Home > The Body Politic > 2018 – the year that weirdly was (2)

2018 – the year that weirdly was (2)

 

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Continued from part one

In many respects, 2018 was a strange year in politics. From weird gender-focused terminology to ongoing subterranean machinations within the National Party as it came to grips with being in Opposition – 2018 was one for the history books.

Now concluding my assessment of the weird year that was…

Villains of The Year:

There are many candidates for this much-cherished ‘Award’, but perhaps the stand-out has to be Thompson and Clark. A firm of private investigators made up of former police officers, they are to New Zealand society what the Stasi was to former East Germany. That is, they spied on ordinary New Zealanders going about their lawful business. They spied and recorded conversations.

There are suggestions that their activities were illegal.

If so, you can be certain of the outcome.

They will not be prosecuted.

Remember: they were serving the Untouchables. A prosecution could open up a can of worms, implicating Police, National party former ministers, government department heads, etc.

That cannot be allowed to happen. That is why these people are Untouchable.

More than ever, we see why the surveillance powers of the State cannot be allowed to be extended. In fact, why surveillance powers should be wound back. The State cannot be trusted.

Bogeyman of The Year:

The Great Huawei Scare.

There is simply no credible evidence that Huawei has been spying on the West through it’s technology. None.

Despite searching for concrete examples, this blogger has found nothing to prove any wrongdoing by the Chinese company. If evidence exists, it has not been made public.

Former head of the United States’ Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Hayden, has regularly beaten the Evil Huawei drum stating that “… at a minimum, Huawei would have shared with the Chinese state intimate and extensive knowledge of the foreign telecommunications systems it is involved with. I think that goes without saying”.

He claims evidence exists that Huawei is spying for the Chinese government. He has not shared that evidence to support his allegations, saying;

“That’s my professional judgement. But as the former director of the NSA, I cannot comment on specific instances of espionage or any operational matters.”

The previous year, a leaked report from the White House in 2012 confirmed there was no evidence of Huawei Technologies Ltd spying for China.

As Karl Bode pointed out, writing for The Motherboard;

The problem: nobody has provided a shred of hard evidence that the company has done anything wrong, raising the question of whether this is glorified protectionism hiding behind the banner of national security.

And from Techdirt;

The constant allegations ultimately scuttled Huawei’s attempt to bring more gear competition to the United States market, blocked Huawei’s potential bid on a nationwide U.S. first responder network, and the United States has since been working hard to ensure that other countries don’t use Huawei gear either.

So that’s it: the bogeyman of Huawei as an unproven spy for the Chinese government remains just that: unproven.

But that didn’t stop  our own Coalition government from jumping on the US Imperial bandwagon. In November this year, citing non-specific, undisclosed information from the GCSB, the Coalition government blocked New Zealand companies like Spark from using Huawei technology to upgrade this country’s telecommunications system to 5G.

It appears that our country, led by the current Labour-NZ First-Green coalition, has sided with the United States in their ongoing trade war with China. As if the anti-nuclear stand we took in 1985 never took place, we are once again a vassal state of the American Empire.

But irony of ironies, it is not Huawei that has been spying on the West;

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Ooops!

Does the Coalition government really want to engage with the US in  McCarthyist-style fear-mongering against China? Especially when it’s all for a damned Trade War?!

The US is being beaten at its own capitalist game (after decades of fighting communism and successfully triumphant in the late 1980s) and now our American cuzzies are using underhand tactics to constrain Chinese-style capitalism?

What on Earth could we possibly have to gain in such a mad, Quixotic venture?

Worst Performing Party of The Year:

Without any doubt or close runner-up, that would have to be National. They still haven’t come to grips with being a Loyal Opposition Party of Her Majesty, and instead have engaged in nationwide tours and spreading misinformation (ie, outright lies) on social media and msm.

This is what desperation looks and smells like.

Most irrelevant Party of the Year:

I hate to say it (disclosure: I supported the Green Party at the ballot box), but the Green Party have become practically invisible or seemingly captured by neo-liberal constraints. The fiasco over permitting water bottling rights and exports for foreign-owned companies was the nadir of Green participation in this coalition.

And Julie Anne-Genter’s response to an OIA request I lodged with her in May (2018) dodging my questions on issues relating to the Mt Messenger Bypass was straight out of John Key’s rule-book for fudging responses to official information requests. (More on this in an upcoming story on this issue.)

This is not how we envisaged the Green Party to behave in government.

Best Suggestion from the Right:

From right-wing commentator, Matthew Hooten, on Radio NZ’s Nine-To-Noon political panel on 17 December: for Radio New Zealand to implement regular political polling.

Polling has become sporadic, resulting in an unclear picture of where parties stand in public opinion. The recent Colmar Brunton-TVNZ poll was apparently wildly at variance with internal polling by both Labour and National (though Bridges preferred the Colmar Brunton poll, as it showed National in a more favourable light).

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Regular polling by Radio NZ, using a reputable company, would add to an overall better picture of our political environment. Internal polling by political parties is rarely made public, and only then when it shows one particular party in a favourable position, as Matthew pointed out.

One hopes that the mandarins at Radio NZ take serious consideration of Matthew’s suggestion. It should not be casually dismissed.

Most Irrelevant Media:

Free-to-air television. One can stomach only so much “reality programmes” and crime stories before the “off” switch is employed. The best tv is now behind paywalls; Netflix, Lightbox, Neon, HBO, etc.

Documentaries – especially those of a political nature – are as rare as Donald Trump’s integrity. The last critical documentary on New Zealand’s political state was Bryan Bruce’s expose on our housing crisis, ‘Who Owns New Zealand Now?” in September 2017. Before that, Bryan’s look at our income/wealth gap, “Inside Child Poverty“.

Ironically, both were broadcast by Mediaworks/TV3 – the same company that notoriously closed down the highly acclaimed Campbell Live and replaced it with garbage.

Since those two docos, New Zealanders have had little opportunity to see the state of their nation critically examined on our major free-to-air television networks. This has been left largely up to Radio NZ, and occassional stories on social issues on TV3’s The Nation and TVNZ’s Q+A.

We are operating in a near vacuum when it comes to seeing ourselves.

Twin Avoidable Tragedies of The Year:

The ongoing bombing of Yemen in a regional power-play between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia is armed by the West – predominantly the US, whilst Iran is supported by Russia and China. This is the resuscitated Cold War mentality at it’s bloodiest.

Add to that regional bloodbath Trump’s determination to sell Saudi Arabia billions of dollars of weaponry to help the ailing American capitalist system, and we have a moral vacuum of epic, evil proportions.

Consider that Saudi Arabia – considered a rogue state by many –  is acting as a Mercenary-Enforcer for the American Empire. Consider if Russia or China, both arms-suppliers to North Korea,  then encouraged that rogue state to rampage through their region bombing neighbouring countries. Imagine the response from the West – especially the United States.

World War Three would be one mouse-click away.

So much for Trump declaring he wanted to “drain the swamp”. The swamp known as the military-industrial complex – which is reliant on exporting lethal weapons of highly destructive power to eager client-states – remains as toxically noisome as ever.

Corporate America’s Man in the Oval Office is performing as expected.

Second Candidate for Prosecution by the International Court of Justice:

Benjamin  Netanyahu, for crimes against the Palestinian people.

First Candidate for Prosecution by the International Court of Justice:

Prince Mohammed bin Salman, for atrocities committed in Yemen.

Runner-up First Candidate for Prosecution by the International Court of Justice:

President Trump. For being a dick.

Clusterfuck of The Year:

The extensive media coverage given to two neo-fascists from Canada, whose names I forget, and I can’t be arsed Googling them.

Surely we have better ways of dealing with repulsive individuals who express repulsive opinions?

A note to ourselves: freedom of speech is one thing. It doesn’t mean we are obligated to listen. We have freedom to listen – or not to listen. It cuts both ways.

Moronic F**kwits of The Year:

There is a sub-species of humans (and I use the term “human” in it’s broadest possible context) whose intellect I question and their standard of behaviour I condemn as selfish/ignorant beyond understanding.

These are people who wilfully destroy native trees simply because (a) it somehow benefits them personally and (b) they can.

The people of New Plymouth, Arkles Bay on the North Shore, and Opito Bay near Kerikeri have all suffered at the hands of individuals who, I submit, should forfeit their right to live in this country;

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If those responsible fail to appreciate New Zealand’s beautiful tree-filled landscape, my message to these morons is simple: bugger off to Australia’s central desert. You’ll love the desolation of that tree-less environment.

Ongoing Legacy Scandal of The Year:

Homelessness.

Child poverty.

The working poor.

This is what we have to show for 30-odd years of the neo-liberal experiment.The ‘trickle down’ theory has a distinctly urine-odour to it.

Time to close down the show, folks. Our dabbling in the so-called “free market/minimalist government” has been tried and has been a spectacular epic fail for 90% of us. (The other 10% say “Thank you for increasing our wealth, let’s do it again sometime, real soon!”)

It’s time to return to our normal scheduling of social programmes: free education; free healthcare; state housing for everyone who needs a roof over their heads; strong State involvement in planning and building infra-structure… the list can be added to as necessary.

Neo-libs, free marketeers, globalists – please look the other way.

Scam of The Year:

Without a doubt, and beating hands-down the anti-vaxxers and anti-flouridationists, the anti-1080 brigade for their “live theatre” involving dead native birds *NOT* killed by 1080.

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Based on little more than emotive sensationalism with an unhealthy dose of quasi-religious fanaticism, the anti-1080 “movement” are to fact-based science what sugar-laden cereals and “muesli health bars” are to our children.

Best avoided.

Spawned from the hunting lobby’s misinformation to protect their pet quarry (only hunters should be able to shoot and kill pigs, deer, thar, etc, not DoC), the anti-1080 protestors could be as much of a threat to our native birdlife and reptiles as rats, mice, stoats, possum, hedgehogs, et al.

Never under-estimate human stupidity. It rivals our ability to split the atom, send robot probes to the stars, and create magnificent works of art and literature.

Lesson of The Year:

If there was one, salient, sobering lesson of the year, it was this;

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Mother of student who died from meningococcal B calls for free nationwide vaccinations (Newshub, 27 November 2018)

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The mother of a Victoria University student who died from meningococcal B is calling on the Government to subsidise vaccinations across New Zealand.

On Monday, Health Minister Dr David Clark announced that from December children and teenagers in Northland would be vaccinated to deal with a dangerous meningococcal outbreak.

The three-week programme will include free vaccinations for children between nine months and four years of age, as well as teenagers. The vaccines will be distributed from clinics set up in some high schools and community centres across the region.

But Tarsha Boniface, whose daughter died from the disease, said free vaccinations should be made available nationwide.

“Surely there should be some sort of [subsidy] for everyone in New Zealand, not just in Northland. Just to help, it’s such a huge cost, but the cost we put on our children’s lives,” she said.

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Those who promote anti-vaccine dogma (much of it based of “alternative facts”) are not the ones in the Intensive Care Ward who will face distraught parents to give them the unbearable news that no parent will ever want to hear.

The lesson is clear: vaccinate or risk your children contracting a lethal disease. It’s that simple.

Pet Peeve of The Year:

At around Christmas/New Year, usually extending to Wellington Anniversary (21 January in 2019) Day, Radio NZ’s serious news and current affairs programmes are replaced with “light and frothy” infotainment, plus a couple of goofy characters in the afternoons who remind me of “Ben and Jono”, and who would not be out of place on commercial breakfast radio. (At least that gives me time to catch up on replaying my favourite music CDs in the car…)

So for three weeks there is nothing happening in New Zealand? Coupled with that the absence of Q+A and The Nation, we have pretty much achieved a full news and current affairs blackout. The politicians and bureaucrats must *LOVE* this time of the year.

Luckily for private investigators Thompson and Clark, Southern Response bureaucrats, former earthquake recovery minister Gerry Brownlee, et al, that the story of spying on New Zealand citizens  broke so close to Christmas.

That let Thompson and Clark, Southern Response, Gerry Brownlee, et al, clean off the hook.

Bullet dodged.

If Trump decides to nuke North Korea, Iran, or China, would we hear anything further than a brief 30 second item on the hourly news?

People deserve better than a news and current affairs vacuum. Radio NZ, which pretty much sets news and current affairs standards in this country, needs to lift its game. This is not good enough.

Political Wank of The Year:

Again, Simon Bridges.

This time for wanting to re-open offshore oil and gas drilling exploration – whilst at the same time supporting the setting up of a Climate Change Commission;

“We will be signing up, we will be working hard on an independent Climate Change Commission that is non-political and that is an enduring framework for how we approach and get advice for future governments on climate change.”

So let’s get this straight. Mr Bridges wants to re-open offshore oil an gas exploration?

But he also supports a Climate Change Commission from which he will seek advice?

(See where I’m going with this?)

So question for Mr Bridges: what will he do if the Climate Change Commission advises him not to proceed with new offshore oil and gas exploration?

He would ignore such advice, needless to say. Which means the proposed Climate Change Commission and it’s “advice” would be as useful as tits and a Bendon bra on a bull. (But way more expensive for tax-payers. In effect, we’d be shovelling our hard earned taxes into a Climate Change Commission whose advice would be utterly ignored by Mr Bridges.)

Have I left anything out?

Hypocrite #1 of the Year:

Mike “Rich Masterbator in a Maserati” Hosking. For railing in support of free speech for those two Canadian neo-fascists – and then railing to keep Chelsea Manning banned from speaking in New Zealand.

This one will follow him whenever he utters “free speech” again.

Hypocrite #2 of The Year:

Maggie Barry.

She excoriated Jami Lee Ross as if he were one of the late Saddam Hussein’s poison gas chemists, condemning his “bullying behahaviour” on Twitter;

“What a disloyal disgrace this flawed & isolated individual has become. Having now read the PWC report I personally believe the unpleasant & bullying pattern of behaviour of Jami Lee Ross has no place in an otherwise united National Caucus under our leader Simon Bridges.”

Then it was revealed that two of her electorate staffers laid complaints with Ministerial Services over her bad behaviour;

“She would swear at me and blame me for mistakes she had made … she would call staff stupid, tell them that she couldn’t believe they’d been given a degree, she’d talk about their sexuality behind their back.

It was Jekyll and Hyde stuff. It was terrifying at times. It rocketed from absurd one moment to terrifying the next. She would be absolutely lovely and then a small thing would trigger her and she’d be absolutely furious, just red-hot fury.”

The woman kills weeds in her garden simply by screaming at them to die.

Best Feminist of The Year:

Lizzie Marvelly.

Simply one of the most insightful, articulate, and compassionate feminist commentator we’ve seen in this country for a long time. Her criticisms of sexist behaviour is done with grace, dignity, and often with subtle humour.

Her surname is apt. She is a national taonga.

Finally. The #1 threat to human civilisation on Planet Earth:

Climate change.

Nothing has changed (for the better). As a species we continue to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like nothing untoward is happening.

Despite the hard science; despite the data from NASA satellites, NOAA oceanic sensor buoys; ice core samples from Vostok Antarctica Station; rising CO2 and yearly temperatures; increasingly aberant weather patterns – world leaders move at glacial speed. In fact, glaciers are melting faster than world leaders are taking steps to address this critical crisis confronting humanity.

The final act of the capitalist/industrial system is about to end  and the curtain fall on the close of the Anthropocene Era.

The last returning astronaut to Earth won’t discover a Planet of the Apes. He will find a drowned graveyard.

Unless our children decide to act once my generation dies out. They may be the last hope for our species.

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References

Radio NZ: Thompson and Clark probe – all you need to know

NZ Herald: Damning report confirms Government agencies used private investigators for spying

Motherboard: There’s No Public Evidence Huawei Spies on Americans, But the Company Is Getting Blackballed Anyway

Business Insider: Huawei Spies For China, Says Former NSA And CIA Chief Michael Hayden

Reuters: White House review finds no evidence of spying by Huawei – sources

Techdirt: US – We Have No Evidence Or Credibility On This Whatsoever, But Don’t Use Huawei Because China Might Spy On You

NZ Herald: New Zealand halts Huawei from 5G upgrade over security fears

NZ Herald: Pat Pilcher – US caught spying on Huawei

Mediaworks/Newshub: Simon Bridges’ roadshow cash splash: $113k in taxpayer money on limos and hotels

The Spinoff: Simon Bridges needs to stop pandering to the alt-right on the Global Compact

Fairfax media: Green Party members revolt over water bottling decision

Radio NZ: PM admits Govt uses delaying tactics

Radio NZ: Nine to Noon – A year in politics with Hooton & Mills

TVNZ: National surpasses Labour in latest 1 NEWS Colmar Brunton poll

Fairfax media: Housing crisis documentary pulls no punches on eve of election

Youtube: Who Owns New Zealand Now?

Youtube: Inside Child Poverty

Pacific Media Centre: NZ – Campbell Live wins award for Samoa tsunami money investigation

Washington Post: Trump again uses arms sales to justify Saudi ties, dragging U.S. defense contractors into an unwelcome debate

Fairfax media: New growth detected on pohutukawa after attempted poisoning

TVNZ News: ‘Terrible vandalism’ – Auckland seaside residents fear local behind pohutukawa tree poisoning

Radio NZ: Pōhutukawa poisoned at Northland’s Opito Bay

Scoop media: Dead birds at Parliament were not killed by 1080 – autopsy

Mediaworks/Newshub: Mother of student who died from meningococcal B calls for free nationwide vaccinations

Radio NZ: Nats change tune on commission for climate change

NewstalkZB: What happened to free speech in this country?

NZHerald: Chelsea Manning is a crook, keep her out of NZ

Twitter: Maggie Barry – Jami Lee Ross – 15 October 2018

Radio NZ:  Maggie Barry bullying claims: Ex-staffer speaks out

Previous related blogposts

2018 – the year that weirdly was (1)

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This blogpost was first published on The Daily Blog on 1 January 2019.

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