Israel elections – a sad and shameful day

Israel has been at war against the Palestinians and other Arab neighbours ever since WWII even before the conception of it’s state. Periods of fully blown hostilities and atrocities followed low grade tensions and attacks and so on. The last full outbreak was the 2014 Gaza war. Israel is a nuclear power – the only one not part of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty – illegally occupying Palestinian and other land. It holds almost a million Palestinians in what observers describe as a huge internment camp (Gaza) and commits daily human rights abuses against the rest living in the occupied West Bank. The Palestinians fight back with rocks, slingshots, home made rockets and soon by taking Israel to the International Court of Justice in the Hague. For this Israel is already illegally withholding US 120 million owed to the Palestinian authority.

After decades of these – obviously failed – policies and even after building a Berlin style wall Israel is still not safe.

Over the last few weeks it looked as if Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was heading for a defeat at the general election. We were told that not “security” but the economy like rising prices and lack of housing had become the deciding  issues.

The World Post/Huffington Post reports :
The (opposition) Zionist Union’s focus on socio-economic issues, including the lack of housing and the high cost of living in Israel, appeared to be generating much more momentum.
while
During much of the campaign, Netanyahu had focused on security issues and the threat from Iran’s nuclear program, a message that appeared to gain little traction with voters.
then
In a pre-election blitz, Netanyahu made a series of promises designed to shore up his Likud base and draw voters from other right-wing and nationalist parties. He pledged to go on building settlements on occupied land and said there would be no Palestinian state if he was re-elected.

We now know the result. Netanyahu’s tactics won the day.

This means the effective end of any hope for peace between Palestine and Israel. Instead Israelis voted for a continuation of the 70 year old war.

 

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Where was it that people forgot about their welfare and given a (mock) choice chose war? Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels comes to mind asking the hyped up crowd in the infamous Berliner Sportspalast speech in 1943: “Wollt Ihr Butter oder Kanonen?” (Do you want butter or cannons?)
We know the response of that crowd. They wanted cannons and “total war”.  We know the end of the total war. Millions more victims of that criminal regime.

Goebbels

It is always tragic to see the victims of unspeakable crimes later become the perpetrators. When will this often observed cycle of crime (think child abuse), which seems to be true not only for individuals but whole people and countries, be broken ?

One can of course not compare the Berliner Sportpalast of 1943 with Israel elections of 2015. There is not really a clean cut choice between material welfare and continuing war (“security”). The cannons in this case are supplied by the US free of charge anyway. We also know the long established tactic to scare people to win votes. And after all this is the result of a democratic election after a not unusual campaign.
I am sorry that I still cannot get the haunting image of the Berliner Sportpalast crowd out of my head.

If it is correct that Israel returned Benjamin Netanyahu to power because he pledged to continue to deny millions of Palestinians their basic human rights then this marks a sad day for peace in the Middle East and a shameful day for Israel.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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100 years after Gallipoli New Zealand’s ‘freedom and democracy’ will be decided in Northland

100 ago New Zealanders fought at Gallipoli for ‘freedom and democracy’ so we are told. Now our freedom and democracy hang in the balance depending on the result of the Northland by-election.

Stuff reports that
John Key is warning voters there is no “free lunch” in the Northland by-election, as National claims major roads and free-trade deals will be in doubt if Winston Peters wins.

For 50 years your vote in Northland never counted for anything as the default position was firmly set on “National”. If you voted for them or not the result was already determined. Now for the first time Northland voters will not only decide who will represent them in Parliament but if our Prime Minister will be able to sell our freedom and democracy to international corporations.   This is exactly what would happen through the so called “free-trade deals”, which according to Mr Key will be in doubt if Winston Peters wins.

Let us remind ourselves what is happening with these so called “free-trade” agreements.

First of all the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) is drafted by Hollywood, big agribusiness, big pharma, big tobacco and other international corporations. It is presently negotiated in secrecy with only governments and corporations around the table. The rest of us what is called civil society be it unions, environmental – consumer – internet user – human rights – medical and other professional organisations are kept in the dark.

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Second the agreement has very little to do with trade, which only serves as a smokescreen. The core is about intellectual property and investment. Any trade access improvement for instance for our baby formula are either non- existent or negligible.

An example of what big business is gaining with a stroke of a pen is the extension of intellectual property rights, which will add billions of dollars to their balance sheets at the cost of New Zealand consumers and patients.

The biggest threat to New Zealand however is that the Prime Ministers intends to sell our sovereignty to the international corporations via the so called Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), which is part of the TPPA. This means that corporations can sue states in Kangaroo court like tribunals manned not by judges but corporate lawyers. If New Zealand enacts laws or regulations, which might affect the corporation’s bottom line like laws against child labour, setting of minimum wages, environmental, health or consumer protection legislation we will be sued for billions of dollars. This means we loose our democracy and sovereignty and are no longer free to run our country in our interest but have  to obey foreign corporations.

To understand more and get proof that these so called “trade” deals are bad for you I refer to my previous blog post Big money in politics – final proof that TPP is bad for you posted on November 11, 2014. I also refer you to Noam Chomsky who called these trade deals A ‘Neoliberal Assault’ To Further Corporate ‘Domination’ .

As so much is at stake Mr Key and the National Party are resorting to their usual tricks.

The all of a sudden they promise to spend 70 million dollars of your money on Northland roads however “in doubt if Winston Peters wins“.

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This is not only an outrageous bribe but amounts to political blackmail. The country holds its breath to find out how Northland voters will react to that.

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We can only hope that it will be a bridge to far.

All this has come about because the newly re-elected local MP had to resign for “personal reason”. These reasons, which were well known to the National Party hierarchy, will shock you when they finally cannot be any longer hidden from us. So far they have managed to keep the Northland voters in the dark till after the by-election. That this man under police investigation for quite some time got selected and re-selected and made chair of the parliamentary Law And Order Committee by the National Party will shock even National Party members who so far dismissed all the evidence of Dirty Politics.

In 1915 traitors selling our freedom and democracy would have been shot. 100 years later the only hope is that they are no longer elected to Parliament. Otherwise our Gallipoli heroes will have died in vain.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Do we want to live in a free society or in a Stasi style surveillance state ?

Call me naive but I am disappointed that the latest spying revelations hardly raised an eyebrow in so many people.

Goebels

All our communication be it via the internet, mobile phones, use of credit or other plastic cards and any other digital devices is collected by the five eyes security network stored in the US to later potentially be used against anyone of us who rightly or wrongly comes to the attention of the authorities.
This is espionage against all citizens on an industrial scale Hitler, Stalin, the Stasi and any other dictatorships of the past would only have dreamed of. It should cause outrage in a western civilised democracy.
Instead the mainstream media, most of the politicians and the commentariat are mainly engaged in distractions. Like the question of the “legality” of the spy agency’s actions when they hoover up all communication in the Pacific including that of all New Zealanders. Or the question if it circumvents our law when all the collected data are passed on to the US where our agency can access them in case they are interested. Or the fact that we willingly give up privacy by using social media on the internet, join loyalty schemes at the local supermarket or give heaps of private information to our credit card companies.

The central philosophical  questions, which motivated the whistle blower to take action and reveal all this information are not addressed:

Do we want to live in a society where the government knows everything about us our actions, transactions, thoughts, interests, history, secrets, loves, hates, sexual preferences the lot if we ever dared to communicate them ? Do we want to give our government the complete tool kit of a an authoritarian dictatorial surveillance regime ? In other words do we want to live in a society where our government has total control over us ?

Or do we value free speech and information and expect and respect privacy even if we might belong to the saintly 0.1 % who have ‘nothing to hide’ ? After all Privacy is a fundamental human right recognized in the UN Declaration of Human Rights ? We wouldn’t want to give that up lightly.

The fact of mass surveillance – so far admitted in the case of the South Pacific but denied for New Zealand – boils down to one question: Do we want to live in a free society or not ?

And the reaction we see in the mainstream media is greatly inadequate or even collusive and consequently in the general public there is only a great yawn. The “nothing to hide” and “who is interested in me” crowd.

And the irony is that the spooks methods and increased powers don’t actually work. The often given example for the need of extra powers is the Boston Marathon attack,which is a classical example that mass surveillance does not work. Big brother is just building and increasing his empire and needs to package it’s desire for us to acquiesce.

Packaging

I saw “Citizenfour” this week, the award winning documentary about the NSA spying on everyone as revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

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Before I entered the theatre I noticed a few things. First I did not see any advertising of the fact that the documentary just won the BAFTA and Oscar awards. Normally the fact of just a nomination is heavily promoted. When I talked to the person at the box office enquiring how the film was doing and if the attendance had picked up after the Oscars the person didn’t even know that it won. Then I remembered that on Oscar night the documentary winner was not mentioned on New Zealand television news either even if there was extensive coverage of the event concentrating instead on the best/worst dressed. The same in the papers the next day. I actually had to google the result for best documentary. The cynic in me joined the dots and it looked as if “Citizenfour” was hidden from the New Zealand public as much as possible. Call me a conspiracy theorist.

conspiracy

I am not a film critic and leave that to the people who awarded the film this year’s BAFTA and Oscar for best documentary. What I however was most impressed with was the outstanding ethical and moral quality this extraordinary young man has displayed through everything he has done.
His motive was to inform us about the secret, illegal and unconstitutional – not in New Zealand of course as we are one of only three countries without a written constitution – practices of mass surveillance of all citizens. He did not take his treasure trove of information to “the enemy” or sell it on the open market. He did not dump it on the internet or keep it. He left it with top journalists who later won the Pulitzer Price for their reporting to publish the material responsibly without putting secret service agents in danger.

He did not seek publicity and fame for himself as this would detract from the issue. However he did not hide in the shadows as he feels good about the fact that he has done the right thing. He knowingly took the personal risk of life imprisonment or even death at the hands of the “biggest terrorist state” on the planet (Noam Chomsky) for his believe in the fundamental human values of the right to privacy, freedom of information and free speech.

Contrast this highest moral standard with that of our Prime Minister John Key.

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Toby Manhire in the NZ Herald summed him up brilliantly :

“I don’t know what’s coming but I know that what’s coming is wrong, and it’s outdated, and it’s made up, but even if it isn’t wrong and outdated and made up, which it is, it’s based on stolen materials and in any case it’s absolutely the right thing to do and, of course, we do it because, at the end of the day, terrorism!”
and
“There is something breathtaking about the Prime Minister’s scattergun pre-emptive denunciations. On Wednesday he popped on his wizard’s hat, stared into the future, and categorically dismissed the story which appeared in the Herald the following day. Not for him the decorous classic “the Government never comments on specific intelligence matters”. No, John Key could “guarantee you it will be wrong”, he said with a wave of the prime ministerial wand.”

This is the Prime Minister who has elevated lying and deception and dirty politics in general to a new art form.

Only a couple of years back people were stunned to watch the now least flavored German accusing Mr Key in Parliament in front of rolling cameras of lying. “Why did you face turn red, Prime Minister?” And an opinion poll showed that more people believed the German than the Prime Minister. These days every new lie triggers the same reaction. The Prime Minister caught lying, yawn. The GCSB spying on us, yawn. Tell us something new.

One example in this context is the Prime Minister’s statement that he would resign if there was mass surveillance/data collection of New Zealanders by the spy agency under his watch. Of course he doesn’t mean it. He didn’t say if I find out I will stop it. His statement is just another form of denial that it is happening. See I am still here so it can’t be happening otherwise I wouldn’t be here anymore.
And the (Teflon) Prime Minister knows that he can get away with it because his pollster tells him that to many people are not interested. He doesn’t care about the damage to our political culture and that he is widely held in contempt.

bullshit

Which still leave us with the crucial question to answer :

Do we want to live in a free society or in a Stasi style surveillance state ?

If we don’t defend our privacy and freedom and are eternally vigilant we will lose them. Don’t say you haven’t be warned. In this case by someone who comes from a country, which went through the experience twice (Gestapo & Stasi) in recent history.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Who lacks guts and why do balls matter ?

When I first arrived in New Zealand over 30 years ago I was surprised to find a cenotaph in every little settlement and war memorial halls large and small all over the place. Coming from a country, which suffered much more horrific loss of lives in two world wars of not only soldiers but civilians numbering millions. I was not used to this sort of what seemed to me glorification of death.
The tens of thousands of women, children, the old and frail who burned to death in the allied bombing raids on Dresden just before the end of WWII did not – in the German language and thinking – commit the “ultimate sacrifice”. The millions of soldiers suffering terrible deaths mostly crying out for their mothers in their last moments of agony were not collectively labeled and worshipped as “heroes”.

One of the differences of course is that we won and Germany lost. Another is the fact that New Zealanders never experienced the effects of war other then the soldiers actually going overseas and going through the horrors of war on foreign soil and if they were lucky to return hardly ever talking about it.
This lack of first hand knowledge and experience created the perfect breeding ground for the myths and legends sawn and nurtured by the ANZAC poppy industry. A masterstroke of PR or more precisely propaganda turning one of the greatest military fuck-ups and defeats into something to be celebrated and aspired too by the young who don’t know better.

One who should but doesn’t know better is our Prime Minister, who floated the idea that for New Zealand’s latest military adventure in the Middle East our and Australia’s troops could appear under an “ANZAC badge” in reference to that great military disaster of 100 years ago. Thinking about it this might be even appropriate but not as Mr Key believes.

Amrecan sniper

Which brings me to another surprise discovery when visiting war memorials.
I was brought up under the US/British re-education regime in post war Germany. I was told that militarism was bad especially the disciplined and efficient Prussian kind and militarism had to be purged from the German mind as so many European countries had suffered under the German jackboot. I believed that it was Germany, which was the greatest warmonger of all nations having started one war of aggression (WWII) and been punished for it.
Coming here I learned that New Zealand since 1900 fought at least 9 wars all putting our jackboot on foreign soil (South Africa, WWI, WWII, Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Bush senior’s-Gulf WarI, Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia) compared to Germany’s just 3 (WWI, WWII and the former Yugoslavia).
New Zealand seems to have an itch to join any jolly war going as long as they can impress the “club” (the five eyes nations lead by the US) or “family” (the old British Empire) even if the conflict has nothing to do with us. New Zealand even offered a frigate to join the Malvinas/Falkland war but Margret Thatcher luckily said no thanks.

This is a sad history given that New Zealand is not situated in the middle of a conflict zone but far removed at the – one would think most peaceful – end of the world. One can only speculate what might be behind this default position we are stuck in. Michael J. Savage famous words declaring war on Germany referring to the motherland: “Where she goes we go!” still seems to hold true. No rational reasons for going to war needed.

In this tradition last week Prime Minister John Key did not have to give good reasons. These were all against spending another 60 million, risking Kiwi soldiers lives and drawing unwanted attention to this far flung corner of the planet jumping up and down in the face of radicalised Muslims shouting: Don’t forget us planning your next attacks. We are your enemy too.

But sadly reason does not come into it. It seems to only be a question of ‘guts‘. John Key clearly doesn’t have it as he would not send his son into harms way.
And please spare us the often regurgitated cliche of the hardest decision a government has to make to send our soldiers into harms way and taking a moral stand and doing “the right thing” or being on the right side sounding very much like George W Bush: “You are either with us or with the terrorists”.
The simple fact is that Key succumbed to the pressure from the US and UK to pay his membership fees for belonging to the “club” and being part of the “family”. He would not risk his next game of golf with Mr. Obama. He didn’t have the guts to withstand the pressure and expectation even if that meant acting against the best interests of New Zealand.

This is only a gesture and a cheap one too. The real price for being in the club is going to be paid by accepting  the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) at the moment secretly negotiated by corporations and governments without any input from civil society.

But back to the not so small matter of war.

Looking back Helen Clark will be remembered as the first and so far only Prime Minister in our entire history who had the balls not to go ‘where she goes’. The 2003 Bush junior Iraq war proved to be an unmitigated disaster built on lies. Looking at New Zealand’s sad history of going to war so easily I always have regarded it as Hellen Clark’s greatest achievement to have kept us out of it.

Now Mr Key makes an unilateral decisions for us and in our name without seeking the approval of Parliament because he wouldn’t have a majority for another war.

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This example of gutlessness not to stand up to the bullies Helen Clark stood up to in 2003 does not bear well for the by far more important issue of the TPPA being forced down our throats.
If our current Prime Minister doesn’t stand up to our so called friends the US and UK what hope is there against even bigger bullies: the all powerful international corporations.

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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What is wrong with us ? Are we morally bankrupt ?

By Middle Eastern standards we would on the harsh punishment scale rank between Islamic State (ISIS) and Saudi Arabia.

D.Bain

Why is it that the David Bain saga Saga brings out the worst in us ?

Let’s briefly remind ourselves of events over twenty years back. One day in 1994 young David Bain went on his early morning paper run to find on his return all his family shot dead by the Bain .22 calibre rifle. He made the 111 call and we later heard his distraught voice. A few day later he was arrested for the murder of his family. It all made no sense. We were told by the prosecution that they did not need any motive, which might be legally correct but of course is totally ridiculous. Just watch any detective story or murder trial and motive is the first thing the police is looking for and presenting to the jury.

Finally after 13 years in prison the Privy Council squashed the conviction because of a miscarriage of justice. In a retrial he was duly acquitted. And here the matter would have rested at least in a civilised country where the state cannot make the mistake to imprison you for 13 years and just say Oops, tough luck if you can’t “prove” your innocence.

And here lies the craziness of the New Zealand criminal “justice” system. We have the presumption of innocence as long as you don’t expect to be compensated for wrongful imprisonment. Then all of a sudden the presumption is that you are guilty unless you can prove your innocence. According to the rules of logic it is actually impossible to prove a negative as in this case. He was there, he found the bodies and made the call. It is possible that he did it. How can he “prove” the negative that he didn’t ?
To find a way out of this conundrum the system lowered the burden of proof to that of “on balance of probability”, which means that it is more likely that you did not do it.
However this is not much help to the Bain team. In his case he would need to “prove” that his father Robin did it and then committed suicide with the same rifle. How can he possibly do that after 21 years.
An amateur detective recently pointed to obviously overlooked police photographs showing distinct marks on Robin’s fingers, which pointed to him using the rifle. This evidence, which to me as a frequent user of a .22 rifle appeared pretty convincing, was immediately dismissed by a very defensive police. They do not seem to accept the acquittal and are hell bend in trying to hold on to the initial miscarriage of justice.

The Prime Minister is quoted as saying  “To get compensation, the Bain team has … to basically prove Robin [Bain, David Bain’s father] did it and then has to provide exceptional circumstances.” After finding your whole family murdered, been arrested totally traumatised and put into prison for 13 years for a heinous crime you did not commit what more exceptional circumstances is Mr Key thinking of ?

But why do you have to prove anything ? Isn’t it for the prosecution to prove their case. If they fail to make it stick why should you suffer the consequences by not only having 13 years of your young life taken from you but not getting a cent compensation for it ? This is a really nasty twisted logic and morally bankrupt attitude to what is fair and just.

In the country where I practiced criminal law after an acquittal you get compensation for any imprisonment as a matter of course. The law sets the minimum amount per day – you can get more if you can prove that you suffered a greater financial loss – and a judicial clerk just adds up the days and signs the cheque. And everybody accepts that that is not only the law but fair and just. Anything else would be outrageous to every fair minded person.

And this outrageous situation is part of the New Zealand’s “justice” system.

And in the Bain case it only goes downhill from there.

The then justice minister didn’t like the recommendation of an eminent senior judge from overseas and got the New Zealand ex (porn) Justice to write a review, which was later described by the Canadian judge as “very partisan (not ‘peer’)“.
From now on every step by the government is tainted as the overseas judge rightly points out.  “The problem now is that the Government has made it loud and clear what answer it wants and anybody taking on the assignment would see what happened to me for giving an answer that the Government didn’t want.
From 10,000 miles away, it looks like a familiar pattern lawyers encounter. It’s not uncommon among clients to keep going through lawyers until they find someone who agrees with them.”
University of Canterbury’s dean of Law agrees with the eminent judge. A previous victim of not only a wrongful conviction but police corruption Arthur Allan Thomas

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who spend a similar time in prison before being pardoned and compensated said :
It should have been settled long ago. They need to stop mucking around and compensate him, end of story.”

The present Justice Minister is quoted as saying “We’re not satisfied in terms of what’s in front of us now, and in our view the only sensible way forward to make a decision that’s defendable, either to the public or Mr Bain, is to seek a new inquiry.” Why is there any decision to be made ? The jury has done it at the end of the retrial. Why does any decision needs to be “defendable” to the public ?

And the problem is with the New Zealand public. A glimpse at the commentariat and the letter pages shows a very divided public. Part of which are still not and will never be convinced of David Bain’s innocence and want the case re-litigated. A recent text poll of the current affairs TV program Campbell Live had 38% saying No to compensation.
It is of course true that there remains the possibility that David Bain is guilty. However the logically undeniable “possibility” is the same as “suspicion”. We do not punish people or deny them compensation just on suspicion.

Civilised countries governed by the rule of law accept ten wrongful acquittals – the system is after all human and therefore fallible –  rather than one wrongful conviction. There is nothing worse imaginable than languishing in prison for a crime you have not committed (thank God for having got rid of the death penalty). That is what ‘presumption of innocence’ and ‘proof beyond reasonable doubt’ are all about to rather let guilty people walk free before you put one innocent person in jail.

Many New Zealanders seem to rather tolerate ten wrongful convictions than one wrongful acquittals (and compensation).

This seems to be part of the punitive attitude of the New Zealand society. We are after all the country with the second highest incarceration rate of all Western civilised countries by a big margin just behind the USA. By Middle Eastern standards we would on the harsh punishment scale rank between Islamic State (ISIS) and Saudi Arabia.

Is that really the place where New Zealand wants to be ?

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Greens must be doing the right “dirty deal”

If David Farrar in his Kiwiblog accuses the Greens of a dirty deal in Northland then they must be doing something right.

The cause of Mr Farrar’s concern is the announcement of the Greens that “It is our strategic assessment that we should not run in the by-election and instead focus on our nationwide climate change and inequality campaigns.”

It beggars belief that Farrar – one of the cabal of the National Party’s Dirty Politics – has the audacity to accuse the Greens of

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National Party tricks. Has he forgotten Ohariu-Belmont and Epsom just 6 months ago ?

This clearly demonstrates not only the double standard of the “Right” but also the weakness of the “Left” of politics.
In over 50 years of observing and participating in politics I have again and again found the weakness of the “Left” arguing among themselves on points of principle Socialists vs Communists vs Marxist vs Stalinists vs Leninists vs Trotskyists vs Maoists and the list goes on. While the “Right” with no ballast of principle keeps the eye on the ball, which is power at all costs including dirty politics.

Mr Farrar does not mention that the National Party dirty politics lead us into this mess where the tax-payer has to spend a million dollars plus on a by-election just 6 months after a general election.
What we do know is that ex-MP Mike Sabin

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has been under police investigation well before the general election. The National Business Review reports what the Prime Minister calls “family reasons” is actually an assault complaint and the NBR understands the PM was first made aware of the assault complaint in April last year, months before the September 20 ballot – and that the National Party knew before the 2011 election.
Still Mr Sabin did not only got again selected for the safe National seat but after the election made chairman of Parliament’s Law and Order Select Committee overseeing the same police investigating him. Mr Sabin himself knew and accepted it.

This is really bad if even Rodney Hide gets agitated:
TV One has reported that police were investigating Sabin in August last year. It’s inconceivable to me that they would not have told their minister and the Prime Minister.
It’s especially important that they would do so with Sabin because he’s ex-police and on October 22 he was elected to chair the law and order select committee.
That’s the select committee that scrutinises police performance on Parliament’s behalf.
Hang on. According to One News the chairman was under police investigation. And the Prime Minister didn’t know?

True to form John Key denies any knowledge and again nobody believes him.
All that matters to him is that his pollster tells him that his target group “the overwhelmingly male, determinedly anti-intellectual, painfully inarticulate, culturally moronic and sports-mad portion of the New Zealand population” (Chris Trotter) don’t seem to care when he knew and the dirty dealing behind it. And accordingly he refuses to answer all burning questions.

Most interesting however is the fact that Farrar – the National Party pollster – gets so exited by the fact that the Greens are not fielding a candidate in Northland. He must know that National is in real trouble.
On the other hand we cannot expect Labour to be as smart as the Greens and give Winston a clear run. In that case according to normally well informed right wing commentator Matthew Hooton on National Radio’s nine-to-noon this week the National Party would loose the seat.
The end result would give more power to the jokers Seymour (Epsom) and Dunne (Ohariu-Belmont).
Would that be a good thing ?

by Dr. Hans b. Grueber

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Sky City / TPPA – A lesson in Capitalism

The Sky City Casino / Convention Centre government back-paddle  seems to get us back to the position of “no cost to the tax – or ratepayers”. Don’t bet on it !

For starters it was never and still is not without costs to tax – and ratepayers.
Remember that the casino company intends to pay for the convention centre out of the profits of an extended term of their license and increased number of gaming facilities mostly poky machines. These come with enormous costs to the poorest members of society who are bussed in from South Auckland to pay for the convention centre they will never set foot in other than as cleaners or security guards. Gambling is associated with great social costs of addiction, family violence, deprivation of children and crime. The cost of which will – you guessed it – be borne by the above tax- and rate-payers.

The old story: Profits are privatised, losses are socialised.

That brings us to the wider picture of our present neoliberal capitalistic economic system, which is quite contradictory to a democracy. This is made clear by Noam Chomsky in his 2014 lecture “Why you can not have a Capitalist Democracy!”

Instead of “democracy” – the rule by the people – we in New Zealand and other Anglo-American capitalist countries have what is called “kleptocracy”, which is the rule by the thieves. In other words our system is defined by the Rich stealing from the Poor.
The Sky City back paddle came only about because the thieves had their fingers so blatantly in the public till that even the hardcore John Key / National Party supporters could and would not ignore it.

However Sky City is by far not the only international corporation stealing from us with the help from our neoliberal government.
Remember Hollywood’s Warner Brothers riding into town picked up by government limousines and enriching themselves at the cost of the taxpayer through generous tax breaks and at the cost of New Zealand actors and workers via an overnight labour law change.
Remember Rio Tinto, the very profitable Australian mining giant getting a 30 million dollar handout for the privilege to use discounted power at the expense of ordinary electricity users.

And right now the greatest heist in history is happening right under our noses with the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).

Sky City Clowns in ControlFirst I thought this picture funny, pointing fun at the incompetence of our leaders. On second thoughts I find it rather misleading. They are not clowns who don’t know what they are doing. Rather the opposite !

The people who are doing this thing are the big corporations (according to the US Supreme Court corporations are people even if psychopathic). They are the people who steal from the poor. Just one example in the agreement, which by the stroke of the pen extends intellectual property rights like pharmaceutical patents by years, adds billions to the balance sheets of the big corporations at the costs of patients and taxpayer funders, who are deprived of cheaper generic products.

Another even more fundamental, almost the ultimate, prize is democracy. Corporations hate it – at least the real thing they can’t buy.
So the ultimate prize is getting rid of democracy. This is being achieved by establishing the right to sue governments and override their decisions or even acts of Parliament for instance, in the interests of public health, the environment or child protection – if that happens to negatively effect the corporation’s bottom line. And to do that in a private “court” with “judges” all comprising of corporate lawyers who constantly change roles between corporate advocate and “judge”. A  “court” not part of any countries judicial system or democratic oversight no ordinary citizen has access too.

The TPPA negotiations are conducted by corporations and governments in total secrecy. Unions, environmental, health, internet user groups and the rest of civil society are excluded – obviously for good reason.

Sky City - Nothing to fear?

 

The governments’ role in these secret negotiations is to receive the corporate drafts, sign and ratify them in the interest of their own corporations hopefully without the people noticing.

 

 

Sky City Tui TakeoverWhen are the people waking and rising up
(7th of March country wide TPP protest) ?
Even the Tui advertising agency, which normally has a good idea of the mood of the crowd has got it.

 

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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Sky City and the magic potion, which lets JK get away with it

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The “free” Sky City Convention Centre has always been a bum deal. The old casino rule applies : The house always wins. That how the roulette wheel or the poky machines are programmed.

The initial deal was packaged as “We get a 400 million convention centre for FREE”. Of course we did not get anything for free or otherwise. Last time I looked it is the casino company getting the convention centre and not the taxpayer owning it.
Then it was never for free. It is loser pays that is the poorest of the poor hooked on the extra 250 pokies paying for the Sky City (and not our) convention centre.
Now we are told that the much hyped deal would give us an “eyesore” and we all as taxpayers are invited to join the ranks of the poor losers and cough up an extra 140 million and it will not end there.

Why is anyone surprised ? That is how the present neoliberal economic system works making the rich richer and the poor poorer. And our 50 million dollar Prime Minister is a key cog in this criminal system.

And he is getting away with it as with telling white lies, dirty politics

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and giving New Zealand’s highest honour to Prince Philipp a couple of years back (something which this week gave the Australian PM “a political near-death experience“).

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The leader’s grip on power has slipped since last month when he drew widespread criticism for making 93-year-old Prince Philip an Australian knight

If only this special teflon coating substance John Key seems to possess could be bottled. All politicians, captains of industry and the rest of the neoliberal so called elite would be queuing up for this magic potion.

We are saddled with this government at least to the end of this term. I only wonder how much worse it will have to get till the New Zealand voter will wake up from the dream, which in fact is a nightmare for most.

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Drought, Flood, Fire – You voted for it !

We are in a drought earlier than in previous years. As stuff reported with large areas of the country drying out alarmingly quickly, weather forecasts are offering little hope of significant rainfall anytime soon. (as of the end of January)

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This seems to be getting worse and worse every year as we become more like Australia. As I write we are experiencing wildfires in the tinder dry parts of the South Island burning down houses, which are one of the effects of global warming.
Last year there were several severe flood events in Northland. Three 20 or 50 year events in a couple of months. As other extreme weather events also an effect of global warming. At one stage the road connection to the rest of the country hung by a thread.

So we know that these extreme weather events are linked to and are one of the hallmarks of Climate Change or to be more precise Global Warming.

At the same time scientists warn us as for example the Guardian reports: Fossil fuel warning: Climate scientists beg governments to leave buried natural resources in the ground.
‘Scientists calculated that a third of global oil reserves, half of gas reserves and more than 80 per cent of coal reserves should remain in the ground as “unburnable” to avoid exceeding the 2C “safe” threshold for global warming’.

The most comprehensive must read book about the situation is Naomi Klein latest :

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with the subtitle : Capitalism vs The Climate

We have no excuse anymore for not knowing and/or not caring about future generations and our planet.

Our government and its scientists as the rest of the United Nations and its international panel of climate scientists know that burning all the existing reserves makes reaching the climate goal of no more than 2 degree Celsius increase in temperature all but impossible.

Still our NZ government has a climate/energy policy, which can best been described in the immortal words of Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin

“Drill Baby Drill”.

Deep sea drilling for oil/gas, fracking under our most productive land, coal mining on conservation land, open cast mining for lignite coal, one of the dirtiest of fossil fuels. You name it, everything is sacrificed  on the altar of progress and growth.

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When are we joining the dots ? When are we realising or rather stop ignoring or worse denying the fact that we are contributing to the weather extremes we are suffering ? When are we taking responsibility ? One way we have power is as voters. When are we going to use our votes responsibly ?

A friend of mine in Northland has joined the dots. When he hears the farmers, business people and just ordinary folks complaining about the drought or flood they are suffering he has diminished sympathy telling them : You voted for it !
And I am pessimistic that you up in the safe blue Northland seat will do it again in the coming by-election voting for this ecocidal government.

In the past you could take comfort that it would be your children and their children who will suffer from what we are doing today. That comfort is gone as you up in Northland as the rest of us are suffering today. Climate change is not a thing of the future anymore. It is here right now.

How much worse does it have to get till the penny drops ?

by Dr. Hans B. Grueber

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

No prophet is accepted in her own country

Booker Price winner Eleanor Catton

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has done us all a favour with her criticism of New Zealand’s “neoliberal, profit-obsessed, very shallow, very money-hungry politicians who do not care about culture. They care about short-term gains. They would destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want. I feel very angry with my government.”
Her recent interview in India not only attracted attention in the local but overseas media like the Guardian, which goes into great detail to describe what Catton called a “jingoistic national tantrum”.
The favour lies not only in the fact that she describes the present New Zealand government correctly for instance that they destroy the planet in order to be able to have the life they want with their ‘Drill Baby Drill’ energy policy.
The main favour in my view is the fact that she has held up a mirror to look at ourselves. Many didn’t like what they saw and reacted angrily. I give just one example from the letter pages of the NZ Herald, which is too awful to reprint so I just give you my response as printed in this weekend’s edition:
“Eleanor Catton must be vindicated by the reaction to her remarks.
Emmerson’s cartoon found some ‘cultural wasteland’ (Sean Plunket). And on the opposite letter page we find an example of ‘intellectual wasteland’. How else can one describe the contribution from Windsor Park comparing Eleanor Catton’s alleged lack of loyalty (a strange requirement for authors and poets) with Soviet spies recruited at Cambridge who lived as moles in the British secret service for decades spying for the cold war enemy. The connection between the two is ‘disenchantment with their own country’s politics.’ If that is enough then about a million New Zealanders disenchanted with the policies of our present government are to be regarded as in the same boat as traitors and Soviet spies.”

The main perpetrators of the witch hunt Sean Plunket (insults) and Steve Braunias (ridicule) can be best described as follows :

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And then there is what the Guardian described as “an activist group” with reference to Patrice Dougan in the Herald going ‘so far as to publish the amount Catton has received in public funding, suggesting she should pay it back if unhappy with the support she has been given’.

Lets not forget who this activist group – the NZ Herald gives space in its paper – the “Taxpayers’ Union”and it’s “executive director” Jordan Williams are. The financiers behind  this man are no union and they are no taxpayers, if they can help it. They are big business, which do everything to avoid taxes. They instead fund anti-democratic campaigns for instance against MMP, which Mr Jordan fronted. And Mr. Jordan is the point man in Wellington for gutter blogger Cameron Slater who can ring him in the middle of the night to get out of bed and try to get some incriminating photos of a prominent opposition politician having drinks at a bar. So it has been revealed in Nicky Hager’s book “Dirty Politics“.

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If we look into the mirror Eleanor is holding up to us with her comments we will be ashamed not only looking at our present government and it’s policies and even more so looking at the reaction  to having it pointed out to us by her correct and truthful observations.

Prophets, eh !

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