to enhance global security by combating corruption in these countries if it has mostly been created and nurtured by the US ? How can the world be expected to do what the US says and not what it does ? Don’t we have to look at ourselves first before giving lectures to others ?
So let’s for a moment focus on the USA, which is going around the world trying to sell us their brand of freedom and democracy.

To start with the above story of the Afghan man been shaken down by policemen. What is the difference to the practice of Civil Forfeiture in the US made fun of by comedian John Oliver ?

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The difference is that in the US it is institutionalised legalised daylight robbery with more money involved to feather police department’s nests.
If we look at corruption former Vice-president Dick Cheney and Halliburton spring to mind with damage to the treasury at a much grander scale.
And do the USA have any enviable form of democracy to sell to the rest of the world ?

The foremost American thinker of our time Noam Chomsky

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does not think that the US is a democracy but rather a polyarchy where the power resides in the hands of those who manage the wealth of the nation, the responsible class of men, as so designed by the fathers of the constitution (Madison) to protect the minority of the opulent against the majority.
In the US the whole constitutional set-up is undemocratic to protect the haves against the have-nots. No wonder that the election results are bought by the party with the most money and nobody cares as it is seen as the American way.
This is of course not new to us in New Zealand where the victorious National Party raised more than four times as much money than Labour prior to the last election.
And what would you call it when raising money for a winning presidential candidate is quite regularly by both sides rewarded with government posts like ambassadorships ? We had a few of those in Wellington recently, which seems to be popular with campaign donors.
And what about the revolving door policy between corporations, government and lobbyists ?

All these are are clear signs of an undemocratic and corrupt political system.

The irony is that the USA and Nigeria have this one thing in common. In both the elites have continued the bad old practices of their British colonial masters.

Hand in hand with this go the human right abuses.

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Unfortunately, Noam Chomsky is only too justified to call the US the ‘world’s leading terrorist statemainly because of it’s policy of extra judicial killings of targets and bystanders alike in foreign countries by drones remote controlled from the US.

Let us not point the finger at countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Nigeria, Ukraine and all the others we care to look at for corruption. It is much more than that.

It is the post colonial Anglo/American system of neoliberal Capitalism with a capital “C”.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Let’s look at the bright side.

Last week’s UK election might have a bright side after all.

After the return of the Tories there is now a distinct possibility that in 2020 we in the Anglo-American capitalist countries – also known as the (five eyes spy) club – will have hardcore neoliberal governments with David Cameron in the UK, Jeb Bush in the US, Stephen Harper in Canada, Tony Abbott in Australia and John Key in NZ. A scary prospect in anyone’s book especially for those of us who love our children and grandchildren and are concerned about the world we will leave them.

The Elephant in the room for all of us is of course Climate Change.

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One of the traits these governments have in common is their attitudes and policies on climate change. From the most destructive and environmentally damaging tar sand mining in Canada, the fracking bonanza in the US, the undiminished expansion of coal mining and shipping through the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the “Drill Baby Drill” in- and off-shore oil exploration in NZ and the pandering to the fossil fuel industry in the UK the neoliberal ideology driven policies by the members of the club make a mockery of all attempts to stop climate change getting out of hand.

Climate scientist can demonstrate by a simple calculation that we need to stop burning fossil fuel willy nilly if we want to have a chance to keep global warming to the universally agreed level of two degrees Celsius. That in fact we must keep most of the known reserves already on the balance sheets of the fossil fuel companies in the ground.

While the Keep-it-in-the-Ground movement led by the UK Guardian and inspired by Naomi Klein is gaining momentum

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these governments are putting their foots on the accelerator as if there is no tomorrow. One even could count the hot air created by their comforting words prior to this December’s Climate summit in Paris as one of the most renewable energy sources. Their deeds tell the opposite story.

One other characteristic the neoliberal country club has in common are mainstream media dominated by Rupert Murdoch (UK,US and Australia) and Murdoch like corporations.

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They are brainwashing the general public into thinking that climate change i.e. global warming is either not really happening or it is at least not man made or in any case can easily be fixed by some science fiction movie technology a la the shield in Highlander II.

All this has a devastating rational logic to it not only for the green house gas emitting sunset industries but to the neoliberal capitalistic system itself.
This system is based on the idea that individual enrichment at the cost of everyone and everything else including the climate is ok and will ultimately via the invisible hand of the market lead to benefit all. This ideological myth of the ever correcting beneficial effects of the “market” without any state intervention or regulation was of course thoroughly debunked by the global financial crisis of 2008 onwards. Even then Federal Reserve Bank chairman and Ayn Rand disciple and lover Alan Greenspan had to admit that he was wrong : Those of us who have looked to the self-interest of lending institutions to protect shareholder’s equity – myself especially – are in a state of shocked disbelief. 

However the neoliberal juggernaut is moving along regardless as our system is rewarding short term personal gains over long term collective sustainability. And the neoliberal climate change deniers

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are right to be afraid of the environmental movement being like a watermelon green on the outside and red on the inside. They at least have understood that to deal appropriately with the ever more looming large climate crisis it will take everything they despise : Collective not individual effort and action, governmental and intergovernmental response, strengthening society’s conscience and collaboration against individual lack of conscience. Remember Margret Thatcher one of the patron saints of neoliberalism declaring that there is no such thing as society !
Ultimately the climate crisis will require the top 1% or rather .01% to relinquish power over the rest of us as they will not be able – like in the science fiction movies – to totally shield themselves  from the effects of global warming. If nothing else will force a total change of our economic and political system the Climate will.

Naomi Klein in her must read book

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manages to find something positive in the otherwise gloomy picture :

I began to see all kinds of ways that climate change could become the catalyzing force for positive change – how it could be the best argument progressives have ever had to demand the rebuilding and reviving of local economies; to reclaim our democracies from corrosive corporate influence; to block harmful new free trade deals and rewrite old ones; to invest in starving public infrastructure like mass transit and affordable housing; to take back ownership of essential services like energy and water; to remake our sick agricultural system into something much healthier; to open our borders to migrants whose displacement is linked to climate impacts; to finally respect Indigenous land rights – all of which would help to end grotesque levels of inequality within our nations and between them.

From this list we can imagine how our business and political rulers will fight tooth and nail against the notion that there is a climate crisis and business as usual is not an option anymore.
Klein with 15 years of research leading to her previous book The Shock Doctrine is only to aware what is likely to happen as the crisis will inevitably deepen into a shock for the people :

Over the past four decades corporate interests have systematically exploited these various forms of crisis to ram through policies that enrich a small elite – by lifting regulations, cutting social spending and forcing large scale privatization of the public sphere. They have also been the excuse for extreme crackdowns on civil liberties and chilling human rights violations.
And there are plenty of signs that climate change will be no exception- that rather than sparking solutions that have a real chance of preventing catastrophic warming and protecting us from inevitable disaster, the crisis will once again be seized upon to hand over yet more resources to the 1 percent.

One of the warning signs for instance in the US besides the now almost total surveillance of it’s citizenry is the fact that the army is handing over billions of dollars worth of military hardware like tanks and helicopters to the police forces. Who do you think these weapons will be aimed at ? To give you a clue: not at terrorists.

In other words it looks like it will have to get much worse with the climate and our political and economic system before the 99 % will wake up and turn things around.
Climate change of course does not wait for us. Time is of the essence. In the next 5 years we might reach the tipping point – if we not already have – beyond which a turn around will be almost impossible.
So lets get on with it and get it over with. The political horror scenario above will only accelerate the crisis and bring it to the inevitable solution earlier.
Lets have more severe draughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes together with sea level rise for all to see the sooner the better.

Therefore the UK election win by the Tories can only be a good thing. Sorry for the road kill along the way.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

 

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Only the Jester is allowed to tell the truth

The UK election campaign is telling us some interesting lessons. The so called mainstream i.e. corporate media are not allowed to tell us what is really going on but mainly dispense neoliberal propaganda. We and the UK electorate are increasingly turning to the jester Russell Brand to hear the truth.

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This would be the hallmark of an authoritarian feudal system of government and if we look closely at the present political and economic structure this is exactly what we have got.
In this system the rulers rule. In the UK presently the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequers (Minister of Finance) and the Mayor of the by far largest city of London are all class mates from the most elitist private school of Eaton. And like in the Middle Ages the rest of us know our ‘station’ and bow and put up with it.

But what about democracy ? Aren’t we having an election right now with more choice than ever ? Won’t there be change if the voters don’t return the Tories ?

Sorry folks, there is no tooth fairy at the bottom of the garden and there will be no fundamental change as the result of the election even if the next Prime Minister is different to the present one. The only thing the UK can hope for is some changes around the edges, which might be very important to the people affected and which I don’t want to belittle. However the juggernaut of the reigning neoliberal economic ideology will move on destroying everything in its path.

What about people not voting for radical change because they don’t want radical change ?

Sorry again, there is no realistic radical option to vote for. The present political and economic system, which includes the mainstream media setup does not allow for it.

Let’s just have a look at Britain’s mainstream media for a moment on the eve of their election. Our Fairfax media gives a nice overview with the various headlines and endorsements. The Daily Mail stands out :

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This is just one example worth a little analysis. The message is clear. If you don’t vote for the status quo you are not only insane but also unpatriotic.

This is directed at the main opposition Labour Party. You can imagine how the smaller more ‘radical’ parties fare. Fairfax again draws the comparison to New Zealand.
The vilification of smaller parties (remember how the NZ Greens became the devil-beast), and the undermining of the legitimacy of a Labour-led Government have some of the hall-marks of National’s 2014 campaign. And, whaddya know, the Nats and the Tories share a consultant: Australian Lynton Crosby (of Crosby-Textor, the spin doctors for neoliberal governments around the world).

The for me most striking New Zealand example of almost everybody swallowing the anti-Green propaganda hook line & sinker was the policy of quantitive easing (printing money instead of borrowing) advocated by the Greens prior to last years election. It was widely ridiculed by the government as lunatic even as ‘lunatic’ central banks around the world like the US Federal Reserve, the EU Central Bank, the Bank of England and even the “so revolutionary” Swiss Central Bank were all practicing it at the time.
Instead we were told to trust the economic nous of our great helmsman who’s only credentials are that he enriched himself to the tune of 50 Million dollars gaming the foreign exchange markets playing with other peoples money.

The media setup in the so called liberal Western democracies is so much more insidious than the censorship regimes of authoritarian countries like China or Saudi Arabia. There you know if something is kept from you when access to the internet is restricted or journalists are flogged.
In our system we are allowed dissent – like this little blog – as long as the system does not allow it to become mainstream. We formally have freedom of speech and therefore can sleep easily. The result is the same. The status quo is protected.

The jester is even allowed to publish his book.

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And we all can have a good laugh.

However I wonder who will have the last laugh after the intervention of Brand in the UK elections. Today on radio NZ one contributor wondered who will have had a more deciding influence on the UK election Rupert Murdoch’s old mainstream media or Russell Brand’s new internet media outlets.

For us to keep quiet and keep at our ‘station’ and not challenge the status quo we are given wars. The ‘cold war’ against an ideology, the ‘war on drugs’, the ‘war on terror’ and many more where they came from just to keep us scared and distracted.

Which reminds me :

war&revolution

The present system tries everything to stop us from figuring it out. But let us not despair.

its only a matter of time

by Hans B. Grueber

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100 years Gallipoli: ANZAC propaganda still working overtime

I recently read Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” researching the source of the ideology behind the biggest crime of the 20th century may be ever. There I found an interesting assessment by the WWI western front veteran why England had won the war. According to Hitler it was because of her superior propaganda.

'Destroy_this_mad_brute'_WWI_propaganda_poster_(US_version)b9facec2d1d6d10ca628

While England was hammering the message of the hun raping Belgian nuns and eating babies the best the Germans could come up with was calling the English a nation of little shop-keepers.

But the propaganda did not just work against the enemy it worked as well against our own people.

The first casualty of war always is the truth replaced by censorship and propaganda. The Gallipoli/ANZAC myth is one prime example of this fact. What might have been initially justifiable not to undermine ‘morale’ at home has turned into a full blown industry still working overtime 100 years on.

I have been part of my adopted country for over 30 years and still have not quite understood how New Zealand manages to celebrate one of the biggest military cock ups ever as the most important nation building event in our brief history. Was it because it was described as an “Amateurish, Do-It-Yourself Cock-Up”. (Global Research)

The centenary year has produced new information even for me being very interested in the history around WWI.  And a wind change could be detected. In the past for instance the matter of an apology to Turkey for the invasion of Gallipoli would not have been discussed or even mentioned.

The picture which has emerged is that the ANZAC myth celebrated in New Zealand and Australia has been forged not in Gallipoli but in the editorial offices and political circles back home. The myth has always been just that a myth created by propaganda.

Gordon Campbell in a carefully researched piece describes when the process of transforming a military folly into (a) a glorious failure and (b) an originary myth of nationhood began in earnest ?
“It happened the moment the news of the landing occurred,’ Historian Jock Phillips says. ‘If you read the New Zealand newspapers…from the time when the first cables came through its all phrased in terms of New Zealanders finally show their value to the British Empire. What the newspapers did particularly well was to draw on the positive comments of the British elite – namely the King, the British newspaper reporter Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett and people like John Masefield. These were the spokespeople of the British ruling class. When they made positive comments about New Zealanders, these comments were recycled and recycled and recycled. There was a sense that New Zealand had won its spurs on behalf of the Empire. And it started from the moment that the first news of the landing arrived in New Zealand.”
During the ensuing months, the newspaper reports filtered their way back to the soldiers themselves, and as Phillips says, the disbelief was almost total. “The troops [at Gallipoli] read the media accounts with incredulity. They were both horrified and contemptuous. They couldn’t believe the disjuncture between the heroic way in which this was being presented, and their experiences.”

This explains why most of the survivors who were actually at Gallipoli or later at the Western front never talked about their horrific experience and did not attend ANZAC day marches and celebrations. Interesting to listen to actor Sam Neil’s personal account from a son of a military family on Radio NZ National.

The later inquiry by the Dardanelles Commission into the disaster had to be a whitewash in which the imperials and the colonials collaborated. Gerry Docherty & Jim Macgregor point out:
Before the final report was published, (general Sir Ian) Hamilton warned Churchill that it had the potential to break up the Empire if it ‘does anything to shatter the belief still confidently clung to in the Antipodes, that the expedition was worth while, and that ‘the Boys’ did die to a great end and were so handled as to be able to sell their lives very dearly. …If the people of Australia and New Zealand feel their sacrifices went for nothing, then never expect them again to have any sort of truck with our superior direction in preparations for future wars.’
Anzac troops who perished at Gallipoli are portrayed by mainstream historians as heroes who died fighting to protect democracy and freedom, not as ordinary young men duped by a great lie.
The forefathers were duped into volunteering a century before at a cost they never foresaw. It is clear that many of those young Australians
(and New Zealanders for that matter) who travel en-masse to the shores of Gallipoli every April have also been duped.

The relentless Gallipoli/ANZAC propaganda has been highly successful. To talk about the whole issue even 100 years on is still problematic or even hazardous. It is cold comfort that it is even worse in Australia.  Strategic analyst and former Australian Defence Force officer James Brown writes angrily about a cycle of jingoistic commemoration rather than quiet contemplation, with individuals, groups and organisations cashing in on Anzac Day. ‘A century after the war to end all wars, Anzac is being bottled, stamped and sold. …the Anzac industry has gone into hyperdrive. …What started as a simple ceremony is now an enormous commercial enterprise. …Australians are racing to outdo one another with bigger, better, grander and more intricate forms of remembrance.’ Even the Australian War Memorial has devised an official “Anzac Centenary Merchandising Plan” to capitalise on “the spirit.”’

To be accused of being “anti-Anzac” in Australia today is to be charged with the most grievous offence.’  (Marilyn Lake & Henry Reynolds)
Sports reporter Scott McIntyre found that out to his peril this week being fired from SBS after some provocative tweets criticizing the ANZACs.

MacIntyre

The question should be what are the lessons told and learned from WWI, which had no redeeming features whatsoever.
I agree with a visiting Oxford historian who saw this 100 year anniversary as a big 
missed opportunity to actually spend some money on the study and teaching of the reasons why little New Zealand ended up in the quack-mire in the first place.
A good start would be Margaret MacMillan‘s book “The War that ended Peace”, which fittingly ends in August 1914. The lessons to be learned are the ones about “The Road to 1914” and not what happened next. That we already know that war in general is shit and WWI in particular was super-shit as the first industrial scale massacre of millions for no good reason. That knowledge alone has not prevented us from joining almost every jolly war going ever since – morally justified or not.
That means that no valuable lesson has been learned so far. These lessons should be funded, researched, promoted, discussed  broadcast
and screened as all the other centenary projects.

Instead of having learned something from history the “ANZAC spirit” is again being abused when selling us just another military adventure in the Middle East. 

Chris Trotter: Weep, Zealandia, Weep! sums it up nicely :
Is this really where we are, 100 years after Gallipoli? Is this how far we’ve come? From a bigoted British Israelite and union-buster; to a “relaxed” golfing partner of the US president and a “playful” hair-fetishist? From dispatching troops to Gallipoli in the name of the King-Emperor; to dispatching troops to Iraq in the name of the “Five Eyes Club”?

Missed opportunities with expensive result at least for the grieving families of all the New Zealand wars ever since. Others made a killing.

I have a more realistic look following the money trail. The reasons for New Zealand’s involvement in WWI and the Gallipoli campaign and the commemorations/celebrations ever since are the same : There is money to be made lots of it.

This year I attended the ANZAC Day service at the local cenotaph, which was nice especially the following afternoon tea at the friendly neighbours.

What I learned this year only increases the risk of me screaming if I would hear one more time that our “heroes” at Gallipoli made the “ultimate sacrifice” for our “Freedom“.

Freiheit

All for the Fatherland. All for Freedom.

As it was not for freedom we should look what or rather who it was for.
Who benefited? Who came out on top?
And who paid the price? Who came up short?
To find the answer to these questions should be one of the top centenary projects.
Where can I get funding?

Don’t hold your breath !

And breathe through all the propaganda !

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

Recommended reading :
Chris Trotter : Weep, Zealandia, Weep ! (and other post @ Bowalley Road)
Gordon Campbell : What’s To Commemorate?
Gerry Docherty & Jim Macgregor : World War I and the British Empire: The Gallipoli Campaign, The Untold Story – ‘The first casualty of war is truth’
Docherty & Macgregor : Gallipoli 19: Anzac Day; Perpetuating the Myth

 

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Creep

Prime Minister Key is on his way to Gallipoli, New Zealand’s troops are on their way to just another jolly war in the region and a Facebook play on words picture/comment takes on an altogether different meaning.

creep-300x248

The story broke yesterday when a young waitress told the story having her pony tail pulled by the Prime minister again and again over a period of months, which experts in the field classified as bullying and sexual harassment. The Prime Minister himself called it just “horse play” – the standard defense of every bully.  It was fascinating to watch minute by minute the story spreading from the “left leaning” (as if that had anything to do with the story) The Daily Blog where the victim told her story to the mainstream media making headline news around the world like the Washington Post‘s “New Zealand’s ponytail-pulling prime minister becomes national embarrassment“.

The real creepy feeling overcame me when the media dug up other hair-pulling antics by Mr Key among others footage from Campbell Live involving a prepubescent blond girl. Does New Zealand have a Prime Minister who cannot help himself fulfilling his urges of some sort of borderline hair fetishism ? (“Ponytail pulling: ‘A thing’ John Key does“)

We are all now in a ring side seat watching dirty politics at work unfold in front of our eyes and ears

It started immediately with Shaun Plunket. I hear that he urged his listeners yesterday not to read the original Daily Blog story trying to dismiss it as usual as left wing conspiracy. However he went off half cocked as the Prime Minister confirmed the incidents and his apology.

Today the NZ Herald followed with an article by Rachel Glucina,

gluc
Rachel Glucina and Government pollster and right wing political blogger, David Farrar 

which the paper published even if warned by the editor of The Daily Blog that it’s information was obtained by deception and false pretenses.
The intention of her article is clear to portray the victim as someone who is politically motivated. Her employers are quoted as saying that the complainant has “strong political points of view”. Strong political points of view is of course dog whistle for “reds under the bed” or left wing conspiracy.

Glucina is already unfavourably mentioned in last years Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics“. She is just following the song sheet of Crosby Textor the government’s Australian masters of the dark art of political manipulation and spin.

I feel deeply sorry for the poor victim as we all will be watching her being attacked, maligned, discredited, ridiculed by the National government / media attack machine. I wonder how long she will last in her job even if she obviously tried hard to keep herself and her employer out of the story, which the NZ Herald deliberately ignored. Any Press Council findings against the paper and Glucina will be cold comfort to her.

The wider picture is that of this Government’s arrogance, bullying and treating New Zealanders with contempt.  “Ponytail gate” might even serve a purpose of distracting us from the policies, which really matter like all the things, which we are not allowed to discuss or even know about as for example TPPA negotiation and GCSB spying.

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However what I feel really ashamed off is that the National Party is still polling at 49% support and Chris Trotter might in the end be right commenting :
Every honest New Zealander knows that if it had been David Cunliffe who’d repeatedly pulled a waitress’s pony-tail, and been found out, then the story could only have ended one way – with his resignation.
What does it say about John Key and his relationship with both the news media and the wider New Zealand electorate that, public admission and apology delivered, he will almost certainly walk away from this scot free?

As long as we support the Creep we cannot look forward to the next by-election in Helensville.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Do you smell what I smell ?

666x300peppers-carrington

The NZ Herald heavily promoted news story repeated in the Northern Advocate reads rather like a copy&paste job from a press release :

Former National MP Mike Sabin has been appointed chief executive of Peppers Carrington Estate, a five-star, 1000-hectare resort on the Karikari Peninsula. 
He will be in charge of plans to redevelop the property into the largest five-star resort in the country. 
Chinese real estate giant Shanghai CRED purchased the business from US businessman Paul Kelly for $28.7 million in 2013, and planned to market it to wealthy Chinese tourists. 
Mr Sabin resigned as Northland’s MP in early February. 
Mr Sabin’s resignation forced a by-election, which National lost to New Zealand First’s Winston Peters. 
Before he entered Parliament in 2011, Mr Sabin was a policeman and founded an anti-methamphetamine company called MethCon.

When I read the story at first I thought that my iMac was one of the next generation of computers that had escaped the lab where they are working on devices, which give you not only pictures and sound but the appropriate smells to go with it. The story stinks.

No word from Mr Sabin himself who has disappeared ever since he resigned from Parliament at the beginning of the year triggering the Northland by-election political earthquake.

The copy&paste artist Isaac Davison fails to ask the most fundamental journalistic questions like :
Is this for real ? How can a former policeman come operator of an anti-methaphetamine campaign business come MP without any relevant qualifications be appointed CEO of what wants to become the most luxurious resort in New Zealand for Chinese billionaires?
It seems to be obvious that Mr Sabin would be paid a CEO’s salary not for his business skills or qualifications but for his political connections. What do the Chinese owners expect in return from the National government ?
And finally and most importantly how can any sane business person especially in the top end hospitality industry employ someone as CEO who is before the courts under suspicion of serious crimes with the risk of being jailed in a few months time ? What is really behind this “appointment” ?

Look at what the rumor mill is churning out for months.

Key-Sabin

Let us recapitulate. Mr Sabin was under police investigation for serious crimes well before the last election and the government knew about it. Even the candidate selection three years earlier was controversial as Mr Sabin was regarded as a bully.

Blogger lauda finem has questioned the latest Sabin story and “did a little phoning around today, we spoke with a number of recruiters in the industry who asked not to be named and then just roared with laughter when we listed Sabin’s unique skill-set. The up-shot was that not one of the agencies were prepared to put Sabin forward to a client, even for a first interview…..
After all Sabin landing that job is right up there with the immaculate conception and walking on water!”

Across the ditch Derryn Hinch notes :
If you think politics in Australia gets crazy around election time just have a look at what is happening across the ditch right now.
Why does he care ?
Well it is, because it involves suppression orders, political intrigue, serious criminal allegations against a former member of parliament and unanswered questions surrounding the actions of Prime Minister John Key.  And he calls it a :

touch of Watergate“.

Here Matthew Hooton in the NBR headlined “Sabin clock keeps ticking for Key” makes it quite clear what he thinks :
Mr Key’s government stands accused of somehow covering up after Mr Sabin, with Labour leader Andrew Little going so far as to say he believes Mr Key is lying. That is not entirely implausible.
Then he gives irrefutable reasons why Mr Key must be lying when he pretends not to have known anything when he considered Sabin for a cabinet post before settling for the chair of the parliamentary Law and Order select committee.
Hooton gives a dire prediction for the Key government :
The risk for Mr Key is that if the full Sabin story becomes known in a week, a month, six months or a year, it will look as if his government covered it up not just through a general election campaign but then again through the by-election as well. The clock keeps ticking. 

The real story is not the serious criminal allegations against Mr Sabin but the role of Mr Key and his government in this affair. What can we expect the Prime Minister to do to try to save his own skin ?

Here I am reminded of the WWJD (What would Jesus Do?) Bracelet some young Christians wear and according to reliable sources have become very popular among young Nats and other fundamentalist John Key supporters. For them it of course reads : What would John do ? And they don’t mean John Campbell.

To answer the above question about what we can expect Key to do let us give it the WWJD treatment. What would John (need to) do to make the whole story disappear.

Step one is to make Sabin look innocent. Look, he has been given a high profile job so there can’t be anything to the rumors. We can tick this one off.
Step two make the criminal prosecution go away. Let the National government appointed police commissioner – who is on record to condone police corruption – know if that is still necessary that this prosecution is not in the government’s interest. The Police has quite a record recently of acting like the Prime Minister’s private enforcer. Just a couple of examples. We had the Epsom cup of tea saga with the police getting heavy handed against a cameraman and various mainstream media. We had the very questionable day long police raid of Nicky Hager’s home in his capacity as a “witness” almost as retaliation to his “Dirty Politics” revelations. At the same time the PM’s mate gutter blogger Slater who boasted about accessing the Labour Party computer got no police attention. We have to wait and see what the police might do to scuttle the prosecution and make this case go away.
If step two fails the next option would be to have the complaint withdrawn by leaning on or bribing the victim(s). The later is quite a common practice specially with complaints of a sexual nature.

If any of the outstanding steps above would happen some of you would still think of it as a conspiracy theory.

conspiracy

So lets hope that it doesn’t happen and Mr Sabin gets the justice he deserves and the people of New Zealand finally get to know what the Key government is hiding from them.

Till then we all have to hold our noses.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

 

 

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Positive news : Campbell Live is going – RadioNZ next

I am often asked to write something “positive”. I admit to have problems with that. Even if I try I cannot find much positive in New Zealand or the world for that matter to write about other than may be George Clooney marrying an intelligent woman and the Duchess of Cambridge having another baby, which is of course always cause for joy.

george-clooney-7-660

So I thought to find something positive I have to put on the rose tinted John Key glasses to see the world through his eyes to find something positive to write about. After the Northland by-election there is none more positive I can see than the pending demise of John Campbell and with him the remaining investigative current affairs journalism on New Zealand television.

campbell-cartoon

Who needs critical journalism in this Anglo-American style free market capitalism where the advertisers decide what we people are going to see and learn or rather not. Nobody needs to hold our rulers to account when the “market” already does that and everything else for us.

This good news has of course been a very long time coming.

One of the starting points was in the 1960-ies the Chicago School of Economics Milton Friedman led ideological revolution, which inspired not only Ronald Reagan and Margret Thatcher but also General Pinochet in Chile, Boris Yeltsin and the thieving Russian oligarchs and even Nelson Mandela.

To fully understand what happened over the last 40 years you only have to read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine. On the other hand this most important book is written by an investigative journalist and we don’t need those anymore. We leave that to the market.

The Chicago boys arrived in New Zealand in the form of Roger Douglas giving his name to  our version of disaster capitalism “Rogernomics“. Why let a good disaster like a hurricane, war, criminal overthrow of a legitimate government or earthquake go to waste if you can use it to push an ideological agenda through the people would otherwise resist. Sometimes you have to make up the disaster like in 1984 the incoming Labour government in New Zealand calling it a constitutional crisis having to wait a couple of days till the warrants were issued before implementing the first drastic changes or painting the capital requirement of the then government owned Bank of New Zealand into a major financial crisis.

From then on it was almost plain sailing.

We crashed the opposition ‘intellectually’ by telling lies over and over again like “there is no alternative” or “trickle down effect

trickle down effect

till they became accepted wisdom.

lies2

We crashed any opposition by destroying the unions, burden students with debilitating student loans debt and punishing the poor. In the process we created massive inequality, which suits us just fine as we in power are part of the one not the 99 percent. So far so good.

However the hold on wealth and power is always under threat from the people if and when they wake up and realize what is going on. Therefore we must curb education as far as critical enquiry and thinking goes and of course critical journalism.

The former will be achieved on the one hand by privatizing education and let the market find the smallest common denominator. And on the other by strangling real education, which should equip students with creative, inquisitorial critical minds with test, tests and more tests forcing even the best teachers to minimize their teaching to the tests if they want to keep their jobs. In other words our aim must be the dumbing down of education as long as its products can still read manuals and instructions and are able to operate a cash register. And believe me anything else the government tells you about it’s education policy is just spin, wool over your eyes.

The latter (critical journalism) is also a long term project. The first step is to abandon the role of the public in television and radio and privatize the media either by selling them off outright or by opening them up to private competition. The first step was to abandon the broadcasting fee to bring public broadcasting under direct government spending control and political pressure. And it was of course one of the National Party’s first acts after coming back into power in 2008 to get rid of the ‘Charter’ for TVNZ, which gave it up to that point some mandate and responsibility for public broadcasting. This is also all about the dumbing down of content.

When our mates and private media owners were not fast enough to follow the downwards pressure and limit programming for that part of the public that wants more than reality show entertainment at the lowest level we help them along. One way is always to make them financially dependent in the case of TV3 by giving it a helping hand to the tune of 43.3 million dollars, which in itself  creates leverage. If that was not enough we made sure that our people were put in charge of TV3.

Mark.Weldon

The good news again was that nobody noticed – at least up till now when it is claimed by the non-mainstream media that the Prime Minister told his mate and TV3 CEO Mark Weldon in regards to John Campbell “I want that left wing bastard gone”: The prime minister had insidiously conspired with Mark Weldon to end John Campbell’s broadcasting career and have Campbell live taken off the air.
Unfortunately even Fran O’Sullivan the very much pro business writer for the NZ Herald who should be in our camp smelled the rat and this cannot be dismissed – as we usually do – as conspiracy theory.

However ‘at the and of the day’ Campbell Live will be gone or if it survives somewhere hidden out of view and severely neutered.

This is important for our neoliberal Chicago School project.

Our present economic model is based on enough people being held down badly educated, uninformed, under financial stress and distracted by cheap entertainment so they unquestioning swallow corporate and government spin and vote against their own interests. How else can we stay in power as our policies benefit only the very few on the top and not the majority 99%.

We claim that Campbell Live played no role in holding the Government to account (John Key on Newstalk ZB). We don’t appear on his program if we possibly can avoid it – so how could they hold us to account. We dismiss the program as just entertainment. Still it has to go. Too many hungry children, victims of the Christchurch earthquake and disgruntled workers on the show.

Of course the people are making fun of us.

Tui_campbell

But ‘at the end of the day’ we despite Nicky Hager’s revelations in “Dirty Politics” pulled the wool over your eyes at last year’s election and we do as we like and what our pollster tells us we can get away with.

The critics like Phil Wallington and Gavin Ellis on Radio New Zealand National on 14 April 15 think in contrast to the TV3 top brass that there is more to news and current affairs programs than delivering viewers to advertisers. These programs are allegedly part of a far greater public responsibility to the people of New Zealand. They think that Campbell Live is the last meaningful nightly current affairs program that is able to hold the powerful to account in a timely fashion and it’s demise would leave New Zealand intellectually and democratically impoverished (Ellis).

To them we can only say your voices will soon be silenced as well as taxpayer funded public radio has been in our sights for a while to let the “market” do it’s magical thing. We might not even wait for the next crisis real or manufactured to come along.

Anybody for more “positive” news and comment ?

by Dr.Hans B. Grueber

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