MORE POSTURING BY GOFF


If anyone really believed that Phil Goff, a politician who has enthusiastically embraced neoliberalism throughout his parliamentary career, was about to set Labour on a new course, they would of been sorely disappointed by the content of his 'Keynote' speech

Some of Labour's more uncritical supporters have praised the speech but they would of still praised Goff if he had stood up and done some magic tricks and told a few jokes. There is not a lot of intellectual vigour at work here.

For the rest of us Goff's speech was more about political posturing in the hope of reviving Labour's flagging fortunes. Goff comes across as not a particularly good second hand car salesman trying to sell us a clapped out old Cortina. It might have had a new lick of paint but its still a clapped out old Cortina.

That's the Labour Party for you - its running on empty while being driven by a leader who thinks socialism is an infectious disease.

Goff wants us to believe that Labour has 'gone back to its roots' and that it has rediscovered the working class. But if you look at the Labour Party you will see its basically the same old crowd that pursued such vehemently anti-working class policies while it was in government.

Let's consider some of the names. Trevor Mallard. Clayton Cosgrove. Lianne Dalziel. Pete Hodgson. They hardly conjure up images of a reinvigorated Party storming the citadels of capitalism. But they do conjure up images of chummy meetings with business 'leaders'.

It was during the nine years of the Clark Government that New Zealand's level of inequality actually accelerated. Goff didn't seem particularly bothered about it at the time. In fact you can probably Google up Phil Goff defending the Clark Government's economic policies.

Now Goff, a champion of the free market, wants us to believe that he's on the side of working people.

Goff says he wants am economy that 'serves the needs of the many and not the few' but there was nothing in Goff's speech that says that Labour is going to reject neoliberalism. Goff might have had a go at social liberalism but neoliberalism remains off-limits.

Indeed, why should we expect anything else? Goff is on record as saying that he thinks there is no alternative to the free market and he regards Labour's traditional Keynesian-based social democracy as an historical anachronism.

All he wants to do is tinker around the edges: a bit more investment here, a little rejigging of monetary policy there. That's all, folks.

But - wait - there's more! Well, actually, there isn't.

If this speech is any indication of things to come, Goff's strategy is to cherry pick a few populist issues (like capping the salaries of public service CEOs) in the hope it'll attract back some of the working class vote that has deserted Labour.

During its nine years in office, the Clark Government implemented a few cosmetic 'reforms’, such as meagre increases to the minimum wage, and changes to industrial law. Fundamentally though it did nothing to upset business interests. As a result New Zealand's level of inequality rose rapidly with some of the highest levels of poverty in the OECD.

There has been no acknowledgement of any of this by Goff and nor will there ever be because he plans to pursue the same economic policies again - if he ever gets the chance that is.

SIDESHOW BOB AND 'THE HOUSE OF HORRORS' 3


Mayor Sideshow Bob normally never turns down a chance to get himself on television but he did today.

Television One News wanted to asked him some questions relating to the 'House of Horrors' but Sideshow declined the offer to appear on camera.

This issue is rapidly turning into another embarrassing debacle for Sideshow. It can be filed along his other debacles including the Henderson bailout, illegally trying to put council rents up a massive 24 percent and attempting to wreck the much-loved Arts Centre by plonking a big concrete monstrosity in the middle of it.

Not long after the women's bodies were found in the 'House of Horrors' Sideshow was all over the media and claiming that the Christchurch City Council wanted to buy the Aranui house in order to create a memorial park.

However he has been backsliding ever since Gisborne couple Christina and Jason Drain came knocking on his mayoral door.

The Drains owned the semi-detached that adjoined the 'House of Horrors'.

They still owe more than $130,000 on the property and all they have been left with is a big pile of rubble -and the Christchurch City Council expects them to pay for its removal. They face the heartbreaking prospect of having to sell the family home.

Sideshow Bob has claimed he would like to help them but, so far, he hasn't actually managed to do anything to assist them.

Back in early January Sideshow Bob, ignoring the plight of Drains, said he wasn't about to get 'into direct discussions with anybody at this stage.'

Some three weeks later Television One News wanted to know what Sideshow Bob had done abut helping out the Drain family.

Sideshow wouldn't be interviewed on camera. This is not altogether surprising since he would have had to admit on national television he hasn't lifted a finger to help the Drain family. He's done nothing.

However he did have some news for the Drain family - and it ain't good news.

According to Sideshow Bob if the Christchurch City Council do decide to compensate the Drains they will only pay them for the land - which will leave the family still substantially out of pocket and still facing the prospect of having to sell the family home in Gisborne.

HOWARD ZINN IS DEAD



I was sad to learn that Howard Zinn passed away today, aged 87.

Zinn is the author of for A People's History of the United States and more than a dozen other books, Along with Noam Chomsky, he was perhaps the best known representative of the American left.

This obituary is from the Huffington Post.

HOWARD ZINN DEAD, AGED 87
Howard Zinn, an author, teacher and political activist whose leftist A People's History of the United States became a million-selling alternative to mainstream texts and a favorite of such celebrities as Bruce Springsteen and Ben Affleck, died Wednesday. He was 87.

Zinn died of a heart attack in Santa Monica, Calif., daughter Myla Kabat-Zinn said. The historian was a resident of Auburndale, Mass.

Published in 1980 with little promotion and a first printing of 5,000, A People's History was – fittingly – a people's best-seller, attracting a wide audience through word of mouth and reaching 1 million sales in 2003. Although Zinn was writing for a general readership, his book was taught in high schools and colleges throughout the country, and numerous companion editions were published, including Voices of a People's History, a volume for young people and a graphic novel

At a time when few politicians dared even call themselves liberal, A People's History told an openly left-wing story. Zinn charged Christopher Columbus and other explorers with genocide, picked apart presidents from Andrew Jackson to Franklin D. Roosevelt and celebrated workers, feminists and war resisters.

Even liberal historians were uneasy with Zinn. Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. once said: "I know he regards me as a dangerous reactionary. And I don't take him very seriously. He's a polemicist, not a historian."

In a 1998 interview with The Associated Press, Zinn acknowledged he was not trying to write an objective history, or a complete one. He called his book a response to traditional works, the first chapter – not the last – of a new kind of history.

"There's no such thing as a whole story; every story is incomplete," Zinn said. "My idea was the orthodox viewpoint has already been done a thousand times."

A People's History
had some famous admirers, including Matt Damon and Affleck. The two grew up near Zinn, were family friends and gave the book a plug in their Academy Award-winning screenplay for Good Will Hunting. When Affleck nearly married Jennifer Lopez, Zinn was on the guest list.

Oliver Stone was a fan, as well as Springsteen, whose bleak Nebraska album was inspired in part by A People's History. The book was the basis of a 2007 documentary, Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, and even showed up on The Sopranos, in the hand of Tony's son, A.J.

Zinn himself was an impressive-looking man, tall and rugged with wavy hair. An experienced public speaker, he was modest and engaging in person, more interested in persuasion than in confrontation.

Born in New York in 1922, Zinn was the son of Jewish immigrants who as a child lived in a rundown area in Brooklyn and responded strongly to the novels of Charles Dickens. At age 17, urged on by some young Communists in his neighborhood, he attended a political rally in Times Square.

"Suddenly, I heard the sirens sound, and I looked around and saw the policemen on horses galloping into the crowd and beating people. I couldn't believe that," he told the AP.

"And then I was hit. I turned around and I was knocked unconscious. I woke up sometime later in a doorway, with Times Square quiet again, eerie, dreamlike, as if nothing had transpired. I was ferociously indignant. ... It was a very shocking lesson for me."

War continued his education. Eager to help wipe out the Nazis, Zinn joined the Army Air Corps in 1943 and even persuaded the local draft board to let him mail his own induction notice. He flew missions throughout Europe, receiving an Air Medal, but he found himself questioning what it all meant. Back home, he gathered his medals and papers, put them in a folder and wrote on top: "Never again."
"I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president – which means, in our time, a dangerous president – unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction."

He attended New York University and Columbia University, where he received a doctorate in history. In 1956, he was offered the chairmanship of the history and social sciences department at Spelman College, an all-black women's school in then-segregated Atlanta.

During the civil rights movement, Zinn encouraged his students to request books from the segregated public libraries and helped coordinate sit-ins at downtown cafeterias. Zinn also published several articles, including a then-rare attack on the Kennedy administration for being too slow to protect blacks.

He was loved by students – among them a young Alice Walker, who later wrote The Color Purple – but not by administrators. In 1963, Spelman fired him for "insubordination." (Zinn was a critic of the school's non-participation in the civil rights movement.) His years at Boston University were marked by opposition to the Vietnam War and by feuds with the school's president, John Silber.

Zinn retired in 1988, spending his last day of class on the picket line with students in support of an on-campus nurses' strike. Over the years, he continued to lecture at schools and to appear at rallies and on picket lines.

Besides A People's History, Zinn wrote several books, including The Southern Mystique, LaGuardia in Congress and the memoir, You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train, the title of a 2004 documentary about Zinn that Damon narrated. He also wrote three plays.

One of Zinn's last public writings was a brief essay, published last week in The Nation, about the first year of the Obama administration.

"I've been searching hard for a highlight," he wrote, adding that he wasn't disappointed because he never expected a lot from Obama.

"I think people are dazzled by Obama's rhetoric, and that people ought to begin to understand that Obama is going to be a mediocre president – which means, in our time, a dangerous president – unless there is some national movement to push him in a better direction."

Zinn's longtime wife and collaborator, Roslyn, died in 2008. They had two children, Myla and Jeff.

THE JOKE IS ON US


Between 1982 and the mid-1990s real wages fell in New Zealand some 25 percent and have never recovered.

Wages today remain a massive 25 percent below their 1982 peak - shortly before the Fourth Labour Government ushered in some 25 years of neoliberalism.

The argument from the 'free market' hacks was that if 'we' all tightened our belts and took only 'modest' wage increases then we would all benefit in the end - sometime over the horizon, in the 'medium term' to quote Roger Douglas.

However the official figures show that productivity increased by 80 percent between 1978 and 2008. So we produced more but got paid less for working harder.

I mention all this because Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson has been talking similar garbage to justify a derisory increase in the minimum wage from $12.50 to $12.75 an hour.

Wilkinson says in her snivelling press release: ''The Government is working hard to provide the right environment for economic growth and ensuring workers can maintain the buying power of their wages is part of that.'

Sound familiar?

Yes, New Zealand workers are expected to wear a next-to-nothing increase in the minimum wage in order to 'provide the right environment for economic growth'. This will presumably arrive in the 'medium term'.

We've been fed this tripe from both National and Labour Governments for the past quarter of a century. A QUARTER OF A CENTURY! Isn't it about time we said that we're not going to be fooled again?

And while the politicians and their lackeys are never short of dollar or two (a lot of it hiding in trusts) the joke is really on us because there is no pot of gold at the end of the neoliberal rainbow - just another politician calling for 'belt tightening' and 'wage restraint'.

This wage 'increase' - which works out to be approximately six dollars a week in the hand - does nothing to address the growing level of economic inequality and the growing levels of debt and poverty. Yet to add insult to injury , the New Zealand working class may well be hit with an increase in GST to fund tax cuts for business and the well-heeled.

It's no good Labour's Trevor Mallard saying that Labour will be campaigning to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour over two years.

This is little more than political grandstanding.

Mallard painting himself as a champion of the working class is just grotesque given the track record of Labour while it held the reins of power.

CTU president Helen Kelly says the increase is 'mean'. So what are you going to do about it, Ms Kelly?

Will the bureaucrats in Combined Trades Union show some political spine and mount an industrial campaign against the Government or will they do nothing - as usual?

WHY SO SILENT?


Imagine if President George Bush, under cloak of providing 'humanitarian aid', sent some 20,000 military troops to Haiti in order to defend and maintain American dominance in that country - a country it has exploited for nearly a century. Imagine if these same American troops deliberately denied relief workers from entering the country because they came from Cuba and Venezuela. Imagine if these same American troops also closed the main Haitian airport for nearly three hours just so the Secretary of State could have a photo opportunity.

Yes, you can well imagine the howls of outrage on liberal blogs like The Standard and Tumeke.

But it's not George Bush who is making Haiti 'safe' for America, it's Barack Obama. This may go some way to explaining why a strange and eerie silence has fallen on these blogs on all things Haitian.

Tumeke's only real contribution has been to lampoon crazy old Pat Robertson's comments about Haiti while The Standard has ran an innocuous post about donating to the Haitian Appeal.

But there has been no analysis -let alone criticism - of the United States military intervention in the stricken Caribbean country.

Is it because they are reluctant to speak out against a American president who they have largely portrayed as the great liberal hope for the world?

Here's 'Edie' of the Labour Party talking about Obama on The Standard in January last year:

President Obama means you can feel slightly better in the knowledge that fewer children of the world are being maimed or killed. Yes, in charge of the world’s most powerful state, Obama means a more liberal and internationalist ideology will dominate international affairs. It means less war, fewer deaths, more humanitarianism, and more diplomacy.

Given Obama's performance in Afghanistan, and now Haiti, I wonder if 'Edie' is feeling a little foolish for engaging in such empty-headed adulation?

Is it a case that if 'Edie' and co can't find anything positive to say about Obama they will just say nothing? It seems to be that way when it comes to Haiti.

HOPELESS IN HAITI


TV3's Mike McRoberts spent a week in Haiti and, like the rest of the New Zealand mainstream media, has resolutely ignored the fact that the United States is engaged in the military occupation of this unfortunate country. Indeed by the end of this weekend the United States is expected to have 20,000 military troops on land and on ships moored off the Haitian coast.

It has also been reported that a unit originally scheduled to be deployed to either Iraq or Afghanistan is now being sent to the Caribbean country.

Humanitarian aid and medical teams have accused the US military—which has asserted unilateral control over the country’s airport and port facilities—of making the deployment of troops and the evacuation of US citizens from Haiti its first priorities.

All of this has seemingly escaped McRoberts notice.

However on his blog on the TV3 website McRoberts has cast himself in the role of a crusading journalist - a 'friend' to the Haitian people no less.

'Clearly I have no problem with journalists stepping into a story,' McRoberts writes. The whole 'a journalist must stay detached' stuff is just crap.'

His comments were in response to suggestions in some media quarters that it was inappropriate for him to have carried a six-year-old Haitian girl around hospital grounds to receive the right medical treatment.

'I've always said that I'm a human being first and a journalist second, and if I'm in a position to help someone I will.' writes McRoberts.

This incident raised questions among some in the media about 'the rules of engagement'

Wrote one columnist in the NZ Herald:

'Should news reporters adhere to the strict journalistic standards of objectivity and non-intervention and remain impartial bystanders and witnesses, merely reporting and recording the facts? Or should they put down their microphones and cameras and offer their assistance?'

This debate though has entirely missed the point about McRoberts activities in Haiti.

He is certainly no John Pilger or Robert Fisk or Michael Moore.

McRoberts completely failed to report on how nearly a hundred years of economic and political oppression - driven by the United States- have exacerbated the crisis in Haiti.

He waxed lyrically about Haiti's poverty but he never once asked what were the factors that had led to this grinding poverty. Instead he could be heard uttering banalities about Haiti being 'a country that took one step forward and two steps back.' I still don't know what he means by this. Was he saying that Haiti itself was to blame for its dire economic circumstances?

Secondly McRoberts failed to report on the military occupation of Haiti by the United States.

In the end he ended up as just another apologist for the United States and the activities of its military.

He may of carried a young Haitian girl to hospital but, ultimately, he failed the Haitian people by his failure to ask questions about the economic and political factors that have contributed to Haiti's plight and also by his failure to ask why the US military were pouring into the beleaguered country.

McRoberts thinks that its crap that a journalist must stay detached - and I agree with him - but in Haiti he clearly wasn't prepared to question the economic and political motives of the Obama administration.

DOLE FIGURES RISE AGAIN


The Government have been peddling 'the recession is over' message for some time now and it must be disappointing for John Key and co that reality keeps crashing his carefully manufactured illusion that everything is just dandy in little old New Zealand and, hey, neoliberalism does work!

It just doesn't help though when 2500 people apply for 150 minimum wage jobs at a South Auckland supermarket. Some of the folk queued for seven hours just for the opportunity to fill in an application form.

This is not a sign of a economy coming out of recession and its significant that the government has chosen not to talk about what happened in South Auckland yesterday.

Okay, it was in South Auckland - apparently home to lifestyles straight out of Outrageous Fortune according to one commentator who should know better - but it would be really stretching it a bit far for John Key or Paula Bennett - or even the unpleasant John Tamihere - to claim that these 2500 people are simply trapped in a 'welfare dependency culture'.

So best to say nothing and wait a few days before recommencing bashing beneficiaries.

What the government couldn't avoid commenting on though is the latest official unemployment figures which show that the number of the people on the unemployment benefit rose by 13 percent in December.

66,328 people were receiving the Unemployment Benefit at the end of December 2009 up from 58,541 in November.

It's kind of embarrassing for John Key who said at the end of last year: ‘My message to New Zealanders is I think they can feel a bit more confident as they go into Christmas that their jobs will be retained.’

It's a big rise in unenployment but the figures are only the tip of the iceberg. They do not include the people who have simply given up looking for work and nor do they include the large number of people who are underemployed - people who cannot get enough paid work hours.

Last time I looked, in November, the number of people in part time or casual work who actually want fulltime jobs rose to 24.4 per cent (122,000 people), from 16.5 per cent a year previously.

Paula Bennett's response to the new unemployment figures can only be described as ludicrous.

In the same sentence she claims that a 'economic recovery' is underway but - get this - unemployment will continue to rise.

So factories and businesses will continue to shed workers but the economy is not in the poo, Paula? How does this work exactly? Is this a 'recovery' where no new jobs are created? Does Bennett have any idea at all about what's going on?

No wonder the Labour Party have demanded that Bennett just stop with the excuses.

Of course the Labour Party does not get a 'get out of jail' card just because John Key and Paula Bennett have no answers to the unemployment crisis.

To repeat what I wrote in November:

Because there is a political vacuum on the left, the National-led Government is not being confronted by the kind of aggressive political opposition that is sorely needed. More so its not being confronted by a organised opposition that is advocating a clear alternative to neoliberalism. And I don't mean an economic alternative that is a mix of neoliberalism and 'Keynesian lite' policies which seems to be the CTU's docile position these days.

It's clear that neoliberalism cannot provide New Zealanders with a secure economic future but its also abundantly clear that neither the Labour Party or the Combined Trades Union have anything to offer other than more platitudes and rhetoric.


Despite the talk about Phil Goff moving the Labour Party leftwards, this remains true today.

SOMEONE TELL MIKE MCROBERTS - THERE'S A MILITARY CLAMPDOWN HAPPENING IN HAITI

Although the New Zealand mainstream media continues to pretend otherwise, the American militarisation of Haiti is well under way.

And it has begun to raise alarm bells elsewhere.

French Cooperation Minister Alain Joyandet took a swipe at the Obama Administration on Monday when he said that the United States was giving priority to its own military and relief flights ahead of other nations' aid flights. Joyandet, a member of Sarkozy's ruling UMP party, went as far as demanding a U.N. investigation into U.S. aid efforts.

'This is about helping Haiti, not about occupying Haiti,' Joyandet said.

French President Sarkozy was quick to step in and grovel to the United States, declaring that it had an 'essential role' to play in Haiti.

Despite Hillary Clinton's attempts to highlight the United States 'humanitarian' motives, the United States has poured thousands of troops into Haiti and taken control of its main airport.

On the back of independent reports that the American military were blocking Cuba and Venezuelan relief workers from using the airport, both France and Brazil have lodged complaints that the United States is giving priority to its own military aircraft.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has spoken out about the American agenda in Haiti.

'I read that 3,000 soldiers are arriving, Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals, that's what the United States should send," Chavez said. 'They are occupying Haiti undercover.'

The New Zealand media has chosen to ignore the buildup of the American military, with both TV1 and TV3 particularly blatant in toeing the US line.

TV3's Mike McRoberts ,who is actually in Haiti (see previous post), seems oblivious to what is happening in front of his own eyes. On TV3's six o'clock news last night he could be seen holding a sick child in his arms and, once again, describing how bad things are in Haiti - as if we didn't already know. He seems completely unaware that the United States is in the process of implementing a military clampdown in Haiti. It's either that or he's bought into the American military agenda.

Mike also seems to have other priorities.

On one report he thought it was important that we know that he had to pay 'extra' to get someone to drive him around at night!

US military interventions throughout Latin American are all about the maintenance of subservient national regimes, namely US proxy governments, committed to the Washington's neoliberal policy agenda. This is what is happening in Haiti today and this is what our media has 'filtered' out of its news reports.

WHY IS MIKE MCROBERTS IN HAITI?


TV3 like sending newsreader Mike McRoberts off to far-flung 'trouble spots' and this week the 'I've Been Everywhere Man' is in Haiti.

He may as well remained in TV3's Auckland studios for all the good he's doing.

So far he's told us nothing that we don't already know. On Nightline last night he basically told us that there:

A. There has been an earthquake in Haiti.
B. Many people are dead or injured.
C. An 'international rescue mission' is underway.

Why exactly does McRoberts have to be in Haiti to tell us this? Is his trip just about giving TV3 News some kudos in the ratings battle against TV1? I think it is.

Like the rest of the New Zealand media, McRoberts is ignoring how a century of political and economic oppression - driven by the United States- has contributed to Haiti's plight

Since he is in Haiti, perhaps McRoberts could go and talk with some Haitian activists and find out exactly why thousands of Haitians are living in slums - slums that were flattened by the earthquake.

Perhaps he might like to ask why two million people are living in Port-au-Prince, the capital city, which possessed an infrastructure that had neither been modernised or expanded since the days when it had a population of just 50,000. Could this possibly explain why the city's infrastructure just collapsed in the aftermath of the earthquake? Who is responsible for this?

Any answers Mike or are you just going to continue with your hopeless 'Tourist From Hell' reports? Even the ludicrous Petra Bagust could write this pap.

And the 'noble international rescue mission' is also not so unproblematic as McRoberts seems to think.

It's becoming increasingly clear that Obama's priority in Haiti is maintaining political and economc control.

Immediately after the earthquake, Obama sent in thousands of marines and the 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers (a 10,000 force contingent once in place).These people are armed killers - not humanitarian personnel. It starkly exposed Obama's motives.

More US troops are likely to follow and will be reinforced by UN Blue Helmets and Haitian National Police under Pentagon command. A long-term commitment for militarised control is planned, not humanitarian relief, reminiscent of the 20-year 1915 - 1934 period when US Marines occupied and oppressed the Haitian people.

The US military took over the Port Au Prince airport , reopened it after its brief closure, and set up a temporary air traffic control centre. Military personnel now decide what gets in or out, what's delivered - and how fast

The US military have deliberately slowed the disbursement of arriving search and rescue equipment, supplies, and personnel, As a result, trapped Haitians have perished, whereas a concentrated, sustained airlift, including heavy earthmoving and other equipment, might have saved a lot more lives.

Care to comment, Mike?

There are also independent reports that say Washington is trying to block Cuban and Venezuelan aid workers by refusing them landing permission in Port-au-Prince.

Anything to say about this, Mike?

What has gone unreported in the New Zealand media is that Cuba has been assisting the Haitian people for many years. At the time of the earthquake it had over 400 doctors and healthcare personnel working in Haiti, providing free services. Cuba has trained over 400 Haitian doctors.

And Cuba is a country that has long been blockaded by the United States

I don't imagine any of this will get mentioned in McRoberts news reports. Like the rest of the New Zealand media he is seemingly intent on giving us a sanitised picture of Haiti's misery.

MEDIA DISHONESTY OVER HAITI


The New Zealand media's coverage of the Haiti disaster has been uniformly terrible and has failed to tell the full story about Haiti's misery. It also seems that much of the local blogosphere has joined the conspiracy of silence.

While there has been much coverage of the earthquake itself and the attempts of the 'international community' to 'help' the Haitian people, the media have avoided talking about how the policies and actions of the United States and its allies have contributed significantly to the disaster.

The United States and the 'caring international community' have kept the iron heel of political and economic repression firmly on the throat of Haiti for many years yet our media would have us believe that Barack Obama and co are just trying to help.

For nearly a century, the United States has deliberately and systematically prevented Haiti from rising above its poverty. The excellent article by Peter Hallward (see previous post) provides details of this history of economic injustice.

The United States imposed a neoliberal economic agenda on Haiti and the result has been grinding and unrelenting poverty. Seventy-five percent of the population live on less than two dollars a day. The poor have been crammed into slums that lack even the most basic of necessities. The slums could barely withstand a heavy rainfall, never mind an earthquake.

This is the legacy of capitalism and imperialism.

Yet our media, while glibly talking about Haiti's poverty as if it's just 'there' like the weather, have had nothing to say about the United States making Haiti safe for corporate sweatshops. It has had nothing to say about the US – now appealing for emergency funds – actively blocking more than $500 million in international aid in 2000.

Nor has it had anything to say about the recent food riots which were largely the result of cheap US imports undermining the local food industry.

This political dishonesty has been especially true of the television news. If you relied on either TV1 or TV3 for you're information you would quickly get the impression that Haiti has simply been the unfortunate victim of a 'natural disaster' - and no one is to blame. We are all innocent. We are all just 'trying to help'. At about this point we are given details about where we can send our donations by newsreaders wearing they're 'gravely concerned' faces.

This is political censorship by omission.

The hypocrisy is even more sickening when we remind ourselves that our media has long been a cheerleader for neoliberalism - the same kind of neoliberal economic policies that the United States and the 'international community' has forced on Haiti.

I'm sure that tomorrow morning - while professing his 'concern' for Haiti - neoliberal zealot Paul Henry will not be criticising the economic policies that have been imposed on Haiti, the same kind of policies he supports in this country.

The political dishonesty has also been evident on the blogs as well.

The likes of Tumeke! and The Standard have fired shots at easy targets like US preacher Pat Robertson but they have had nothing to day about how the US-enforced neoliberal agenda has contributed to Haiti's misery.

Could it be because they both support a political party that continues to advocate the very same neoliberal policies for New Zealand?

Perhaps it could also because they continue to support Barack Obama, the so-called 'progressive president'?

In close collaboration with the new UN Special Envoy to Haiti, former President Bill Clinton, Obama has pushed for an economic program familiar to much of the rest of the Caribbean--tourism, textile sweatshops and weakening of state control of the economy through privatisation and deregulation.

It seems that the 'liberal' blogs like Tumeke! and The Standard are just going to keep their mouths shut. Like the corporate media they routinely deride, they are doing their little bit to paint a politically dishonest picture of Haiti and will not talk about the political and economic reasons why Haiti today looks like a war zone - just the reasons they are politically comfortable with.

NEOLIBERALISM'S ROLE IN HAITI'S PLIGHT


Peter Hallward looks at the not-so-natural factors that have contributed to the disaster in Haiti.



Any large city in the world would have suffered extensive damage from an earthquake on the scale of the one that ravaged Haiti's capital city on Tuesday afternoon, but it's no accident that so much of Port-au-Prince now looks like a war zone. Much of the devastation wreaked by this latest and most calamitous disaster to befall Haiti is best understood as another thoroughly manmade outcome of a long and ugly historical sequence.

The country has faced more than its fair share of catastrophes. Hundreds died in Port-au-Prince in an earthquake back in June 1770, and the huge earthquake of 7 May 1842 may have killed 10,000 in the northern city of Cap ­Haitien alone. Hurricanes batter the island on a regular basis, mostly recently in 2004 and again in 2008; the storms of September 2008 flooded the town of Gonaïves and swept away much of its flimsy infrastructure, killing more than a thousand people and destroying many thousands of homes. The full scale of the destruction resulting from this earthquake may not become clear for several weeks. Even minimal repairs will take years to complete, and the long-term impact is incalculable.

What is already all too clear, ­however, is the fact that this impact will be the result of an even longer-term history of deliberate impoverishment and disempowerment. Haiti is routinely described as the "poorest country in the western hemisphere". This poverty is the direct legacy of perhaps the most brutal system of colonial exploitation in world history, compounded by decades of systematic postcolonial oppression.

The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce. Ever since the US invaded and occupied the country in 1915, every serious political attempt to allow Haiti's people to move (in former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide's phrase) "from absolute misery to a dignified poverty" has been violently and deliberately blocked by the US government and some of its allies.

Aristide's own government (elected by some 75% of the electorate) was the latest victim of such interference, when it was overthrown by an internationally sponsored coup in 2004 that killed several thousand people and left much of the population smouldering in resentment. The UN has subsequently maintained a large and enormously expensive stabilisation and pacification force in the country.
The noble "international community" which is currently scrambling to send its "humanitarian aid" to Haiti is largely responsible for the extent of the suffering it now aims to reduce.

Haiti is now a country where, according to the best available study, around 75% of the population "lives on less than $2 per day, and 56% – four and a half million people – live on less than $1 per day". Decades of neoliberal "adjustment" and neo-imperial intervention have robbed its government of any significant capacity to invest in its people or to regulate its economy. Punitive international trade and financial arrangements ensure that such destitution and impotence will remain a structural fact of Haitian life for the foreseeable future.

It is this poverty and powerlessness that account for the full scale of the horror in Port-au-Prince today. Since the late 1970s, relentless neoliberal assault on Haiti's agrarian economy has forced tens of thousands of small farmers into overcrowded urban slums. Although there are no reliable statistics, hundreds of thousands of Port-au-Prince residents now live in desperately sub-standard informal housing, often perched precariously on the side of deforested ravines. The selection of the people living in such places and conditions is itself no more "natural" or accidental than the extent of the injuries they have suffered.

As Brian Concannon, the director of the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, points out: "Those people got there because they or their parents were intentionally pushed out of the countryside by aid and trade policies specifically designed to create a large captive and therefore exploitable labour force in the cities; by definition they are people who would not be able to afford to build earthquake resistant houses." Meanwhile the city's basic infrastructure – running water, electricity, roads, etc – remains woefully inadequate, often non-existent. The government's ability to mobilise any sort of disaster relief is next to nil.

The international community has been effectively ruling Haiti since the 2004 coup. The same countries scrambling to send emergency help to Haiti now, however, have during the last five years consistently voted against any extension of the UN mission's mandate beyond its immediate military purpose. Proposals to divert some of this "investment" towards poverty reduction or agrarian development have been blocked, in keeping with the long-term patterns that continue to shape the ­distribution of international "aid".

The same storms that killed so many in 2008 hit Cuba just as hard but killed only four people. Cuba has escaped the worst effects of neoliberal "reform", and its government retains a capacity to defend its people from disaster. If we are serious about helping Haiti through this latest crisis then we should take this comparative point on board. Along with sending emergency relief, we should ask what we can do to facilitate the self-empowerment of Haiti's people and public institutions. If we are serious about helping we need to stop ­trying to control Haiti's government, to pacify its citizens, and to exploit its economy. And then we need to start paying for at least some of the damage we've already done.

This article is from The Guardian.

REJOINING THE WASHINGTON CLUB


The New Zealand mainstream media has been almost celebratory that this country is hitching its wagon firmly to the foreign policy imperatives of the United States government.

On Friday New Zealand and the United States will formalise an agreement to exchange diplomats on secondment and you can expect to be see glowing, uncritical reports on the television news tomorrow night.

Expect the celebratory mood of the media to go up a gear when Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, announces the re-commencement of joint military exercises.

One of the few commentators not to believe the hype has been Chris Trotter.

In a column he wrote last year he fingered the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Murray McCully, as being responsible driving New Zealand closer to the United States - along with Defence Minister Wayne Mapp and Trade Minister Tim Groser.

Trotter likens McCully's political philosophy to the neo-conservatism of former US Vice President Dick Cheney. He writes:

The Foreign Affairs portfolio, McCully’s reward for giving Key the nod, allows him to pursue (well away from the prying eyes of the news media) his long-held objective of restoring New Zealand to its proper place in the Anglo-Saxon fold. His impatience with the diplomacy of grand moral gestures – epitomised by Kirk’s despatch of a frigate to the French nuclear testing-ground at Mururoa Atoll; Lange’s Nuclear-free legislation; and Clark’s refusal to join the invasion of Iraq – underpins his determination to re-couple New Zealand to the train of its traditional allies.


However Trotter is one of the lone dissenting voices within a media clamouring to rejoin the 'Washington Club'.

McCully, Key and co will be tugging their forelocks in the direction of a woman who features in a new book that hit the American bookstores on Monday.

Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime is about the 2008 presidential candidates, their partners, and various other political players.

Written by political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, the Los Angles Times describes it as 'deeply and knowledgeably reported and presented with all the cool sophistication one would expect from two accomplished political reporters.'

This book paints Hillary Clinton in a very unflattering light.

Some of the charges laid against Clinton include:

- She believed, long after she had conceded, that Obama had stolen the Iowa caucus by importing out-of-state voters. There was no evidence for Clinton's suspicions.

-She was obsessed with finding a mythical recording of Michelle Obama using the slur 'whitey.' Clinton regarded this tape as a ticking time bomb that would derail Obama's bid for the Democrat nomination. She told her aides that the tape represented a 'Game Change.'

-She supported using some nasty tactics against Obama, including the charge that he had once been a drug dealer.

Writes the Politico website:

After Clinton reportedly offered Obama the tersest of congratulations on his victory in Iowa, for instance, one of her 'senior-most lieutenants' is described watching 'her bitter and befuddled reaction, her staggering lack of calm or command.'

Invariably the Clintonites will jump on anyone or anything that is critical of either Hillary or Bill, but this book has been met with a suspicously deafening silence from the Clinton inner circle.

Indeed Hillary Clinton conveniently scheduled a trip to Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea for the same week that the book was published.

LET'S TALK ABOUT ME!


Cameron Slater of the Whale Oil blog says that he is breaking court suppression orders because there is a 'celebrity culture' at work in the New Zealand legal system - if you are a 'celebrity' than you more likely to have you're name suppressed than the ordinary Joe or Joanne Blow.

Yes, Slater implies he's fighting the good fight for all of us poor sods who don't happen to be ex-MP's or ex-Olympic competitors. He's in our side! He wants to help!

The problem is that Slater runs a blog that, rather than displaying a public conscience, routinely defends the rich and famous, the pampered and the privileged. Slater routinely attacks the poor and politically voiceless and obsessively attacks liberals and left wingers.

Although he wants to be known as a rebel, he's just another media cheerleader for the establishment. In Slater's case he doesn't mind resorting to prejudice, smear and vitriol to keep New Zealand safe from commies/pinkos/feminists/lesbians/liberals/John Minto/animal rights activists/environmentalists.

It is a little late in the day for Slater to claim that he has a public conscience, that he's not just a boot boy for the right.

Although he likes to be portray as a working class lad, he comes from a background of wealth and privilege himself.

Slater's father, John, is a former National president, current president of Auckland's Citizens and Ratepayers council bloc, and is a close friend and supporter of present Auckland mayor John Banks.

On his blogging Slater told the Sunday Star Times last year:

'It's not what you write, or how you write; it's not even the content. It's about getting attention.'

Slater would be in trouble if he had to rely on his writing for attention - its generally crude and hamfisted, displaying no subtlety and little thought.

What would talkback radio look like in written form? It would look exactly like Whale Oil. It's not surprising then that right wing talkback host Michael Laws has launched a 'legal defence fund' for Slater, with Laws contributing the first one hundred dollars.

But Slater needs to keep the hits up on his blog and that's why he is deliberately breaking suppression orders. Perhaps his brand of schlock is losing its appeal.

The pressure of 'ratings' has led to Slater displaying a base hypocrisy.

A few days ago hes aid that he did not break an suppression order because the alleged victim was a child.

A few days later he beaks a suppression order involving an ex-MP - the alleged victim is a young girl.

It appears that Slater's need for attention is so great he's has no qualms about dragging a young girl into his machinations.

It's little wonder than Slater has been charged with a breach of s.139(1) of the Criminal Justice Act 1985 - breaching a non-publication order that protects the identity of a rape victim.

This is the last time I will be talking about Cameron Slater on this blog. The guy lives off the oxygen of publicity and I don't intend to contribute to his oxygen supply in the future.

GLENN INWOOD POSES AS GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL


Every time the mainstream media wants a opinion on behalf of the Japanese whaling industry they go to Glen Inwood - who, in 2000, was press secretary for then Immigration Minister, Lianne Dalziel.

He's been in the media the past few days defending the actions of the Japanese whaling ship for ramming the Idy Gil.

Inwood owns Omeka Communications, the Wellington public relations firm that represents the Japanese whaling industry.

In fact Inwood has been doing more than just speaking to the media - he's been posing as an officer of the New Zealand government.

On January 1 Inwood and Chris Johnston from Omeka Communications Zealand chartered a Chieftain aircraft out of Melbourne.

Inwood and Johnston identified themselves as representatives of the New Zealand Government which wanted to find a New Zealand catamaran and the Steve Irwin on the pretext that if they (the Sea Shepherd ships) were to get in difficulties it would cost the New Zealand government a lot of money to organise a rescue. According to Inwood, the government wanted the ships located and information gathered about their speed and direction.

Given the antagonistic attitude displayed towards the protest ships by Murray McCully, Inwood's story is laughable.

Inwood and his colleague undertook two four hour searches in a bid to find the Steve Irwin - which was the real target of their search

They then hired another aircraft and conducted a third search for the Steve Irwin and again failed to locate it

Inwood wanted to find the Steve Irwin in order to track it and send the information on to the Japanese whaling fleet.
Glen Inwood also works for Te Ohu Kaimoana, which is the sole voting shareholder in Aotearoa Fisheries (AFL), and which owns a 50 per cent shareholding in Sealord. The other half-share in Sealord is owned by the Japanese company, Nissui, which is a major shareholder in Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet.

The twelve hours of flight with the Chieftains at $1,610 an hour cost Glen Inwood $18,320. He put it on his personal credit card and will send the bill to his Japanese whaling masters.

While he has repeatedly criticised the anti-whaling protesters, the Minister of Foreign Affairs has had nothing to say about Inwood and Johnson posing as officers of the New Zealand government.

Why hasn't Murray McCully said anything about Inwood and Johnson's actions? They have, after all, been breaking the law.

A clue to McCully's silence can be found in the fact that Glen Inwood also works for Te Ohu Kaimoana, which is the sole voting shareholder in Aotearoa Fisheries (AFL), and which owns a 50 per cent shareholding in Sealord. The other half-share in Sealord is owned by the Japanese company, Nissui, which is a major shareholder in Japan's Antarctic whaling fleet.

Money talks - in this case its the not inconsiderable economic influence of Nissui.

PEOPLE POWER


In the end, no matter what the politicians and their allies believe, its people power that will win the world.

Two high profile protest actions have highlighted this point to me over the past few days.

In the Southern Ocean the Ady Gil was deliberately rammed by a Japanese whaling ship - and the film footage clearly shows the whaling ship changing course and heading for the stationary protest vessel.

While the protesters are out in the Southern Ocean directly confronting the illegal activities of the Japanese whalers, the New Zealand government is sitting on its hands and doing nothing.

But that hasn't stopped Murray McCully, the indolent Minister of Foreign Affairs, blow more hot air about the Ady Gil incident.

Briefly awakening from his summer slumbers, McCully - rather than condemning the illegal activities of the Japanese whalers - chose to have a go at the protesters themselves.

Deplorably he has implied that its the protesters own fault if they get killed because they are just 'troublemakers'.

Said McCully: "People determined to break the law and kill other people on the high seas then it is not the responsibility of the New Zealand government... or any other government to send vessels down there to stop them.'

McCully is in no position to criticise the protesters because of the complete absence of any New Zealand government presence in the Southern Ocean. And that's one of the reasons why the protesters are there - because the New Zealand government isn't.

McCully has ruled out sending a navy ship to the area because, he says, 'it was not the Government's role to protect people going to the Southern Ocean looking for trouble.'

Apparently it hasn't occurred to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that such a navy ship would send a strong message back to the Japanese government that New Zealand is not prepared to stand idly by and allow Japanese whalers to continue with their illegal hunting.

Instead he insultingly chooses to describe the protesters - who are directly opposing the illegal activities of the Japanese whalers - as ' troublemakers'.

For McCully to call for 'restraint' from both sides is facile. As Paul Watson, the Captain of the Sea Shepherd has commented : 'I think that the governments have shown so much restraint themselves over the years they've done absolutely nothing.'

Presumably he is calling for the same 'restraint' he was calling for when the Israeli government was engaged in a barbaric military assault against the people of Gaza in January last year.

At the time McCully said that he was not going 'to take sides over Gaza ' but by refusing to condemn Israel's brutality he did take sides.- which isn't altogether surprising since the Israeli Government regards McCully as 'a friend'.

Similarly with Murray McCully and his government refusing to condemn Israel, it us up to ordinary people to make their views known about Israel's inhumane treatment of the Palestinian people.

And that's one of the reasons people were protesting at the ASB Tennis Centre in Auckland this past week where Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer has been playing in a women's international tennis tournament.

For commentators like Brian Edwards to condemn the protests and call for the protesters to devote their time trying to persuade the New Zealand government to take action against Israel not only betrays a naive faith in parliamentary politicians but completely misunderstands that real change can only come from people organising at the grassroots level and not via any accommodations the parliamentary politicians choose to grant us.

THE ART OF PEN SPINNING


Watching the Television One News the other night I couldn't help but notice how much newsreader Miriama Kamo enjoys playing with her ballpoint pen.

As she read her lines off her autocue she could often be seen twiddling the old ballpoint with great enthusiasm, displaying impressive hand dexterity.

Indeed, in headmasterly fashion, Kamo would sometimes subtly point the pen in our direction. She' s apparently not just reading the news - she's explaining it!

The television news is often a case of image winning over substance and Kamo's pen gymnastics are there to convey the impression that she is an authority on current affairs rather than just a reader of the autocue.

Whenever a television commercial wants to convey the impression of authority someone will appear on our screens wearing one of those white jackets that doctors or lab technicians wear. It's a variation on that.

Kamo's colleague, Wendy Petrie, is another pen twiddler - although not as obvious as Kamo. As the news opens you will often see Petrie writing something down on a piece of paper- her shopping list perhaps? -- after that she too likes playing with her pen.

Actually neither Kamo or Petrie employ the old BIC ballpoint. It's usually some slim silver instrument. Clearly such a pen is nicely weighted for maximum pen spinning potential.

Over on TV3 intermittent newsreader Carolyn Robinson also enjoys a bit of on-air pen twiddling. As the news opens Ms Robinson is, more often than not, passing the time of the day with her fellow newsreader. Often the pen is in both hands! In a double pen whammy, her co-newsreader is often holding his pen as well. Perhaps they've been discussing pen tricks.

After doing some research into 'pen twiddling' I was surprised to find there is another angle to this crucial issue of local TV newsreaders spinning their pens all over the place.

I was surprised to learn that pen twiddling - or pen spinning as its also referred to = has a proud history. In Japan, possibly the 'home' of pen spinning, its known as "pen mawashi" and has been popular since the 1970s.

In fact mucking about with a ballpoint is considered to be form of contact juggling and there are even international competitions devoted to it.

Perhaps some of New Zealand's television newsreaders are competitive pen spinners and are getting in some practice while reading the autocue. I thought they were just playing with their pens in a obvious and cheap bid to look 'knowledgeable' and 'authoritative', but perhaps there is more to all this pen spinning than meets the eye.

According to Wikipedia the four basic pen spinning tricks are the 'ThumbAround', 'Fingerpass', 'Sonic' and 'Charge'.

I'm sure that I've seen Kamo practising the 'ThumbAround' while she reads the news. ..

SIDESHOW BOB AND 'THE HOUSE OF HORRORS' 2


You may recall Sideshow Bob grandstanding about the so-called 'House of Horrors' - the Christchurch house where the bodies of two murdered women were found buried in the basement.

Always quick off the mark when it comes to getting some of that old 'positive profile' in the media, Mayor Sideshow Bob was quick to preach that he would like to see the Christchurch City Council buy the house and land and create, perhaps, a memorial park.

As I said in a previous post:

It's news to many councillors that 'they' are thinking of buying the Aranui house where two bodies were found buried in the basement.

They are merely onlookers as Sideshow Bob appears all over the national media expressing his concern for the needs of the local community. It's the 'caring and sharing' Sideshow Bob!

Remember, this is the same Sideshow Bob who tried to put up council rents a massive 24 percent last year. Bob and his cronies clearly have an agenda to sell off council housing stock so its ironic that he now wants to buy a house.


The house has now been demolished after successive arson attacks.

It's all been bad news for Gisborne couple Christina and Jason Drain who owned the semi-detached that adjoined the 'House of Horrors'.

They still owe more than $130,000 on the property and all they been left with is a big pile of rubble -and the Christchurch City Council expects them to pay for its removal.

What has Sideshow Bob got to say on the matter? While professing his 'community concern', he has been less than forthcoming about helping out the Drains.

The Christchurch City Council has demanded that the rubble be cleared from the site within 28 days and that the Drain's pay for its removal- who also face being billed by the Fire Service for the actual demolition work as well.

The couple say they have no money to pay for the clearance or the demolition, and they may be forced to sell their Gisborne home.

With Sideshow Bob the rhetoric usually never translates into concrete action and, with the Drain's facing financial ruin, Sideshow Bob has offered them nothing but empty words.

Sideshow claims that 'he would like to help' but while the needs of the Gisborne couple and their two children are urgent, he certainly isn't about to do anything anytime soon. It's a pity he can't show the same enthusiasm for helping out the Drains as he does for getting his face in the media.

'There's no way I'd be getting into direct discussions with anybody at this stage.' he told the local media this week. So there.

Meanwhile the Christchurch City Council still expects the Drains to pay for the clear-up work and has said that if the rubble is not removed 'enforcement action could be taken.'

WASTING TIME WITH GOOGLE


Entirely in the spirit of holiday frivolity here's a few things you can do with Google if you feel like wasting some time.

Enter one of the phrases below into you're Google search page then hit the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button.

Google Emo
Google l33t
Google bsd
Google gothic
Google Linux
Google easter egg
Google Light
Google Red

Finally, if you enter 'Google Stupid' (no quotation marks) and hit the 'I'm Feeling Lucky' button, it will take you to an interesting The Atlantic article which asks the pertinent question 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?'

MORE RUBBISH FROM ENGLISH


The Minister of Finance is presently on his summer holidays but his office have released his thoughts on the state on the New Zealand economy and it duly appeared in the New Zealand Herald today.

In a short article titled 'Now Let's Get the Economy Growing', Bill English claims that New Zealand is emerging from the recession. He also indulges in a whole load of backslapping. Apparently we can thank the National Government (and Bill) for successfully 'managing New Zealand through the recession.'

Presumably having a 'Jobs Summit' - that didn't actually produce any jobs - was all part of this 'masterful' management.

English's claim that the economic recession is over has been repeated by his government for at least the last nine months. As far back as July last year the Prime Minister was claiming that an economic recovery was underway.

He told the media that he had been privately telling his ministers that New Zealand was coming out of recession.

Asked whether he thought the worse was over he said:

'It feels a bit like that from an international perspective but the government has a huge task in front of it.'

Some nine months later we are still coming out of recession. We seem to be ever 'coming out' of the recession but never actually arriving. It's a variation on the 'cheque is in the mail'.

While Bill claims he's doing a great job leading us all to economic prosperity, all the evidence suggests we are still firmly rooted in the economic quagmire that the acolytes of neoliberalism created in the first place.

On the very same day that Bill was blowing his own trumpet, there was further bad economic news in my local newspaper.

The Press, quoting from a Treasury report, says that the number of New Zealanders vulnerable to high debt has doubled in four years. According to Treasury one in five families spend almost a third of their incomes on debt repayment.

Rather than seeing Bill's clear blue skies on the horizon, the Treasury warns of 'a perfect storm ahead: a significant rise in household debt, falling house prices, rising unemployment and a worsening savings rate.'

Of course the message of Treasury is ideological - 'we must live within out means'. That's easy to say if you are a Treasury cadre on a six figure salary (plus allowances) but this is basically code for wage cuts, welfare cuts and the like for the rest of us.

The real problem is that before the end of the golden weather, much of New Zealand had fallen deeply into unsustainable debt because it had no other way to maintain its standard of living. That's because for so many years almost all the gains of economic growth have been going to a relatively small number of people at the top.

Here's the thing - the 'trickle down' theory was complete rubbish.

For ordinary folk, 'putting it on the credit card' became an economic necessity. Had the New Zealand working class actually been delivered the economic fruits promised to them by the likes of Roger Douglas, Ruth Richardson and Michael Cullen, they would not have had to borrow so much. But, under neoliberalism, the rich have got richer and the poor have got poorer.

Without wanting to continually beat this drum, I once again make the point that this occurred under the nine years of the previous Labour Government and with the active compliance of the trade union bureaucracy.

While its been argued that Phil Goff has moved the Labour Party 'leftwards', I see no evidence that Goff is prepared to repudiate the neoliberalism he and the Labour Party have enthusiastically pursued for over twenty-five years.

Bill English might want us to believe that good times lie immediately ahead of us but he is, frankly, being 'economical with the truth'. Too many New Zealanders have lost their jobs, incomes, homes and savings. That means most of us won't have the purchasing power to buy nearly all the goods and services the economy demands that we buy. And without enough demand, the economy can't get out of the doldrums.

As long as income and wealth keep concentrating at the top, and the great divide between New Zealand's have-mores and have-lesses continues to widen, the Great Recession won't end.

BLOOD MONEY


We're often reminded by our politicians of how important China supposedly is to New Zealand's economic health. It doesn't matter whether its a National or Labour politician, the message is always the same - China is our new best friend.

This is what Trade Minister Tim Groser had to say on October 1 to mark the first anniversary of the entry into force of the New Zealand-China Free Trade Agreement:

'This FTA is a major milestone in our relationship with China. Trade with China is critically important for New Zealand - China is now our third largest trading partner.

'NZ-China relations have continued to go from strength-to-strength. The FTA has led to increased cooperation between our two economies in a wide range of areas. This engagement brings significant gains to both countries through increased knowledge-sharing and people-to-people links.'

When the agreement was signed by the previous Labour government, Prime Minister Helen Clark informed us 'that successfully concluding a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China represents a significant and historic achievement.'

New Zealand exports to China totalled some $3.5 billion over the past year. With this kind of money at stake our politicians are loathe to criticise China for just about anything.

Both National-led and Labour-led Governments have said little about China's appalling human rights record which has included military repression in Tibet and the Chinese regime's systematic use of forced labour.

Of the 'mainstream parties', only the Green's and the Alliance have been consistent critics of China's continued violation of basic human rights. Both parties opposed the signing of a free trade agreement with China.

New Zealand even went to the absurd lengths of banning the Falun Gong spiritual movement from Auckland's Santa Parade in 2008 - simply because the Chinese regime do not approve of them and actively suppresses the Falun Gong in China itself. This ban was orchestrated by Michael Barnett, chief executive of the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and a regular visitor to China.

So it comes as no surprise that the New Zealand Government has had nothing to say about the execution of a British citizen, Akmal Shaikh, after a last plea for clemency failed.

Shaikh, who suffered from bipolar disorder and had no idea of what he got himself involved in, was caught acting as a drug mule for drug dealers - who were never caught.

His grieving family say he was duped into carrying a suitcase belonging to someone else when he was found with four kilograms of heroin.

The execution of Shaikh will of be of little concern to the Chinese regime which is executing people at an unrelenting and growing rate. While our politicians and business executives are crowing about the growing trade links with China, Chinese citizens are being executed every day. In 2008 1700 were killed.

Although it continues to deny it, the Chinese regime 'harvests' the bodies of the executed for various organs.

China's preferred method of execution has been a bullet in the back of the head but execution by lethal injection is becoming more common. Forty percent of convicted prisoners are now executed by lethal injection. This was the fate of Akmal Shaikh.

He may of been killed in one of China's hi-tech 'death vans.' They were quietly introduced three years ago. From the outside they look like ordinary police vans but inside they look like operating theatres. In these vans the prisoner is strapped to a electric-powered stretcher and injected with the lethal cocktail of drugs by the 'surgical team'.

The team of doctors immediately 'harvest' the organs of the deceased. The injections leave the body intact and in pristine condition for such financially lucrative work.

Akmal Shaikh was the British citizen and, indeed, the first EU national to be executed in China for nearly fifty years.

The British Government made some twenty seven representations to the Chinese government over the course of two years in a bid to have the sentence overturned. They were all ignored - including Prime Minister Gordon Brown's personal telephone calls to Premier Wen Jiabao

But China's economic influence now sees the British Government making soothing noises about the 'importance' of still 'engaging with China'.

The New Zealand Government will remain silent on Shaikl's execution. While it might wield the big stick to economically weak countries like Fiji, the National-led government will continue to roll out the red carpet for the murderous Chinese regime.

One of the justifications for fighting wars in countries like Afghanistan is - we are told - because of the violation of human rights. Yet when the Chinese regime puts to death a mentally ill man the National-led government turns a blind eye to this barbarity -as it has to all of the barbarism committed by the Chinese Stalinists.

In its desire to do more business with China, - what Tim Groser calls 'strengthening commercial links' the New Zealand government is undermining any claim this country can make to being a consistent advocate for human rights.

This clearly wasn't on John Key's mind in April when he boasted that China's Premier Wen Jiabao had told him that relations with New Zealand were at an all-time high.

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