One cartoon a thousand thoughts

Sad but true.
We are remembering, commemorating, celebrating – call it what you like – 100 years Gallipoli by again sending our young men into the Middle East on a mission impossible.

Ever since the enormous cost of the WWI remembrance industry became apparent I have wondered if and what value we get for the millions of taxpayers money. Instinctively I had  to agree with a visiting Oxford historian who was disappointed that not a greater share of the lavish spending was directed into education around WWI. Among all the pomp and ceremony we did not learn much about why thousands of New Zealanders ended up on the Dardanelles in the first place. Turkey being a country we previously had no angry word with.
And I am not talking about the narrow history of one of the greatest military fuck-ups. I am talking about the political developments leading the world in 1914 into a catastrophe of industrial scale slaughter of millions of men. I am talking about the political situation and climate in New Zealand, which led so many gullible young men to voluntarily join the jolly Great War.

May be if our Prime Minister who’s knowledge of New Zealand history is flaky at the best of times had learned something about that specific period he would not have sent our troops to Iraq invoking the ANZAC spirit and suggesting to serve together with the Australians under a special ANZAC badge. He must have got his ideas from (Sir) Peter Jackson’s monstrous displays at our national museum Te Papa


and he definitely learned the wrong lesson. These images of pure raw emotions go like all propaganda straight to the gut bypassing the brain, which is fair enough as that is the intention.
John Key must have imagined himself as the above heroic officer when he – while cowardly avoiding a vote in Parliament – yelled at the opposition: “Get some guts” (and don’t engage your brain).

What instead of making me sick in the stomach made me think was another picture.

Rod Emerson

First of all it reminds us that the most or rather only glorious part of the Gallipoli campaign was at the end of it the mass retreat without loss of life.

I am wondering who got the Victoria Cross for that clever military manoeuvre saving thousands of lives. Or can only acts of “bravery”, which also can be called “stupidity” – the more brave the more stupid or vice versa – be rewarded by giving the survivor or in case not his widow a piece of scrap metal from the Crimean war. I am afraid that the later might be the case as the military runs on stupidity not cleverness. Even our latest VC hero from Afghanistan who was decorated for rescuing a comrade under fire acted not only bravely – and his mate will be thankful for the rest of his life – but also incredibly stupidly. Whoever has done a first aid course has learned as the first lesson that in order to help and rescue people you have to make sure first that you are safe. Otherwise you are of no use to the person in need of help. Luckily no OSH officer was in the field.

Then it makes me think about our alleged mission to “train” Iraqi soldiers who according to the US defence secretary lack the will to fight or as our own ex-army officer and MP Ron Marks puts it more bluntly are cowards.
Not that I agree with that assessment. These men are not cowards they are rather clever, which is of course an enigma to an (ex) army officer. They are clever enough to have realised that this corrupt Iraqi regime engaged in a fractional religious civil war is not worth fighting for.

If our Prime Minister had learned a little bit of WWI history he would know that Turkey was a reluctant entrant into the war. However the other empires Britain and France, our allies, were circling the moribund Ottoman Empire like vultures to get their piece of flesh. And as today that piece can be summed up in one word: Oil.

Another lesson from history would be that the Kurds, a people of 20 million, did not get their own state in the carve-up of the Ottoman Empire. They were left as minorities in five countries, which naturally have ever since opposed Kurdish independence. Now it is the Kurds who after almost one hundred years of discrimination have something to fight for: Kurdish Independence. And they fight fiercely especially their women fighters. These are the guys we should be “training”.

Recent history should have taught us another lesson that you reap what you sow.
I recently spoke with an Iraqi doctor who told me about the reason why the Islamic State is so deadly efficient in their religious war. When the US moved into Iraq they disbanded the Iraqi army and interned their officers. After beating them up for years almost daily in prisons like Abu Ghraib they set them loose. Most of them being Sunnis with no prospect in postwar Iraq now peddle their skills at ISIS. They are highly skilled killers who know how to fly fighter jets, handle modern weaponry, computers, the internet you name it. They have nothing to lose and hate the Americans and their allies. Who can blame them ?

And on “our” side you have the new Iraqi army by all reports crippled by corruption where everyone seems to be in there for his own interest. And in the sectarian divide firmly aligned with the Shia majority. No wonder that they drive out of town rather than defend the Sunni city of Ramadi where they were not welcome anyway.

Good luck Kiwi soldiers with that lot.

But we must not forget that the deployment of New Zealand troops had nothing to do with militarily rational – if there is such thing – but a (five eyes, foreign) political rational. Our membership fees were due. We had to be seen as part of the gang asserting our patch.

All we can hope for now is that the 16 instructors don’t just teach the Iraqis how to do a mass retreat without loss of life but heed that lesson themselves and get out of there in one piece.

They shouldn’t have been put there as pawns in a political game of chess where pawns are sometimes taken.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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

Have you stopped beating your wife Mr. Armstrong ?

John Armstrong,


this is not just about you or even the New Zealand Herald but about all mainstream media, which are engaged in just uncritically defending the status quo of economic and political power. And this is not just about the Green Party but attacks on any critical voice questioning the recent neoliberal orthodoxy of the “market” being the answer to everything. If the “market” is always the answer why bother with any questions.

John Armstrong’s piece in the NZ Herald  on 30 May is just a classic with it’s headline

Mad or toxic … Greens’ image newbie’s challenge”

The assumption of this headline – and I have to stress that it is just an example for all mainstream media – is that the image of the Greens is “mad or toxic”. And we are not talking about just the image “mad or toxic” but policies as he writes that in order to change the image and get traction with voters it requires the Greens to be tighter and more orthodox (reading: neoliberal) in their economic policies.
Policies seeking to cut greenhouse gas emissions do not have a strong market in places like West Auckland.
Here again pops up the “market” as the answer. What was the question again ?

This is all part of an concerted effort by the 1 % at the top to defend their wealth, power and privilege against any questioning by the 99 % who are increasingly left behind. The privileged rich who mostly exercise their power through corporations have as their most powerful tool the media in their portfolios. The media’s role is to defend the privileges of their owners.


They either do it by ignoring any different points of view and if that is not possible to attack any dissent firstly by name calling (mad or toxic) or ridiculing dissenters.

An example of the later is the TV coverage of Green Party conferences going back over 20 years. Way back it was the inevitable shot of some barn dancing at the recreational part of the weekend. Then it was the vegetarian or vegan and – god forbid – organic food on the lunch smorgasbord. Then it was Kiwifruit- or organic low alcohol wine. As those clips have gone stale and the Greens have elected an urban businessman as their male co-leader what is left are shots of the female co-leader together with other women knitting. The camera operators know exactly what is expected of them and the editors put these shots in for one purpose and one purpose only to ridicule the Greens by creating an image of some kind of weirdo dreamers. To top it all off comes the sanctimonious question what the party is doing about the perception that the Greens are not living in the real world.
If the media would not be so immersed in their hypocrisy they would instead marvel at the Greens having been ahead of the time with organic food, fruit wines and even low alcohol wines, which all have become very profitable parts of the economy.

This is hard to swallow for anybody actually living in the real world who can figure out that it is only the Green Party, which is prepared to talk about and tackle the problems we are all facing politically, economically, environmentally, climatically while all other parties fiddle around the edges or put the heads firmly in the sand.


The people being called names like mad, toxic, dreamer and the list goes on must of course be insane being told for over 30 years that there is no alternative and still don’t get it and are bitching about a better world.


The irony is that even if the alternative is all around us the media put on the blinkers and still call dissenters lunatics. Remember the relentless media campaign against Russel Norman when he dared to suggest quantitative easing i.e. printing money as a better way to tackle the financial crisis. The media pack regurgitating the dismissal by our great currency trader helmsman was all over poor Russel like a pack of hounds ripping apart a hapless fox at the end of the hunt. All the while the rest of the world like the US Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, the European Central Bank, even the Swiss and all other who needed to were doing the exact same thing, quantitative easing. The media pack did not tell their readers or listeners that nor explain why the rest of the financial world are all lunatics and little New Zealand the only sane stand out.

You also won’t hear from these media that New Zealand could have dealt with the crisis differently and we would actually be much better off if this government would not have followed the neoliberal mantra of austerity. Instead we are right on election time fed the picture of a rock star economy. You don’t have to be a cynic to connect the dots to see in whose interest we were fed that bullshit.


Back to the other parts of the ‘symphony’ of Green Party policies the mainstream media want changed for more votes. It reminds me of Mozart after the premiere of one of his symphonies meeting his Emperor who somehow was not very impressed. When asked about his dislike the Emperor said : Too many notes. When Mozart asked which one he suggested to take out there was silence.

We really should insist that the media calling the Green’s policies mad, toxic or at minimum unrealistic should actually name them. We will find that all are successful realities in other countries like energy policies in Germany, social policies in Scandinavia, housing policies all over the world and even minimum wage policies in the US where studies have shown that states with higher minimum wages do better economically than the ones with low or no minimum wage. Instead the media continue not to question the lie that higher minimum wages mean jobs losses when then opposite is true.

After the media have driven Russel Norman to despair only to cry crocodile tears when he chucked in the towel they now have set their sights on James Shaw. Mark my words, they will do everything to destroy his economic credibility despite or you may say because of his business background. You already saw a taste of it in Rodney Hide‘s I can’t help falling out of love (with James Shaw) again.  John Key will not properly debate him on the merit of different ideas but just pooh pooh him in Parliament or any other opportunity to the jeers of his neoliberal coterie in the media. We cannot have an insane leader of a political party who has not learned his lesson of the last 30 plus years that there is no alternative.

Asking a green politician if they will stop promoting “mad or toxic” policies is equivalent to asking someone if he will stop beating his wife. However you answer the implication is that there is something wrong with the Greens and their policies, which needs to stop.

I would love to see the look on the face of any journalist trying it on and been asked back if he will stop beating his wife.

Have you stopped beating your wife, Mr Armstrong ?

And when considering this question you have to remember that the Greens had to put up with this nonsense for 25 years.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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

Government experiment on the mentally ill without Ethics Committee approval

Buried among the long weekend non-news the item on mental health bonds made me choke on my dinner. This government, which fancies itself compassionate conservative after throwing a 25 dollar bone to the poorest of the poor is showing its true colours. This latest move is straight out of the most cynical chapter of the neoliberal textbook.

Finance minister Bill English


released a statement as quoted in the Herald saying :

The Government is focused on achieving better results for individuals and families in highest need. 
Where we succeed, there are opportunities to help people fulfil their potential, a chance to break inter-generational cycles of dependency and, in the long term, potential savings for taxpayers.
So social bonds are a consistent fit with our wider social investment approach which aims to better understand both the drivers and risks of social dysfunction and where we can have the greatest impact in improving people’s lives.”

Sweet as, like motherhood and apple pie. This Crosby Textor Australian dirty tricks spin doctor language is designed to inoculate the policy from any criticism. Who could possibly be against ‘better results for people in highest need’ ? Who could possibly be against ‘people fulfil their potential’ ?  Who can be against ‘savings for taxpayers, social investment improving people’s lives’ ? However, most of us are not buying it.

This neoliberal spin speak has to be translated from Bill’s English into the Queen’s English to really make you puke.
Individuals and families in highest need’ means ‘the most vulnerable in society who cannot fight back and/or don’t even realise what is happening to them’.
‘Social bonds are a consistent fit with our wider social investment approach’ has to be translated into ‘the government is washing it’s hands off it’s responsibility to the ones who need their support most.
The greatest impact in improving people’s lives’ has to be read as ‘forcing mentally ill people into some kind of phoney work – ready or not – as the only way to make money for the investors’.

‘The National-led Government gave the green light to a pilot scheme in September 2013, and has now confirmed the first four social bond contracts’ must be interpreted as this “compassionate” government has decided on a social experiment, but kept it secret for almost two years as it would not have looked good at election time. And predictably they are picking the most vulnerable. They wouldn’t dare to take on as their first target ACC clients trying to get back into work or mothers or the elderly who all have a voice and would fight back. The mentally ill don’t vote.

Of course the criticism was immediate. But the minister of health ‘Dr Coleman defended the scheme against claims that it was gambling with New Zealand’s most vulnerable people.
Until now there had been no sanctions or incentives in the mental health sector, he said. Because individuals, private companies or charities would be paid a return only if targets were met, there would be an incentive to provide high-quality services. “This will sharpen everyone’s minds,” Dr Coleman said’.

Of the three who need to be profit driven ‘individuals, private companies or charities‘ realistically only companies would be even remotely interested to have a look. Individuals would not have the capacity and charities by definition would not be allowed to be profit driven. It will be interesting to see who the private investors in mental health bonds will be. One thing however is certain it will be the scum of the earth who would want to profit from the misfortune of the most feeble and vulnerable of their fellow men.

It seems that the social experiment also has some research purpose as the government’s ‘wider social investment approach aims to better understand both the drivers and risks of social dysfunction and where we can have the greatest impact’. 

One would expect experiments on mental patients without their consent for research purposes to require some sort of ethics committee approval.

Thinking of forced experiments on mental health patients for research purposes I am of course reminded of the infamous Nazi Concentration camp doctor Joseph Mengele and his experiments on Jews and the mentally ill.

Jewish children victims of medical experiment in Auschwitz

One cannot in any way diminish the uniqueness of the Nazi crimes.

However, our government’s experiment with mental health patients and Dr. Mengele’s experiments on mental health patients have one thing in common.
They both don’t/didn’t have ethics committee approval.

Makes you think.

by  Dr. Hans B. Grueber

Posted in Economics, Media Grabs, politics, Society | 1 Comment

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.


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.


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

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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

Positive news : Campbell Live is going – RadioNZ next




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

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.


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.


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.


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 ?


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

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

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


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.


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 ?


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


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.


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

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

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.


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


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.



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

climate hoax

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


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


Posted in Economics, Environment, politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


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 :

Daily Mail

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.


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 :


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

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

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.


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.


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“.


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


Posted in Media Grabs, politics, Society | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment