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Archive for April, 2018

Is this the Political Cartoon of the Year?!

24 April 2018 4 comments

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Can this political cartoon from a Fairfax community newspaper  be the most insightful and damaging to National, ever penned?

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After all the criticisms; all the protests; all the thousands of media stories; and seven years of blogging from myself – it all comes down to one searingly scathing cartoon.

The scandal of rotting hospital buildings and thousands suffering on waiting lists for surgery may prove to be the the beginning of the deconstruction of the myth of National’s “reputation as a responsible fiscal manager”.

The reality is brutally simple. So simple that even the most low-information voters should be able to comprehend: National won elections not on any fiscal responsibility – but by bribing the electorate with tax cuts.

With tax cuts came cuts to state services in health, education, border security, police, DoC, housing, etc. For many New Zealanders, our under-funded state services is more than an academic exercise by the Wellington ‘Beltway’. It’s personal;

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“Doing more with less” became a National government mantra that meant, in reality, over-worked, stressed, and under-paid teachers, nurses, doctors, police, et al, and essential public services pared back or cancelled entirely.

Unfortunately, it may take a while for it to sink through to New Zealanders that we cannot expect a Gold Standard of public services – whilst paying only for a cheaper Bronze-plated level.

We get what we pay for.

That brutal lesson in basic arithmetic started this year: taxes = services.

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References

Fairfax media:  Over 5000 at risk of going blind waiting for treatment, Ministry of Health says

Previous Related Blogposts

“It’s one of those things we’d love to do if we had the cash”

Tax cuts & school children

The Mendacities of Mr Key #3: tax cuts

The consequences of tax-cuts – worker exploitation?

Plunket and the slow strangulation of community organisations

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

An earthquake separates John Key and ‘The Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 19: Tax Cuts Galore! Money Scramble!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 19 April 2018.

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It is ten seconds to midnight

19 April 2018 2 comments

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The unthinkable has happened.

US, French, and British military forces attacked various targets in Syria.

The attack took place (Saturday, 14 April) at around mid-day-1.00PM local time;

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Trump described the attack with flowery words that served only to compound the horror of his actions;

“So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality.”

As the planet faced the apocalyptic  nightmare of atomic war, Trump invoked supernatural assistance from  his deity;

“We pray that God will bring comfort to those suffering in Syria. We pray that God will guide the whole region toward a future of dignity and of peace.

And we pray that God will continue to watch over and bless the United States of America.”

If his god exists, now would be a good time for it to intervene.

As predicted by many, Trump has not waited for an investigative team from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to carry out it’s work. This despite an OPCW team having already landed in Damascus to conduct it’s investigation.

This is a repeat of the U.S. launching it’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 despite the U.N.  tasked with locating alleged  weapons of mass destruction in that country.

The Russians have replied, predictably threatening consequences to the American, French, and British attack;

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It seems that Fox News commentator, Tucker Carlson’s overt message to Donald Trump not to attack Syria has fallen on deaf ears;

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It is now ten seconds to midnight.  Our civilisation; our species; our entire planet stands on the brink of annihilation.

What will happen next will depend on the wisdom of men and women in Moscow. All notions of common sense and self-preservation apparently having deserted the fools who currently reside in the White House.

If you believe in your own deity – pray. Pray very hard.

If not, well, try it  anyway. We have bugger all to lose.

But whether or not you subscribe to supernatural intervention, now would be a good time to gather your family close and share one of our species’ greatest virtues.  It’s called hope.

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References

Radio NZ:  Trump orders strikes in Syria over chemical attack (Live Feed)

Military Times:  President Trump’s statement on the U.S. military action in Syria

RT News:  ‘They can go anywhere they want in Douma’: OPCW team arrives in Syria to investigate alleged attack

CNBC News:  Russia warns of ‘consequences’ for US-led strike on Syria

Youtube: Fox News – Tucker Carlson – Would war against Assad make US safer?

Previous related blogpost

One minute to midnight?

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 14 April 2018.

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One minute to midnight?

18 April 2018 3 comments

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Founded in 1945 by University of Chicago scientists who had helped develop the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock two years later, using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet. – The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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It is now two minutes to midnight. – The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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At the time of this blogpost being written, the US has not initiated a military response in Syria. As at midnight of 12 April, a little blue marble called Planet Earth is still in one piece…

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The latest alleged poison gas attack in Syria has brought the planet closer to the unimaginable: a full-scale military confrontation between the United States and the Russian Federation.

The alleged gas attack in Douma, the last rebel-controlled town in Syria’s Eastern Ghouta, has supposedly killed between forty to 180 Syrians;

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There has been no independent  verification of the alleged attack. There has been zero evidence as to who launched the chemical attack – if it happened at all. Video of the supposed event has not been verified by independent sources;

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As international tensions rose, and the racket of rattling sabres reverberated globally,  our own Foreign Affairs Minister, Winston Peters stood as a lone voice of reason, calling for an impartial investigation;

“ New Zealand calls for an independent investigation into the attack by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and for the perpetrators to be held to account. We call on the parties to the conflict in eastern Ghouta to urgently allow OPCW inspectors access to the area.

We also call on the international supporters of the Syrian Government to work to uphold the cessation of hostilities promised in UN Security Council Resolution 2401 and to prevent further attacks of this nature.”

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At the U.N. Security Council, Trump-appointed US Ambassador, Nikki Haley spoke with language that was far from diplomatic and unambiguously hostile to the Assad regime;

“ We are on the edge of a dangerous precipice. The great evil of chemical weapons use that once unified the world in opposition is on the verge of becoming the new normal. The international community must not let this happen.

Only a monster does this. Only a monster targets civilians, and then ensures that there are no ambulances to transfer the wounded. No hospitals to save their lives. No doctors or medicine to ease their pain. I could hold up pictures of all this killing and suffering for the Council to see, but what would be the point? The monster who was responsible for these attacks has no conscience to be shocked by pictures of dead children

Russia and Iran have military advisers at the Assad regime’s airfields and operations centers. Russian officials are on the ground helping direct the regime’s ‘starve and surrender’ campaigns, and Iranian allied forces do much of the dirty work. When the Syrian military pummels civilians, they rely on the military hardware given by Russia. Russia could stop this senseless slaughter, if it wanted. But it stands with the Assad regime and supports it without hesitation.

The United States is determined to see that the monster who dropped chemical weapons on the Syrian people held to account.”

US ally, Britain, voiced it’s support for a US sponsored resolution at the UN Security Council, couched in unashamedly critical terms. UK Ambassador, Karen Pierce, said;

“ Russia’s credibility as a member of the council is now in question. We will not stand idly by and watch Russia continue to undermine global norms which have ensured all our security, including Russia’s, for decades. As a [permanent council]  member, the United Kingdom will stand up for international peace and security. It is our moral duty.”

France’s Ambassador, François Delattre, was also condemnatory;

“ Allowing people to use chemical weapons allows the genie of weapons of mass destruction out of the bottle, and weapons of mass destruction pose an existential threat to all us.”

Russia’s UN Ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, described a proposed US resolution as a prelude to a Western strike on Syria;

“ I would once again ask you, once again beseech you, to refrain from the plans that you’re currently developing for Syria.”

Nebenzia warned;

“ If you take the decision to carry out an illegal military adventure – and we do hope that you will come to your senses – then you will have to bear responsibility for it yourselves.”

Memories of a US sponsored resolution in the United Nations Security Council – and subsequently used as a pretext to invade Iraq in 2003 – were most likely still fresh in the minds of  Russian leaders.

Trump, though, was having none of it. Uncharacteristically, his reaction was scathing toward his former Russianbesties‘;

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Blaing his predecessor’s refusal to bomb Syria, raised this Twitter comment from Trump’s not-too-distant past;

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As Trump threatened Syria with a “big price to pay”, the Russians issued their own clear warning that any attack would elicit a military response against US missiles – and the “platforms” from which they were launched.

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After Trump’s “big price to pay” tweets,  Chairman of the State Duma’s Defense Committee,  Colonel General Vladimir Shamanov warned the West;

“ The double standard policy has overstepped all possible boundaries. At this point, the [pro-Putin parliamentary majority] United Russia party must responsibly state that we are going to take all political and diplomatic measures, and also military measures if such need arises. Not a single unlawful action will be left without response.”

Shamanov’s reputation from his tour of duty in Chechniya suggests he is not a person to be trifled with;

As Gennady Troshev, another Russian commander in Chechnya, wrote in his book My War, Shamanov “was too hot-tempered and direct in his relations with the Chechen population” [preferring] “to choose the shortest way to victory (…) [which] resulted in numerous casualties among Russian soldiers.”

Aslambek Aslakhanov, a retired MVD general who was Vladimir Putin’s advisor on Chechnya, called Shamanov a “butcher” and a “one-man curse on the Chechen people”: “Chechens talk about Shamanov like a plague that has descended on their heads, a disease like AIDS. He is drowning in blood. He cynically believes that all Chechens – men and women, even children – are bandits.”

On the same day, following a request from Russian and Syrian governments, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) was invited into Syria to investigate the alleged chemical attack;

Today, the OPCW Technical Secretariat has requested the Syrian Arab Republic to make the necessary arrangements for such a deployment. This has coincided with a request from the Syrian Arab Republic and the Russian Federation to investigate the allegations of chemical weapons use in Douma. The team is preparing to deploy to Syria shortly.

Whether or not the OPCW is permitted to carry out its mandated duty to investigate the alleged attack in Douma remains to be seen. If Damascus is indeed innocent of perpetrating such an attack – or even that such an attack ever happened at all – it would be in Bashar al-Assad’s and Russia’s interests to facilitate the investigation.

According to Russia’s ambassador to Lebanon, Alexander Zasypkin, Eastern Ghouta has been “almost-fully liberated” from rebels. There should be no reason why an OPCW investigative group should be prevented from scouring the area, looking for relevant evidence.

Zasypkin also repeated Shamanov’s dire warning to the West – this time with greater clarity. And with an added threat of retaliation;

“ If there is a US missile attack, we – in line with both Putin and Russia’s chief of staff’s remarks – will shoot down US rockets and even the sources that launched the missiles.

US ‘rockets’ – Tomahawk cruise missiles – are usually launched from American naval warships in the region. Zasypkin was giving a crystal clear warning that not only would US cruise missiles be shot down – but US warships would be attacked.

Not since Israel attacked the USS Liberty in 1967 has an American warship been deliberately targetted by another sovereign state in the Middle East. In that instance, the premeditated attack was covered up by both Israeli and US governments.

A direct attack on a US warship by Russian forces would have predictably catastrophic consequences.

Seemingly oblivious to the spiralling madness, Trump, ‘upped the ante’ with more bellicosity;

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Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 have the planet’s two greatest military powers faced off – perhaps the closest that we as a species ever came to World War Three. Thankfully, there were saner men in both the Kremlin and White House at the time.

Fiftysix years later, the planet may have to rely on the wits of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to avert the Last World War.

Russia has surprising support from one segment of the US establishment: Fox News. Around 9/10 April, Fox News’ host/commentator,  Tucker Carlson, questioned and excoriated Washington’s rush-to-judgement and chilling sabre-rattling. Carlson seemed to be one of the few Establishment media voices urging restraint.

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Carlson also questioned why Syria had been “convicted” of the alleged chemical attack without any evidence. He was scathing;

All the geniuses tell us that Assad killed those children, but do they really know that? Of course they don’t really know that. They’re making it up. They have no real idea what happened.

Actually both sides in the Syrian civil war possess chemical weapons.

Carlson also pointed out that Syrian government forces were actually already winning in Eastern Ghouta. As late as 4 April Trump stated publicly that he  wanted all US forces out of Syria;

“ I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. It’s time.”

Four days later – “gas attack” hits the global headlines. Trump was ‘forced’ to change his mind;

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Carlson asked pointed questions;

“ How would it benefit Assad using chlorine gas last weekend? Well, it wouldn’t. Assad’s forces had been winning the war in Syria. The [Trump] Administration just announced its plans to pull American troops out of Syria, having vanquished ISIS. That’s good news for Assad. And about the only thing he could do to reverse it and to hurt himself would be to use poison gas against children. ‘Well he did it anyway!’ they tell us, ‘He’s that evil!’. Please. Keep in mind this is the same story they told us last April!

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At the time this show asked what seemed like the obvious question, ‘Are we really sure that Assad did that?’. It seemed wierdly timed and counter-productive to him.”

Carlson was referring to the previous so-called sarin-gas attack at  Khan Shaykhun, in the Idlib Governorate, in April last year. This blogger also questioned that veracity of assigning responsibility to the Assad regime;

Which suggests that the only other ‘player’ in the Syrian civil war capable of deploying chemical weapons would be a sovereign state.

If not rebels, who?

In a June 2013 story, the BBC reported on who was supplying the myriad ‘players’ in the Syrian conflict. One of the arms traffickers in the region was Saudi Arabia;

In late 2012, Riyadh is said to have financed the purchase of “thousands of rifles and hundreds of machine guns”, rocket and grenade launchers and ammunition for the FSA from a Croatian-controlled stockpile of Yugoslav weapons.

These were reportedly flown – including by Royal Saudi Air Force C-130 transporters – to Jordan and Turkey and smuggled into Syria.

Note the link: Croatian-controlled stockpile

Follow the link and it leads to a February 2013 story in the New York Times, which stated;

Saudi Arabia has financed a large purchase of infantry weapons from Croatia and quietly funneled them to anti-government fighters in Syria in a drive to break the bloody stalemate that has allowed President Bashar al-Assad to cling to power, according to American and Western officials familiar with the purchases.

The weapons began reaching rebels in December via shipments shuttled through Jordan, officials said, and have been a factor in the rebels’ small tactical gains this winter against the army and militias loyal to Mr. Assad.

So, what sort of weapons was Croatia selling on the open market? Interrogate Google with the parameters ‘Yugoslavia Croatia chemical weapons’. It offers this April 1999 story in the UK Guardian;

After months of prevarication, Nato launches a ground war against Slobodan Milosevic’s forces in Kosovo. But no sooner do British and US troops begin to move in and threaten Serb army units than Milosevic unleashes his secret weapons – sarin nerve gas and BZ, a psychochemical incapacitant.

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According to former Yugoslav chemical weapons officers, Milosevic’s arsenal is far larger than previously thought. Besides sarin and BZ, it includes the blister agent sulphur mustard and the choking agent phosgene. And it is thanks to scientists in Britain and the US that he could use them on Nato troops.

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In total, the Serb army may have as many as 5,800 122mm sarin-filled shells and 1,000 mustard gas shells, say these sources. In addition, Serbia is also known to have been developing a multiple rocket delivery system for sarin and a bomb capable of delivering 20 litres of the nerve gas to the battlefield.

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Even the Pentagon, which is sceptical about Croatian estimates of the numbers of chemical shells and rockets in the Serb arsenal, accepts that Milosevic inherited from the JNA a programme capable of producing a deadly 3,000 rockets filled with sarin and 100 shells filled with mustard gas.

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Although the Pentagon says it has no evidence that Serbia has continued to manufacture and test chemical weapons since the break-up of the Yugoslavia federation, officials told the New York Times they were ‘concerned’ about the stockpiles.

The Pentagon would be right to be “‘concerned’ about the stockpiles“. Where would they end up?

There is no proof that amongst the weapons purchased from Croatia there was included chemical weapons such as sarin gas. But the facts are clear;

Former-Yugoslavia developed massive quantities of poison gas weapons, including sarin gas

After the break-up of Yugoslavia, Croatia sold plane-loads of weapons to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia supports rebel forces in Syria

Sarin gas was used in the gas attack on Khan Shaykhun

It is all circumstantial, of course. But it seems plausible that Saudi Arabian military/intelligence agents could have transported sarin gas shells/rockets to Idlib Governorate where, under close supervision,  they were launched against a defenceless city.

The plan was simple; to provoke a politically unsophisticated, naive, and impressionable Donald Trump into  military retaliation by blaming the attack on the Syrian regime.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, which supports rebel groups fighting the Assad regime, and is engaged in a conflict with Iran to gain regional supremacy, has declared that it will join any retaliatory action that the United States takes against the Syrian government;

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Make no mistake: it would benefit Saudi Arabia if the US re-engaged in the Syrian civil-war and launched a crippling strike against the Assad regime.

Saudi Arabia – engaged in a proxy war with it’s regional rival, Iran.

Saudi Arabia – which purchased plane-loads of weapons from Croatia, which once belonged to the defunct Jugoslav National Army, and which may have included stockpiles of sarin gas.

As Fox News’ Carlson Tucker rightly pointed out; there is zero evidence that the so-called “gas attack” was carried out by Assad’s forces. There was no rational reason for Assad to consent to such an attack – he was winning the civil war anyway.

And drawing the US back into the Syrian conflict would benefit: Saudi Arabia.

Mr Trump – you are being ‘played’.

Let’s hope someone in the White House can explain this to the buffoon sitting at the Oval Office desk. Preferably  before Planet Earth is incinerated.

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References

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:  Editor’s Note

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:  2018 Doomsday Clock Statement., Science and Security Board

Radio NZ:  Syria – Toxic gas attack kills at least 70 in Douma

BBC:  Syria ‘chemical attack’ – Russia and US in fierce row at UN

Fairfax media:  NZ expresses ‘strongest condemnation’ of chemical attack on Syrians

Fox News:  Nikki Haley shames Syria after suspected chemical attack – ‘We are on the edge of a dangerous precipice’

Reuters:  U.S., Russia clash at U.N. over chemical weapons attacks in Syria

The Guardian: Syria chemical attack – US and Russia fail to reach UN agreement as tensions rise

Twitter: Donald Trump – Chemical attack in Syria – 9 April 2018 (1)

Twitter: Donald Trump – Chemical attack in Syria – 9 April 2018 (2)

Twitter: Donald Trump – Chemical attack in Syria – 9 April 2018 (3)

Twitter: Trump – Do not attack Syria – 5 September 2013

RT News:  Duma defense chief says Russia may respond with military force to US strike on Syria

Wikipedia:  Vladimir Shamanov

RT News:  OPCW to send chemical weapons investigators to Syria’s Douma – statement

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons:  OPCW Will Deploy Fact-Finding Mission to Douma, Syria

Al Jazeera:  Russia threatens to shoot down any US missiles fired at Syria

Al Jazeera:  Remembering USS Liberty – When Israel attacked America

Twitter: Donald Trump – Missiles at Syria – 11 April 2018

New York Times:  Mattis Expresses Caution on Imminent Strike Against Syria

RT News:  Tucker Carlson slams US foreign policy in no-holds-barred monologue on Syria, social media explodes

Youtube: Fox News – Tucker Carlson – Would war against Assad make US safer?

Washington Post: Even as Trump urges Syria exit, the military says it’s not finished with ISIS

New York Times:  As Trump Seeks Way Out of Syria, New Attack Pulls Him Back In

BBC: Who is supplying weapons to the warring sides in Syria?

The Guardian: UK link to Serb poison gas

Reuters:  Saudi could take part in military response in Syria – Crown Prince

Additional

Radio NZ: Expert – ‘Moscow seeking comeback as a great power’

Previous related blogposts

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

Trump escalates, Putin congratulates

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 13 April 2018.

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Newsflash: apparently our public hospital system is in crisis?!

13 April 2018 2 comments

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A NZ Herald front page headline on 22 February screamed out to anyone who  cared to read – or perhaps even just happened to glance at the paper;

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Written by veteran Herald political reporter, Audrey Young – the on-line version’s headline was considerably more restrained;

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Regardless of headlines, the content confirmed years of media reports and countless blogposts  on The Daily Blog, The Standard, and elsewhere, that New Zealand’s public healthcare system was critically under-funded; over-stretched; and staff were burning out from over-work. The story confirmed nine years of National’s gross under-funding and mis-management of the health system as successive ministers demanded that DHB managers and health-workers “do more with less”;

The Government said total health spending would be a record $16.77 billion in 2017/18 – an increase of $879 million, with an overall increase of $3.9b over the next four years.

However, the record claim does not take inflation into account, and sidesteps the fact that almost half the spending will go toward mandated wage increases as part of the pay equity settlement.

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Meanwhile, mental health workers and union representatives said the funding was only a fraction of what was needed to adequately respond to demand.

Social worker Andy Colwell said he expected to see the gap between demand and funding get even worse as a result of Budget 2017.

“As a mental health worker, seeing families struggling with life-threatening situations not being seen as urgent is incredibly frustrating, and knowing it will get worse is incredibly distressing,” Colwell said.

Healthcare workers made their cries of frustration heard clearly and unequivocally;

A survey of almost 6000 paramedics, nurses, mental health workers and support staff earlier in 2017 found 90 per cent felt the healthcare system was understaffed and under-resourced.

Some said they feared burnout could be jeopardising patient safety, and 72 per cent said their workload was not reasonable.

Gordon Campbell wrote on 3 April;

Week by week, the sheer scale of the neglect to crucial social infrastructure by the Key/English government becomes apparent – and with it the size (and expense) of the problems they’ve left behind, for the Ardern government to somehow address. The mouldering walls and the decaying electricity and sewage systems at Middlemore Hospital serve as a perfect symbol of the dilapidation that’s been fostered by pressure to meet the political goals of budgetary constraint. All of it done so that John Key and Bill English could brag about being capable managers, who kept expenditure under control – as if balancing the books was an end in itself.

Meanwhile at Middlemore, the necessary investments in maintenance were being deferred – as they have has been in DHBs all around the country, in order to prop up the illusion of competence by a government always far more interested in delivering another round of tax cuts, if it possibly could. It didn’t want to hear bad news. Its managers in public health heard that, and obeyed orders.

Since National changed leaders, the same illusion has been perpetuated by Simon Bridges, who cited National’s claim to be “good economic managers” in his first statements as leader.

Over the last two years, Radio NZ  featured a series of hard-hitting, critical stories examining growing waiting lists and worsening under-funding at the various DHBs around the country. The reports were damning;

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This year,  DHB Boards mustered the courage to disclose the full extent of under-funding.  Our dilapidated hospital buildings were literally rotting from within;

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On top of stretched services; lengthening waiting lists; and stressed medical staff, the full extent of  the public health nightmare became apparent, as revelation after revelation was made public;

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Noticeably, it was this country’s non-commercial broadcaster, Radio New Zealand, that led the steady expose on the crisis in our public health system. Other media outlets picked up on the issue, belatedly, albeit based on Radio NZ’s sound investigative reporting;

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A subsequent Fairfax editorial was damning of the previous National government;

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The un-named editorial writer sheeted home responsibility for this mess firmly where it belonged;

The new Government has inherited these problems from a National Government that prided itself on running a tight financial ship. Even as recently as this week, when worsening news about Middlemore appeared in the media, new National leader Simon Bridges stuck to a script about prudent financial management and passed the buck back to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Health Minister David Clark. 

But the responsibility for this and other problems of underfunding and general neglect in the health system really need to be sheeted home to former Health Minister Jonathan Coleman, who has already signalled his departure from politics for the private health system. Many National MPs are said to quietly blame Coleman for their 2017 election result as both health and mental health became political quagmires. 

The editorial echoed Gordon Campbell’s earlier blogpost, and those of  other bloggers over the last nine years. This blogger has consistently pointed out that the 2009 and 2010 tax cuts implemented by National created a fiscal hole; forced increased borrowing; and corresponding under-funding/cuts to public services;

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As this blogger reported in January last year (2017);

A decade late, National’s ongoing cuts, or under-funding, of state services such as the Health budget have resulted in wholly predictable – and preventable – negative outcomes;

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In response, National’s current, caretaker Leader, Simon Bridges attempted to mitigate his Party’s shocking record of incompetance by repeating the oft-parrotted, mythical mantra of National’s “good economic management“;

“But remember we didn’t have all the choices that this government’s blessed with from a very strong legacy from good economic management.

We had to get through a [global financial crisis,] we had to get through earthquakes.

Now we are in actually a relatively blessed period with strong surpluses, it’s for this government to look at how they do this”

Bridges seemed utterly oblivious as to why “we are in actually a relatively blessed period with strong surpluses“. Those so-called “surpluses” were at the expense of  rotting hospital buildings and under-funded services and medical staff.  He seemed wholly blind to the social costs incurred in National’s single-minded mania to create “surpluses”.

Bridges’ attempt to deflect to the GFC  ignores the critical fact that National stubbornly proceeded with it’s reckless promises of tax cuts that – as predicted – eventually proved to be unaffordable.

Even right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooton panned Bridges’ comments on Radio NZ’s Nine To Noon political panel, saying;

“That was his worst Morning Report interview so far…”

Hooten  also dismissed former Health Minister Coleman’s claims not to have been informed of Middlemore Hospital’s dire building crisis as “hopeless”.

Hooton suggested that rather than National’s 2017 election year bribe for more tax cuts, that the focus should have been on writing off DHB debts and more social spending. He believed that offering tax cuts was the reason National was no longer in government;

“That was the wrong call.”

He has a point – a point that many commentators on the Left have been banging on for nearly a decade.

It should be abundantly clear to all by now that National’s strategy of tax-cuts was simply to win votes at election time. It was a successful tactic during the 2008 election;

National will fast track a second round of tax cuts and is likely to increase borrowing to pay for some of its spending promises, the party’s leader John Key says.

But Mr Key said the borrowing would be for new infrastructure projects rather than National’s quicker and larger tax cuts which would be “hermetically sealed” from the debt programme.

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National is yet to explain how it will pay for the promised larger cuts.

And they tried it on again last year;

Prime Minister Bill English is talking tax cuts – saying “something will be covered” in the upcoming Budget and any changes would take effect from April 1 next year.

“There will certainly be something covered in [May’s] Budget. Look, there’s not going to be some big sugar shock with tax cuts. We have a range of tools, we want to be able to help and support low and middle income families,” Mr English told Newstalk ZB.

Had it not been for NZ First coalescing with Labour and thew Greens, National’s planned tax cuts might well have proceeded. And the rotting buildings at Middlemore would have continued to decay; waiting lists throughout the country continued to lengthen; and increasing numbers of front-line staff burning out.

However, there is an aspect far worse than the opportunistic use of tax-cuts as electoral bribes by a National Party hell-bent on re-election at any cost.

That is that District Health boards have not made these problems public earlier.

Waiting for incoming Labour-led governments to finally ring alarm bells by announcing;

“We have been facing this for years and every year make savings or defer capital or struggle to get permission to get capital through the [Ministry of Health] capital investment committee.

– appears to be an act of cowardice.

Auckland District Health Board states that it’s  “strategic priorities” are;

  • People, patients and whānau at the centre.
  • Values and equity underpin everything we do.
  • Guarantee quality and safety.
  • Get the best outcomes from our resources.
  • Hold people, systems and structures to account.

Fine words. But have they been followed through?

When District Health Boards fail to make clear to central government that funding for public healthcare is inadequate; that there is a crisis in offering services in a timely fashion; that buildings and equipment cannot be kept to a high standard; that staff are over-worked and leaving in droves – then they have abrogated their duties to their communities; their employees; and to those vulnerable people who desperately seek medical assistance.

Waiting for a change in government is not a viable option.

Appropriate funding for DHB services must be the the number one duty of every Board member and Chairperson, irrespective of which hue the government-of-the-day is.

Acquiescence in the face of a Minister expecting (and demanding) a surplus from DHBs is not a viable option.

We, the public, expect our DHB Boards to look after our interests – not those of  Ministers with their eye on re-election.

If DHB Boards cannot find the inner courage to speak out on our behalf, to demand appropriate funding, then they should resign. Step aside and let others do the job. After all that is said and done, people’s lives are at stake.

Silence should never be a viable option.

 

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Acknowledgement

I acknowledge and thank the hard-work of Radio New Zealand staff who have brought to our attention the current abysmal state of our public health system. This is indeed the role – the raison d’être of the  existence of public broadcasting. Your dedication to bring us the truth may have saved lives.

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References

NZ Herald:  Huge demand for services in Auckland stretches health system to the limit say bosses

Fairfax media:  Counties Manukau district health board in financial crisis

Fairfax media:  Frustration, disappointment over health funding in Budget 2017

Fairfax media:  Nine in 10 healthcare workers feel understaffed and under-resourced

Radio NZ:  Eye patient delays a nationwide problem – specialists

Radio NZ:  Eye check-up delays: ‘Within that time, I went blind’

Radio NZ:  Damning report on delayed eye appointments released

Radio NZ:  Eye patients forced to sit on floor at overcrowded clinic

Radio NZ:  Health Minister defends number of ICU beds

Radio NZ:  Man waits five months for urgent cancer surgery

Radio NZ:  ‘People will die waiting for the attention they need’

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB in a ‘slow motion train crash’

Radio NZ:  Dunedin Hospital surgeons operate only twice a month, surgeon says

Radio NZ:  Minister refuses to apologise for ‘toxic’ DHB comment

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB to implement all recommendations in scathing review

Radio NZ:  ‘I had a death sentence hanging over my head’

Radio NZ:   Prostate cancer patients face wildly varying wait times

Radio NZ:  Southern DHB commits to clearing patient backlog

Radio NZ:  Health Minister responds to ‘unacceptable’ delays at Dunedin Hospital

Radio NZ:  ‘Megaclinics’ planned for Dunedin urology patients

Radio NZ:  Akl DHB defends work culture, ‘rubs salt in wound’

Radio NZ:  DHBs warn funding crisis may worsen

Radio NZ:  Doctors push to reduce wait time for mental health patients

NZ Herald:  Rot, mould and sewage at Middlemore: Health minister ‘disappointed’ he wasn’t told

RNZ:  Hospital rot was ‘fully disclosed’ to board, ministry – former boss

RNZ:  Hospital rot – Sewage leaks linked to 2014 outbreak

RNZ: Middlemore maintainance a ‘bloody nightmare’ – ex-manager

TVNZ:  ‘We have rot, we have mould, we have sewage’ – Health Minister asks Middlemore Hospital for explanation over faulty buildings

RNZ:  Middlemore building woes worse than first thought

Fairfax:  Health system underfunding worse than PM expected, as more problems uncovered at Middlemore Hospital

Fairfax media:  Middlemore is a bleak symbol of health failure

Radio NZ: Patients have ‘severe loss of vision’ in long wait for treatment

Fairfax media: Researchers claim NZ health budget declining, publicly-funded surgery on way out

Radio NZ: Patients suffering because of surgery waits – surgeon

Fairfax media: 174,000 kiwis left of surgery waiting lists with Cantabrians and Aucklanders faring the worst

Radio NZ:  New govt ‘blessed’ with National’s surpluses – Simon Bridges (alt.link)

Radio NZ:  Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Stephen Mills (alt. link)

NZ Herald:  Nats to borrow for other spending – but not tax cuts

Otago Daily Times:  Tax cuts would take effect from April 2018 – PM

Auckland DHB: Who We Are

Radio NZ: DHB vacancies likely even higher than 400

Additional

NZ Medical Journal:  Funding New Zealand’s public healthcare system – time for an honest appraisal and public debate

World Health Organisation:  New Zealand cuts health spending to control costs

Infonews: Government’s 2010 tax cuts costing $2 billion and counting

Fairfax media:  Government to urgently establish new health advisory group

Other Blogs

The Jackal:  National has failed our health system

Werewolf:  Gordon Campbell on Middlemore Hospital as a symptom of neglect

Previous related blogposts

12 June – Issues of Interest – User pays healthcare?

The Mendacities of Mr Key # 19: Tax Cuts Galore! Money Scramble!

Cutting taxes toward more user-pays – the Great Kiwi Con

The cupboard is bare, says Dear Leader

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 8 April 2018.

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Letter to the editor: What’s up with Richard Griffin and National’s Melissa Lee?

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Frank Macskasy - letters to the editor - Frankly Speaking

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Interesting to note this little item which has been all but over-looked by the mainstream media;

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Which begged these questions;

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from: Frank Macskasy <fmacskasy@gmail.com>
to: NZ Herald <letters@herald.co.nz>
date: 31 March 2018
subject: Letter to the editor
.The editor
NZ Herald
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The recent furore over the so-called “secret” meeting between broacasting minister Clare Curran and RNZ’s Carol Hirschfeld revealed that Board chair and former National government advisor, Richard Griffin, phoned National MP, Melissa Lee to inform her that Ms Hirscheld had tendered her resignation. This barely reported event raises several questiins that have yet to be fully answered;

Why did Griffin contact Ms Lee?

Is it appropriate for a Board member to be discussing sensitive employment matters with an Opposition National MP?

Did Griffin get Board approval to discuss this with Ms Lee?

What other contact has Griffin had with National MPs?

If Griffin’s discussion with Ms Lee was inappropriate, will he be resigning as RNZ’s chair of the Board?

And who advised National MP Melissa Lee of the not-so-secret meeting between Clare Curran and Carol Hirscheld?

There is more to this story than coffee-chats beteen two people. The apparent behind-the-scenes machinations hint at something far deeper between the National Opposition and an unknown “agent” working from within Radio NZ.

Plans to expand the public broadcasting service of Radio NZ may be threatened by a secretive faction at work.
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Frank macskasy

[address and phone number supplied]

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Questions remain – and not just of Minister Curran to answer.

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References

Radio NZ:  Richard Griffin ‘gobsmacked’ by details of interaction

Additional

Radio NZ:  Political commentators Matthew Hooton and Stephen Mills

Fairfax media:  Melissa Lee was given a heads up about Carol Hirschfeld’s resignation

FYI.org:  Communications between Melissa Lee and Richard Griffin

Twitter: Tim Murphy

Other blogs

Werewolf:  Gordon Campbell on Clare Curran’s dim future

Previous related blogposts

National pissed off: Labour is nicking John Key’s dodginess!

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 31 March 2018.

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National pissed off: Labour is nicking John Key’s dodginess!

2 April 2018 3 comments

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A meeting between Broadcasting Minister, Clare Curran and Radio NZ’s Carol Hirschfeld at a Wellington cafe has put the scent of blood into National’s collective nostrils. Ms Curran had insisted that the meeting was informal;

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Ms  Curran has rejected claims that her meeting with Ms Hirschfeld was a secret meeting;

“At no time have I ever said the meeting was coincidental.

While I believe the meeting was not official and informal, as soon as I became aware that it should have been considered an official meeting in answer to a written question, I corrected the Parliamentary record. This was a mistake.

The meeting was not a secret, and I regret that the meeting took place.”

National’s caretaker Little Leader, Simon Bridges, is braying for blood;

“We need to get to the bottom of what’s happened here but it seems very serious if Carol Hirschfeld has resigned and we need to understand what this means in relation to Clare Curran.”

The critical problem apparently lies with the fact that Ms Hirschfeld kept the meeting secret from Radio NZ’s hierarchy, initially claiming that her cafe meet-up was a “chance encounter”.  In response to a question from a National Party MP,    Radio NZ’s chief executive, Paul Thompson, informed a select committee;

“Carol had been to the gym, she was getting a coffee, they bumped into each other, in a cafe and had a conversation so it was hardly a secret meeting. I don’t have any concern.”

For a supposedly “secret” meeting, a cafe rendezvous seemed to lack most of the necessary ingredients for  a covert political operation.

Perhaps Simon Bridges is aggrieved that Labour has lifted one of it’s own strategies and attempted to use it themselves. When it came to “informal meetings”, National’s former Dear Leader, John Key, was quite the expert.

In 2011, Key met with Mediaworks’ former CEO, Brent Impey at a “social event”;

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Note that at first, Key denied meeting any representatives with Mediaworks. Two days later, he was forced to concede “running into” Impey at a “social event”. The issue of a government bail-out of Mediaworks was “briefly raised”.

The following year, Key had another supposedly chance encounter with a corporate head hustling for a lucrative government deal;

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A year later,  it was revealed that Key was at it again, with another of his “informal meetings” – this time with old school friend, Ian Fletcher;

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As we recall, Fletcher was later appointed as the head of the GCSB.

But according to Key, the vacancy at the Government Communications Security Bureau was “not discussed”. Of course it wasn’t. Fletcher’s appointment three months later was a pure coincidence – right?

When it comes to dodgy deals done behind closed doors – or at “informal” events – nobody does it better that National.

And nobody weaseled out of being caught  conducting secret informal “chance meetings” better than our own Teflon Don, whom Simon Bridges considered his hero;

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As fellow blogger, Martyn Bradbury said succinctly on this issue;

“The media focus on the insignificant and judge the Left at a threshold far higher than they ever held National to account.”

Labour will have to make more of an effort to avoid these prat-falls. Because unfortunately, Key used up the country’s entire supply of teflon for himself during his leadership tenure with all his personal, Party, and ministerial scandals.

Of which there were many.

***Updates***

28 March – 8.16am

On Radio NZ’s ‘Morning Report”, it was announced that Board Chairperson, Richard Griffin (and former advisor to Jim Bolger) advised National MP, Melissa Lee, that Carol Hirschfeld had resigned – before it was publicly announced.

Ms Lee said she was surprised by the resignation of Ms Hirschfeld, who she described as a “well respected journalist”, and was given notice of the move by RNZ chair Richard Griffin shortly before the announcement.

Was that appropriate?

Why did he discuss this with an Opposition MP?

Did he have Board permission to disclose this?

What other contacts does Griffin have with National?

The Curran-Hirschfeld event is beginning to create ever-widening ripples.

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References

Mediaworks:  Hirschfeld resignation – Clare Curran to stay on as Minister

Maori Television:  RNZ’s Carol Hirschfeld resigns

Newstalk ZB:  Hirschfeld to resign immediately after Curran meeting saga

TVNZ:  Prime Minister defends loan to MediaWorks

NZ Herald:  SkyCity deal was PM’s own offer

Fairfax Media:  Key met spy candidate for breakfast

Beehive:  New GCSB Director appointed

NZ Herald:  ‘Jokiness and blokiness’ – How Bridges is emulating John Key

Radio NZ:  Curran has ‘a lot of questions to answer’ over meeting – National MP

Additional

Radio NZ:  Carol Hirschfeld resigns over meeting minister – ‘There are serious questions here’

Radio NZ:  Curran on Hirschfeld’s resignation: ‘It was not a secret meeting’

Other Blogs

The Daily Blog:  Blind Alpacas vs war crime double standards – Hey look, what Curran did wasn’t great, but what’s worse is what the Former Attorney General did

The Standard:  An Orwellian Minister for Open Government

Previous related blogposts

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Rua)

Doing ‘the business’ with John Key – Here’s How (Part # Toru)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 28 March 2018.

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