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Archive for May, 2017

Steven Joyce rails against low mortgage interest rates; claims higher interest rates “beneficial”

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National is increasingly on the back-foot with New Zealand’s ever-worsening housing crisis. Ministers from the Prime minister down are desperately trying to spin a narrative that the National-led administration “is getting on top of the problem“.

Despite ministerial ‘reassurances’, both Middle and Lower Working  classes are feeling the dead-weight of a housing shortage; ballooning house prices,  and rising rents.

Recently-appointed Finance Minister, Steven Joyce,  has found a new unlikely scapegoat, blaming the housing bubble and worsening housing affordability  on current low interest rates.  On 11 May, on Radio NZ’s Morning Report, he said;

“We have very, very low interest rates historically, and as a result that’s directly linked to how much house prices are being bid up around the world. It’s not the sole reason for why we have high asset prices around the world, it’s not just houses, it’s shares and everything else. But it is certainly one of the dominant reasons for that. And unfortunately it’s going to be a little bit of time yet before that changes, although there’s indications that this period of ultra-low interest rates that the world has seen is coming to an end. And so I think that, that, will improve affordability over time.”

Radio NZ’s Guyon Espiner reacted with predictable incredulity that Joyce was relying on interest rates rising to “improve affordability over time“.

Joyce’s finger-pointing and blaming “very, very low interest rates historically” is at variance with a speech that former Dear Leader, John Key, gave in January 2008 where he specifically indentified higher interest rates as a barrier to home ownership;

* Why, after eight years of Labour, are we paying the second-highest interest rates in the developed world?

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* Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?

Good questions, Mr Key

Got any answers, Mr Joyce?

Because according to Statistics NZ, home ownership rates have worsened since John Key gave his highly-critical speech, nine years ago;

Home ownership continues to fall

  • In 2013, 64.8 percent of households owned their home or held it in a family trust, down from 66.9 percent in 2006.

  • The percentage of households who owned their home dropped to 49.9 percent in 2013 from 54.5 percent in 2006.

Home ownership reached a peak of 73.8% by 1991. Since then, with  the advent of neo-liberal “reforms” in the late ’80s and early ’90s, home ownership has steadily declined.

Those who have benefitted have tended to be investors/speculators. In 2016, 46% of mortgages were issued to property investors/speculators in the Auckland region. Despite a watered-down, pseudo-capital gains tax,  referred to as the “bright line” test implemented in October 2015, investors/speculators still accounted for 43% of house purchasers by March of this year.

The same report revealed the dismal fact that first home buyers constituted only 19% of sales.

John Key’s gloomy plea, “Why can’t our hardworking kids afford to buy their own house?” rings truer than ever.

Poorer families are fairing no better.

National’s abysmal policy to sell off state housing has left a legacy of families living in over-crowded homes; garages, and cars. This scandal has reached the attention of the international media.

From the Guardian;

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From Al Jazeera;

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As with our fouled waterways, we have developed another unwelcomed reputation – this time for the increasing scourge of  homelessness.

But it is not just the sons and daughters of the Middle Classes that are finding housing increasingly out of their financial reach. The poorest families in our society have resorted to living in over-crowded homes or in garages and in cars.

National has spent millions of taxpayer’s dollars housing families in make-shift shelters in motels. At the behest on National ministers, WINZ have made it official policy to recoup money  “loaned” to beneficiaries to pay for emergency accommodation;

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National’s track record on this growing community cancer has been one of ineptitude.

In 2015, Dear Leader Key made  protestations that  no problem exists in our country;

“No, I don’t think you can call it a crisis. What you can say though is that Auckland house prices have been rising, and rising too quickly actually.”

He kept denying it – until he didn’t;

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Unfortunately, former-and current State beneficiary, and now Social Housing Minister, Paula Bennett, apparently ‘did not get the memo’. She still denies any housing crisis in this country;

“I certainly wouldn’t call it a crisis. I think that we’ve always had people in need. So the other night on TV I heard the homeless story was second in and then the seventh story was a man who’d been 30 years living on the streets.”

Despite  being in full denial, in May last year Bennett announced that National would be committing $41.1 million over the next four years  for emergency housing and grants.

By April this year  it was revealed that National had already spent $16.5 million on emergency accomodation. It had barely been a year since Bennett issued her Beehive statement lauding the $41.1 million expenditure, and already nearly a third of that amount has been spent.

This is clear evidence as to how far out-of-touch National is on social issues.

The stress and pressure on Ministers and state sector bureaucrats has become apparent, with threats of  retribution flying.  This month alone, a MSD manager and associate minister of social housing, Alfred Ngaro, were revealed to have warned critics of the government not to talk to the media;

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Bennett went on to make this extraordinary statement;

“I spend the bulk of my time on social housing issues and driving my department into seriously thinking about different ways of tackling this.”

Her comment was followed on 20 May, on TV3’s The Nation, when current Dear Leader, Bill English tried to spin a positive message in  National’s ‘fight against homelessness’;

“Our task has been to, as we set out three or four years ago, to rebuild the state housing stock. And that’s what we are setting out to do.”

English and Bennett’s claims would be admirable – if they were not self-serving hypocrisy.

In 2008, Housing NZ’s stock comprised of  69,000 rental properties.

By 2016, that number had fallen to 61,600 (plus a further 2,700 leased).

In eight years, National has managed to sell-off 7,400 properties.

No wonder English admitted “we set out three or four years ago, to rebuild the state housing stock“. His administration was responsible for selling  off over ten percent of much-needed state housing.

No wonder families are forced into over-crowding; into garages and sheds; and into cars and vans.

Confronted by social problems, National ministers duck for cover. Especially when those same social problems are a direct consequence of their own ideologically-driven and ill-considered policies.

National ministers English, Bennett, Joyce, Nick Smith, et al are responsible for our current homelessness.

Parting thought

Left-wing parties and movement are generally proactive in identifying and resolving critical social problems and inequalities. It is the raison d’etre of the Left.

The Right seem only able to belatedly react to social problem and inequalities.

Especially when they caused it.

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References

Interest.co.nz: PM says no housing crisis in Auckland

NZ Herald: Housing shortage growing by 40 homes a day

Fairfax media: House prices rise at an ‘eye-popping’ rate for 6 NZ regions – Trade Me

Interest.co.nz: Median rents up $50 a week over last 12 months in parts of Auckland

Radio NZ: Lessons for NZ in Australia’s Budget

NZ Herald: John Key – State of the Nation speech

Statistics NZ: 2013 Census QuickStats about national highlights

Statistics NZ: Owner-Occupied Households

Radio NZ: Homeless family faces $100k WINZ debt

Interest.co.nz: New official Reserve Bank figures definitively show that investors accounted for nearly 46% of all Auckland mortgages

Simpson Grierson: New “bright-line” test for sales of residential land

Property Club: First buyers still missing out in Auckland’s most affordable properties

The Guardian: New Zealand housing crisis forces hundreds to live in tents and garages

Al Jazeera: New Zealand’s homeless – Living in cars and garages

NZ Herald: No house, not even a motel, for homeless family

Radio NZ: Key denies Auckland housing crisis

Radio NZ: No housing crisis in NZ – Paula Bennett

Beehive: Budget 2016 – 3000 emergency housing places funded

Mediaworks: Homeless crisis costing Govt $100,000 a day for motels

Radio NZ: Emergency housing providers instructed not to talk to media

Radio NZ: Ngaro apologises for govt criticism

TV3: The Nation – Patrick Gower interviews Bill English

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2008/09

Housing NZ: Annual Report 2015/16

Previous related blogposts

Can we do it? Bloody oath we can!

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

Budget 2013: State Housing and the War on Poor

National recycles Housing Policy and produces good manure!

Our growing housing problem

National Housing propaganda – McGehan Close Revisited

Housing; broken promises, families in cars, and ideological idiocy (Part Tahi)

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Another ‘Claytons’ Solution to our Housing Problem? When will NZers ever learn?

Government Minister sees history repeat – responsible for death

Housing Minister Paula Bennett continues National’s spin on rundown State Houses

Letter to the Editor – How many more children must die, Mr Key?!

National under attack – defaults to Deflection #1

National’s blatant lies on Housing NZ dividends – The truth uncovered!

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Problem…

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Solution.

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 21 May 2017.

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You can tell it’s election year when…

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You can tell it’s election year when…

… National throws someone under a ‘bus’ to “take Responsibility”

Following from National’s demands that NGOs (Women’s Refuge, Rape Crisis, Budgetting Services, etc) provide personal details of their clients to the Ministry for Social Development (as a condition for government-funding) – a security breach from the Ministry’s computers allowed confidential data to be freely accessed;

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At a time when Daddy State was demanding private information from NGO clients, the MSD’s computer’s were revealed to be woefully lacking in comprehensive security.

Little wonder that some NGOs were flat out refusing to prove sensitive, personal data on their clients, as several Radio NZ interviews presented the growing crisis in NGO confidence in MSD;

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You can tell it’s election year when…

… National miraculously finds more money to invest in cash-starved social services

 

 

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You can tell it’s election year when…

… National suddenly finds its ‘moral compass’ to slap down errant Ministers

 

 

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References

NZ Family Violence Clearinghouse: MSD to require individual client level data from community agencies

NZ Herald: Tolley furious at Ministry for Social Development privacy breach, hints at job losses

Radio NZ: Government demands private data from NGOs

Radio NZ: Govt on shaky ground over data-for-funding contracts, lawyers say

Radio NZ: Rape Crisis reject “data-for-funding” contracts

Radio NZ: Temporary reprieve over ‘private data for funding’ contracts

Additional

Other Blogs

Previous related blogposts

The Rise and Rise of Daddy State: MSD blackmails NGOs for private data

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on day month year.

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Categories: The Body Politic Tags:

Trumpwatch: What’s a few more nails in the planet’s coffin?

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… as long as those coffin-nails were “Made in America”.

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Trump’s First 100 Days can boast of several “achievements”. But not the variety that progressive-minded people – especially those concerned with global environmental problems and threats to peace – would welcome with a cheer.

Pimping for Coal

On 28 March, Trump signed another of his many Executive Orders – the sort of Presidential Executive Orders that in the past he railed against when Obama was President of the United States. As he ‘tweeted’ in 2012;

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This time, Trump was signing an Executive Order over-turning Obama’s policies of moving America away from using CO2-producing  coal for energy production. To avoid any accusation of “fake news” from Trump’s supporters, these are his actual words from the White House website;

 “ Today, I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise.  My administration is putting an end to the war on coal.  We’re going to have clean coal — really clean coal.  With today’s executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, regulations not only in this industry, but in every industry.  We’re doing them by the thousands, every industry.  And we’re going to have safety, we’re going to have clean water, we’re going to have clear air.

Trump’s fairy-tale fantasies on “clean coal — really clean coal” and promising that Americans (and the rest of us on Planet Earth) would enjoy “clean water, we’re going to have clear air” was parroted by the  head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, and self-confessed climate-change denier,  Scott Pruitt;

I believe that we as a nation can be both pro-energy and jobs, and pro-environment. We don’t have to choose between the two.

Trump’s appointment of Pruitt was scandalous by any measure, especially as the former Republican Oklahomas attorney general sued the Environmental Protection no less than thirteen times.

Little wonder than the  Sierra Club  called for Pruitt’s resignation for mis-leading the US Congress on increasing levels of carbon dioxide leading to worsening  climate change.

Just as bad as Pruitt’s head-in-the-sand attitude toward anthropogenic climate change, is Trump’s reference to “clean coal”. There is no such thing, as Fortune magazine reported in October last year;

As for Trump, he failed to mention that no U.S. major clean coal plant is operational. He also neglected to say that the U.S. coal industry has been struggling partly because of the economics involved. The rise in low cost U.S. natural gas, as well as cheap wind and solar, has done as much to hurt the coal industry as have environmental regulations. When power companies close an aging coal plant, it makes more economic sense for them to build a new natural gas plant, or even solar and wind ones.

The article by Fortune’s Katie Fehrenbacher mentions two “clean coal” power plants that, after years of Federal taxpayer-funding and delays, have never become operational. A third “clean coal” power plant was due to be operational by the end of 2016 – but according to it’s builders is no longer  economic.

Any notion of “clean coal” appears to be a wishful fantasy in Trump’s mind.

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists summed up Trump’s vandalism of the environment;

The wrecking ball that is the Trump presidency continues. The executive order undercuts a key part of the nation’s response to climate change, without offering even a hint of what will replace it.

US National Parks: See it; Love it; Mine the #@$?%!*&$ out of it!

In a piece of cunningly written euphemistic double-speak and jargon, Trump’s Executive order on 26 April announced plans to review Monument lands (similar to National Parks) with an agenda for “economic growth”;

Designations of national monuments under the Antiquities Act of 1906, recently recodified at sections 320301 to 320303 of title 54, United States Code (the “Antiquities Act” or “Act”), have a substantial impact on the management of Federal lands and the use and enjoyment of neighboring lands.  Such designations are a means of stewarding America’s natural resources, protecting America’s natural beauty, and preserving America’s historic places.  Monument designations that result from a lack of public outreach and proper coordination with State, tribal, and local officials and other relevant stakeholders may also create barriers to achieving energy independence, restrict public access to and use of Federal lands, burden State, tribal, and local governments, and otherwise curtail economic growth.  Designations should be made in accordance with the requirements and original objectives of the Act and appropriately balance the protection of landmarks, structures, and objects against the appropriate use of Federal lands and the effects on surrounding lands and communities.

Though couched in nebulous bureaucratese,  alarms bells begin to ring with certain key phrases peppered throughout the Executive Order:   “the importance of the Nation’s wealth of natural resources to American workers and the American economy“; “Monument designations … may also create barriers to achieving energy independence“; “Monument designations … and otherwise curtail economic growth“; “appropriate use of Federal lands“; “including the economic development“; “properly manage designated areas“; etc.

Here in New Zealand, National’s half-arsed proposal seven years ago to open up Schedule 4 DoC conservation-land to mining was met with over-whelming public protest;

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Two and a half months later, National’s ministers caved to public anger. Their proposals sank without a trace.

Trump is yet to be confronted with similar fury from outraged Americans. In the meantime,  his Executive Order has called for the  re-classification of  landmarks of a historic or scientific nature;

“In making those determinations, the Secretary shall consider:

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(ii)   whether designated lands are appropriately classified under the Act as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of historic or scientific interest”

Once re-classified as non-historic landmarks, non-historic and non-prehistoric structures, [or] other objects of non-historic or non-scientific interest” – then it’s “Drill baby, Drill!

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Trump’s Executive Order sought “consultation” with “the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Agriculture, the Secretary of Commerce, the Secretary of Energy“, the “Assistant to the President for Economic Policy“,  and strangely,  “the Secretary of Homeland Security“.

The Trump Administration was seeking “consultation” with the Secretaries of Defense, Agriculture, Commerce, and Energy for obvious reasons: Trump was planning to commercially exploit the Monument parks.

What possible purpose could there be  for Trump to be consulting the Secretary of Homeland Security?

Simple: Crowd control.

As in;

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Trump was already making plans to react with an iron fist when Americans realised what their Glorious Leader was about to do to their Monument parks.

Protest would be met by force. Just ask the Native Americans who protested the Dakota Access oil pipeline.

Trump takes a Dump on the Arctic’s Rump

On 29 April, Trump did the unthinkable (aside from launching the nukes and starting the Last World War) – he signed yet another Executive Order, the ‘America-First Offshore Energy Strategy’, authorising oil exploration in Chukchi and Beaufort Seas – both in the Arctic Ocean;

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act, 43 U.S.C. 1331 et seq., and in order to maintain global leadership in energy innovation, exploration, and production, it is hereby ordered as follows:

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…as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, including the procedures set forth in section 1344 of title 43, United States Code, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, give full consideration to revising the schedule of proposed oil and gas lease sales, as described in that section, so that it includes, but is not limited to, annual lease sales, to the maximum extent permitted by law, in each of the following Outer Continental Shelf Planning Areas, as designated by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) (Planning Areas):  Western Gulf of Mexico, Central Gulf of Mexico, Chukchi Sea, Beaufort Sea, Cook Inlet, Mid-Atlantic, and South Atlantic.

As Trump stated on the White House website;

This executive order starts the process of opening offshore areas to job-creating energy exploration.  It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban.  So hear that:  It reverses the previous administration’s Arctic leasing ban, and directs Secretary Zinke to allow responsible development of offshore areas that will bring revenue to our Treasury and jobs to our workers.  (Applause.)  In addition, Secretary Zinke will be reconsidering burdensome regulations that slow job creation.  

The Order effectively reverses Obama’s final act of his Presidency, in December last year, where he placed large marine areas under Federal protection from commercial development;

President Barack Obama on Tuesday moved to indefinitely block drilling in vast swaths of U.S. waters.

The president had been expected to take the action by invoking a provision in a 1953 law that governs offshore leases, as CNBC previously reported.

The law allows a president to withdraw any currently unleased lands in the Outer Continental Shelf from future lease sales. There is no provision in the law that allows the executive’s successor to repeal the decision, so President-elect Donald Trump would not be able to easily brush aside the action.

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The lands covered include the bulk of the Beaufort and Chukchi seas in the Arctic and 31 underwater canyons in the Atlantic. The United States and Canada also announced they will identify sustainable shipping lanes through their connected Arctic waters.

Canada on Tuesday also imposed a five-year ban on all oil and gas drilling licensing in the Canadian Arctic. The moratorium will be reviewed every five years.

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Environmentalists say drilling in the Arctic and Atlantic puts the waters at immediate risk, for oil and gas that would not come online for years, after a transition to cleaner energy sources could be under way.

“The Arctic Ocean is ground zero for the impacts of climate change, and any oil production there would be decades away and inconsistent with addressing climate change before it is too late,” the League of Conservation Voters said in a statement after the announcement.

Obama’s Executive Order was a complete 180-degree turn-around from his previous decision to allow Shell to test-drill in the Chukchi sea in August 2015. Shell’s exploration programme folded a month later, citing “the disappointing results of an initial well, the high costs of development and the  challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska“.

After he has finished despoiling the land, air, and waterways of the Continental United States, Trump’s decision to overturn Obama’s Executive Order and  allow oil exploration in the Arctic places one of the most fragile eco-systems at risk from environmental degradation;

Concerns have been raised over Shell’s ability to clean up a spill, should one occur, in an area covered by sea ice for much of the year. If one considers the example of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, it took 87 days to cap, even though it happened in a fairly accessible region. In the Arctic, which is virtually impenetrable in winter, a similar gusher would be far more difficult to tackle. More to the point, the region’s ecology is about the most fragile on the planet and would be far more vulnerable to the impact of a major spill.

However the legality of Trump’s Executive Order attempting to overturn his predecessor’s Executive Order is questionable, with the increasing likelihood  of environmental groups launching legal challenges;

It’s unclear whether a new president has the authority to reverse those bans without Congress, says Robin Craig, an environmental law professor at the University of Utah. If, following this executive order, the Trump administration decides to go ahead and open up those areas, environmental groups will likely sue. But because there’s no precedent, it’s unclear what the outcome of those lawsuits will be. “Who knows whether they’ll win or lose,” Book says. “It hasn’t been litigated yet.”

But groups like Oceana are ready to fight. Drilling in Arctic waters is dangerous and there’s no proven way to clean sea ice from potential oil spills, Pyne says. “It’s dark, it’s cold, it’s stormy, and it’s covered in sea ice,” she says. And drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts is unpopular with businesses and residents in coastal states. Oil spill can negatively affect fishing and tourism, and states just don’t want to risk it. “Regardless who’s in the White House coastal communities and businesses do not want offshore drilling off their coast,” Pyne says.

More of Trump’s anti-environmental and pro-business, pro-exploitation policies can be found on the Forbes and National Geographic websites. The picture painted by Trump’s policy enactments (through one Executive Order after another) and appointees makes for disturbing reading.

This is not a happy time for Planet Earth.

Battle of the Bizarro Hair-Monsters

What is it with sovereign leaders with little hands and appalling hair styles?

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Not content with planning to  ravage his own country’s environmental heritage, Trump’s provocative bellicosity toward North Korea could spark a catastrophic regional conflict where millions might be killed, and the global economy sent spiralling into another debilitating recession.

In the past, Trump has resolutely condemned America’s involvement in international conflicts;

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Four years later, he has bombed  Yemen, Syria, and Afghanistan – and threatening war with North Korea;

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This is a man-child confronted with complex international crisis; with minimal political  experience (except what he ‘consumes’ from US movies such as ‘Rambo‘, ‘The Green Berets‘, ‘Red Dawn‘, etc); with access to an arsenal of atomic weapons.

The world is still having to contend with the violent aftermath of America’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, and Trump is apparently hell-bent on more military adventurism?

Each day we wake up and the planet is still intact – is a miracle.

Words of Wisdom from a Trump Supporter

From Former Representative Joe Walsh (Republican, Illinois) comes this brutally candid admission;

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“ As a Trump supporter I do my best not to pay attention to what he says. If I pulled my hair out for every nutty thing he said, I’d be bald.”

Nothing further need be said.

The only questions that remain to be asked are;

  1. How much environmental damage can this man cause before he leaves the White House (or is impeached)?
  2. Will he spark The Last World War?
  3. Will humanity learn not to vote for demagogues that promise so much; deliver so little; and threaten everything in-between?

There have to be solutions to the failed experiment of neo-liberalism and globalisation that does not require madmen (and women) to be elevated to power.

As the 1930s showed us, demagoguery is a false road toward solving our very real problems.

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Postscript

On 30 April, Trump held a public rally in Nuremburg  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. There  were no torch-light processions of goose-stepping Aryan-types in tight, gleaming, spit-polished, black jack-boots. It was a more informal affair.

Dress code, WASP-casual;

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For Trump, the ego-massaging rallies of last year’s election campaign have become an on-going campaign to keep his supporters ‘pumped’. Where have we seen that before…?

Oh yeah;

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Good old Big Bruvver and his Two Minute Hate sessions. (Just substitute Hillary Clinton for Goldstein; scream “Lock her up, lock her up!” instead of “Traitor, traitor!”, and you’ve nailed it. ‘1984’ or 2017, it makes no difference.)

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References

White House: Presidential Executive Order on the Review of Designations Under the Antiquities Act

Wikipedia: National Monuments

NZ Herald: Huge protest says no to mining on conservation land

Fairfax media: Government confirms mining backdown

Grist:  Sarah Palin endorses Donald Trump, resurrects “drill, baby, drill” theme

Chicago Tribune: Dakota Access oil pipeline camp cleared of protesters; dozens arrested

Vogue: 6 Things President Trump Criticized Barack Obama For and Is Currently Doing Himself

Twitter: Trump – Obama’s Executive orders – 11 July 2012

White House: Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Executive Order to Create Energy Independence

The Guardian: New EPA head Scott Pruitt – ‘We can be both pro-jobs and pro-environment’

The Atlantic: Trump’s EPA Chief Denies the Basic Science of Climate Change

Fortune: What Donald Trump Didn’t Mention About Clean Coal

Huffington Post: Scott Pruitt Has Sued The Environmental Protection Agency 13 Times

Common Dreams: The Sierra Club – Pruitt Misled Congress on CO2, Senators Should Demand He Be “Removed from His Position.”

Time: President Trump Signs Executive Order Rolling Back Obama-Era Environmental Regulations

White House: Presidential Executive Order Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy

Wikipedia: Chukchi Sea

Wikipedia: Beaufort Sea

Wikipedia: Cook Inlet

White House: Remarks by President Trump at Signing of Executive Order on an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy

CNBC: Obama invokes 1953 law to indefinitely block drilling in Arctic and Atlantic oceans

The Guardian: Shell gets final clearance to begin drilling for oil in the Arctic

The Seattle Times: Obama protection of Arctic, Atlantic meant to thwart Trump desires to drill

The Guardian: Nature’s last refuge: climate change threatens our most fragile ecosystem

The Verge: Trump signs executive order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in Arctic and beyond

Forbes: The 4 Worst Things Trump Has Done For The Environment In His First 100 Days – And 1 Good

National Geographic: A Running List of How Trump Is Changing the Environment

Middle East Eye: 13 tweets Donald Trump sent warning US not to attack Syria

CBS News: U.S. bombs al Qaeda suspects in Yemen for 2nd night

New York Post: US unleashes dozens of missiles on Syria in response to chemical attack

The Guardian: Devastation and a war that rages on: visiting the valley hit by the Moab attack

The Mirror: Donald Trump warns North Korea is ‘looking for trouble’ and says US ‘will solve problem with or without China’

The Week: Former GOP Rep. Joe Walsh: ‘As a Trump supporter I do my best not to pay attention to what he says’

Additional

ABC: Experts – Long road ahead for Trump offshore drilling order

Radio NZ: Trump signs Arctic oil drilling order

The Verge: Trump signs executive order to expand offshore oil and gas drilling in Arctic and beyond

NASA: NASA Releases Detailed Global Climate Change Projections

NASA: 2016 Climate Trends Continue to Break Records

Other Blogs

Redline: Trump and how the ruling class rule

The Daily Blog: Andra Jenkin – One in a Million – Donald Trump’s Administration Achievements

The Daily Blog: Andra Jenkin – The Powers that Be

The Standard:  The patriotic millionaires

The Standard: Poor Donald

The Standard: Donald Trump and Florida

Your NZ: Trump wants ‘really clean coal’

Previous related blogposts

Trumpwatch: The Drum(pf)s of War

Trumpwatch: One minute closer to midnight on the Doomsday Clock

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 9 May 2017.

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Afghanistan, Russia, and US hypocrisy on a breath-taking, cosmic-scale

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That was then…

In December 1979, the then-Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to prop up a pro-Moscow, communist government. The reformist communist government of Babrak Karmal was threatened by insurgent groups, which were funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, and… the United States.

The US became a major supporter of Afghan rebels;

And the CIA began one of its longest and most expensive covert operations, supplying billions of dollars in arms to a collection of Afghan guerrillas fighting the Soviets. The arms shipments included Stinger missiles, the shoulder-fired, antiaircraft weapons that were used with deadly accuracy against Soviet helicopters and that are now in circulation among terrorists who have fired such weapons at commercial airliners. Among the rebel recipients of U.S. arms: Osama bin Laden.

Then-US President, Ronald Reagan in February 1983,  met with Afghan Mujahideen leaders;

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In March 1983, Reagan praised Afghan rebels as freedom fighters;

“To watch the courageous Afghan freedom fighters battle modern arsenals with simple hand-held weapons is an inspiration to those who love freedom. Their courage teaches us a great lesson — that there are things in this world worth defending.

To the Afghan people, I say on behalf of all Americans that we admire your heroism, your devotion to freedom, and your relentless struggle against your oppressors.”

By 1991,  Washington matched its rhetoric with cold, hard American dollars,  committing $250 million annually for the mujahidin;

Initially, the CIA refused to provide American arms to the resistance, seeking to maintain plausible deniability.(25) (The State Department, too, also opposed providing American-made weapons for fear of antagonizing the Soviet Union.(26) The 1983 suggestion of American Ambassador to Pakistan Ronald Spiers, that the U.S. provide Stingers to the mujahidin accordingly went nowhere for several years.(27) Much of the resistance to the supply of Stinger missiles was generated internally from the CIA station chief’s desire (prior to the accession of Bearden to the post) to keep the covert assistance program small and inconspicuous. Instead, the millions appropriated went to purchase Chinese, Warsaw Pact, and Israeli weaponry. Only in March 1985, did Reagan’s national security team formally decide to switch their strategy from mere harassment of Soviet forces in Afghanistan to driving the Red Army completely out of the country.(28) After vigorous internal debate, Reagan’s military and national security advisors agreed to provide the mujahidin with the Stinger anti-aircraft missile. At the time, the United States possessed only limited numbers of the weapon. Some of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also feared accountability problems and proliferation of the technology to Third World countries.(29) It was not until September 1986, that the Reagan administration decided to supply Stinger anti-aircraft missiles to the mujahidin, thereby breaking the embargo on “Made-in-America” arms.

Support for the rebel groups with money and weapons succeeded. Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan by 1988/89. Following from America’s humiliating defeat in Indo-china in the 1970s, this was pay-back for the Soviets having supported North Vietnam in the conflict.

In the power-vacuum that followed, the anti-Western Taliban seized power.

Own goal, Washington!

This is now…

History seems to be repeating;

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Trump appointee,  Defense Secretary ‘Mad dog’ Mattis has accused Russia of supplying weapons to Afghan rebels;

Asked about Russia’s activity in Afghanistan, where it fought a bloody war in the 1980s and withdrew in defeat, Mattis alluded to the US’ increasing concerns.

“We’ll engage with Russia diplomatically,” Mattis said. “But we’re going to have to confront Russia where what they’re doing is contrary to international law or denying the sovereignty of other countries. For example, any weapons being funneled here [to Afghanistan] from a foreign country would be a violation of international law.””

Violation of international law“?!

When did the US worry about violating international law when it supplied $3 billion worth of weapons and other support for Afghan rebels to over-throw the Soviet-aligned government in Kabul?

Methinks our American cuzzies doth protest too much. International law seemed not too high on their list of priorities when they armed Afghan rebels in the 1970s and 80s.

Secretary Mattis should study recent history – or stick a big, bold “H” on his forehead.

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“H” being for hypocrisy.

Postscript

Meanwhile, according to Russian government-aligned RT News, ” President Donald Trump [is] contemplat[ing] sending more troops to Afghanistan“.

Because sending more troops will help.  Remind us again how that turned out for the US in Vietnam in the 1960s and 70s?

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References

Wikipedia: Afghanistan

Time: The Oily Americans

Wafflesatnoon: Misquote – Reagan Didn’t Compare Taliban to Founding Fathers

Reagan Library: Message on the Observance of Afghanistan Day

The Washington Institute: Who Is Responsible for the Taliban?

Google books: False Flags, Covert Operations, & Propaganda By Robert B Durham (p242)

CNN: Encore Presentation – Soldiers of God

Al Jazeera: US officials in Afghanistan suggest Russia arms Taliban

RT News: Bomb attack hits US base in Afghanistan as Defense Sec Mattis visits Kabul, casualties reported

Additional

Snopes.com: Freedumb Fighters

Al Jazeera: Afghanistan – The Soviet Union’s Vietnam

Previous related blogposts

PM unimpressed by protest outside his house – Afghans unimpressed by mass murder at weddings

The Sweet’n’Sour Deliciousness of Irony: Russia accused of meddling in US Election

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 26 April 2014.

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