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Open mike 31/07/2012

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, July 31st, 2012 - 85 comments
Categories: open mike - Tags:

Open mike is your post. For announcements, general discussion, whatever you choose.

The usual rules of good behaviour apply (see the link to Policy in the banner).

Step right up to the mike…

85 comments on “Open mike 31/07/2012”

  1. Press Release – Hakanoa

    They say children are a blessing, but it’s fair to say no parent sets out wanting a ginger child. So ginger beer maker Hakanoa has given those parents unfortunate enough to be cursed with ginger children the opportunity to swap them for something …Hakanoa gives parents the chance to swap their ginger children for ginger beer.

    Disgraceful, disgusting, hard to think what more can be said about how inappropriate this is.

  2. Socialist Paddy 2

    A chilling comumn by the Guardian’s George Monbiot on Neo liberalism.  In a particularly memorial passage he says:

    Two questions arise. The first is familiar: why has the public response to this assault on public life and public welfare been so muted? Where are the massive and sustained protests we might have expected? But the other is just as puzzling: where is the economic elite?
     
    Surely the corporate class and the super-rich – the only people the government will listen to – can see that these policies are destroying the markets on which their wealth relies? Surely they can see that this scorched-earth capitalism is failing even on its own terms?
     
    To understand this conundrum we should first understand that what is presented as an economic programme is in fact a political programme. It is the implementation of a doctrine: a doctrine called neoliberalism. Like all such creeds, it exists in its pure form only in the heavens; when brought down to earth it turns into something different.
     
    Neoliberals claim that we are best served by maximising market freedom and minimising the role of the state. The free market, left to its own devices, will deliver efficiency, choice and prosperity. The role of government should be confined to defence, protecting property, preventing monopolies and removing barriers to business. All other tasks would be better discharged by private enterprise. The quest for year zero market purity was dangerous enough in theory: distorted by the grubby realities of life on earth it is devastating to the welfare of both people and planet. 

    • Bored 2.1

      Paddy, good questions from Monbiot, so some commentary on points and further questions…

      Surely the corporate class and the super-rich can see that these policies are destroying the markets on which their wealth relies?

      Good question, but might we equally check the historic record and ask why the Caucescus were oblivious to their doom, why the Soviet Union hierachy did nothing to avert the fall of their system, why the Germans supported the Nazis to the last?

      Neoliberals claim that we are best served by maximising market freedom and minimising the role of the state

      At the opposite end of the scale communists expect that we will be best served by absolute control of markets and the dominance of the state…that has proven not to work either. Might we not question the absolutism of isms?Is it not true that no one position holds the monopoly on the truth?

      The quest for year zero market purity…

      Do not all the great materialist political / economic theories move toward a year zero nirvana, such as the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, the “1000 Year Reich”, the “Festival of the Supreme Being”?

      Is what we are talking about not the use of absolutist theories to justify personal gain of power, position, privilege?

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        The elite (say any household earning over $200K pa in NZ) are well insulated from the rough and tumble that neoliberal political economics is causing. Their social circles, where they shop, where they live, their sources of information, all put big distances between them and the life of drudgery and constant economic stress experienced by the commoners.

        Many of the elite will be genuinely surprised when the ungrateful wretches turn up on their door steps with torches and pitchforks.

        • KJT 2.1.1.1

          I wouldn’t say those over 200k. Up to 350k covers a lot of people who have earned their pay, including surgeons, SME owners, entrepreneurs, engineers and others with exceptional skills.

          Note that the ones who have genuinely worked their way up are not usually the ones who advocate low taxes, for themselves, and low wages for others.

          It is not that their pay is too high. Rather too many are paid too little.

          Rentiers, Bankers, speculators and overpaid state welfare bludgers (http://kjt-kt.blogspot.co.nz/2011/03/kia-ora-yeah-we-should-be-doing.html) have claimed too much of the results of our efforts. .

          • Bored 2.1.1.1.1

            Going back to Monbiots question of why the super rich appear to be destroying the fabric that creates their wealth I think their high income levels have little to do with the behavior. Maybe it demonstrates a failure of imagination..a failure by the masses to imagine a different system and force a change… a failure of the elites to imagine that their privileges are becoming a liability.

            Other expressions for lack of imagination might be lack of self awareness, lack of balance, lack of restraint. The elites are very good at externalizing their societal costs (welfare resulting from their greed becomes “bludging”). The masses are poor at externalizing their woes as being the result of the elites avarice (so they read mags on the rich and famous as a wya of being “them”)..

            Either way all parties suffer if they refuse to see the cliff approaching at full speed and keep their foot on the accelerator.

          • Colonial Viper 2.1.1.1.2

            Yes understand what you are getting at, and I won’t hold an attitude against a skilled value adding worker like a surgeon or a software engineer who earns a good pay packet.

            Nevertheless my point is less about a high level of financial security, and more about how that provides a kind of socio-economic insulation which can then slow or distort a person’s understanding of how the temperature is changing in other less well off parts of the community.

    • Carol 2.2

      Thanks, SP, for the link.

      And this (that comes directly after your above quote):

      As Colin Crouch shows in The Strange Non-Death of Neoliberalism, the state and the market are not, as neoliberals insist, in perpetual conflict. Instead they have united around the demands of giant corporations.

      Another excellent article from Monbiot.

    • KJT 2.3

      It is, in fact, a religion, with all the counterfactual bullshit and cunning self interest from those at the top apparent in religious organisations.

    • Funny thing here…

      National is planning to buy up large tracts of land in Christchurch to facilitate the re-build of the CBD. Billions will be spent through acquisition of public land. The State will co-ordinbate the re-build.

      The free market wouldn’t have a hope in carrying out this gargantuan enterprise. Like fleas on a massive State Beast, they can only come along for the ride, and do their little bit.

      Hopefully, though, the “free market” can construct buildings that won’t collapse in the next earthquake…

  3. Carol 3

    Following the GFC, austerity programmes, increasing inequalities, siphoning off of wealth by the elite, some people in the US are living in tents and some in London, just meters from the Olympic Stadium, are living in sheds with beds.

    While it’s not such an extreme housing and living crisis here in NZ, the process seems to be similar. The juxtaposition of a fancy stadium alongside a major, and neglected housing crisis, reminds me of Nero Fiddling Gerry sipping Champagne in Christchurch last night.

    London’s East End is experiencing squalor last seen in Dickensian London, while there seems to be an (unstated?) policy of social cleansing – hoping the poor will leave the city to the wealthy – shades of New Orleans, and, unfortunately maybe also Christchurch..

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-25/east-end-has-thousands-in-illegal-squalor-near-olympics.html

    Armed with a thermal map produced by a flyover in March, Lyons is searching for unlawful “sheds with beds,” as the borough council calls them. There are as many as 10,000 outbuildings where people may live illegally in the 14-square- mile East End district, she says. Raids have found as many as four people sleeping in a single backyard shed and sharing a filthy shower and toilet that aren’t always properly connected to the sewage system.
    […]
    Britain is more polarized over inequality in housing wealth than at any time during the mortgage financing era, which began in the Victorian period of the 19th century, according to Danny Dorling, a University of Sheffield professor. He published a report on housing inequality for Shelter in 2004 and says the rise in top prices since means that disparity has widened.

    • Bored 3.1

      Carol, a comment…Following the GFC…do you not think that the whole antisocial housing and economic position belongs to a recent era (post Crash event) or to a much longer term condition?

      I yesterday contended that rental housing markets would always tend toward extreme bad housing and disadvantageously high rents if left to the market only, that public housing was required to force the market toward fair rents and high standards. In Britain public housing may have been deliberately left to run down by successive neo lib regimes (Labour and Tory). We appear to have gone the same way.

      On the up side I have watched the Wellington Coucil do complete refurbs on their Newtown and Central Park blocks……

      • Carol 3.1.1

        Carol, a comment…Following the GFC…do you not think that the whole antisocial housing and economic position belongs to a recent era (post Crash event) or to a much longer term condition?

        The latter, bored. When I lived in London in the 1980s and 90s, I went in houses/flats that were pretty dire, including some on council estates in the East End. And, of course, soon after Thatcher gained power the numbers of people living on the streets noticeably increased.

        But I think the dire housing situation has intensified since the GFC.

        And this article I have been reading – a transcript of an interview with an author and illustrator for a book, outlines how, in the US, it goes back to the dislocation of Native Americans, using the example of Pine Ridge.

        http://truth-out.org/news/item/10494-journalist-chris-hedges-on-capitalisms-sacrifice-zones-communities-destroyed-for-profit

        There are forgotten corners of this country where Americans are trapped in endless cycles of poverty, powerlessness, and despair as a direct result of capitalistic greed. Journalist Chris Hedges calls these places "sacrifice zones," and joins Bill this week on Moyers & Company to explore how areas like Camden, New Jersey; Immokalee, Florida; and parts of West Virginia suffer while the corporations that plundered them thrive.

        These are areas that have been destroyed for quarterly profit. We're talking about environmentally destroyed, communities destroyed, human beings destroyed, families destroyed," Hedges tells Bill.

        […]
        Chris Hedges: Well, Pine Ridge is where it began, Western exploitation. And it was the railroad companies that did it. They wanted the land, they took the land, the government gave them the land. It either gave it to them or sold it to them very cheaply. They slaughtered the buffalo herds, they broke these people. Forcing a people that had not been part of a wage economy to become part of a wage economy, upending the traditional values.
        […]
        Bill Moyers: Fit this all together for me. What does the suffering of the Native American on the Pine Ridge Reservation have to do with the unemployed coal miner in West Virginia have to do with the inner-city African American in Camden have to do with the single man working for minimum wage or less in Immokalee, Florida? What ties that all together?

        Chris Hedges: Greed. It's greed over human life.

        • Bored 3.1.1.1

          I can remember a pair of old crones who literally had a monopoly on run down flats around Christchurch in the 70s, neither of whom ever did a thing to even maintain the already disgraceful state of their rental properties. They just sat and got fatter bank accounts. As bad as anything in London, just in a slightly better climate.

          I also remember train rides into Waterloo East in the early 70s wondering how people lived in those houses you looked down on from the viaducts, scummy squalid places. Last time I took the same ride nothing had changed.

        • Olwyn 3.1.1.2

          “London’s East End is experiencing squalor last seen in Dickensian London, while there seems to be an (unstated?) policy of social cleansing – hoping the poor will leave the city to the wealthy…” While we do not seem to have reached the dire extremes of London, the hope here, at least in some quarters, appears to be that the poor will leave the whole bloody country to the wealthy. Australia has already absorbed a large percentage of our population, who have found it impossible to gain a foothold here.

          Let’s face it. When you don’t need the masses for manufacturing any more, what are they needed for? A percentage of them for low paid service jobs, and beyond that, to put pressure on wages and the putative worth of property. How to fight back is the problem, when the lower levels of haves express their fear becoming have-nots by despising them, and our politicians seem to have been seduced into maintaining the status quo, however bad it gets for the people at the bottom of the heap. People found the will to stand up to slavery in the nineteenth century, and somehow or other we need to find a similar will.

          • lostinsuburbia 3.1.1.2.1

            They also house a lot of illegal immigrants – handy to run your service industry on below legal wages with staff that can’t complain.

            I’ve worked on enforcement actions against illegal development in East London – while the problem gets worse and worse its been a long term problem. A lot of the development has been there many years, but landlords just stuff more people into overcrowded houses – plus put up dodgy outbuildings and sheds to fit a few more people.

            The subdvision controls are a lot more lax in the UK, you could go to the Land Registry and get new titles issued without proving legal subdivision (whereas here you have to get sign off from your local Council first). This lead to a lot of illegal subdivision and mortage fraud (I saw countless cases of houses being split into leasehold titles for illegal flats or back sheds cut off as new sections).

            The lower end of the housing market has similar problems in terms of overcrowding and people living in poor conditions, but its hidden more by the lower density of our development and the fact that is often shut away in poorer areas of our cities.

          • the pink postman 3.1.1.2.2

            In my childhood we lived in SE London slum owned by the then Duke of Westminster .Rent 2%6 a week if not paid you were throw out in the street.
            Yet the majority voted for the bloody Tories every time. The working people here do the same.Last election Solo mums and unemployed saying “Key”s the Man”

        • millsy 3.1.1.3

          I dread the day when Baroness Margaret Hilda Thatcher dies because every newspaper and dignitary (inc. those who should know better) will go on and on and on about how bloody wonderful she was, and that Britain was better off because of her.

      • bad12 3.1.2

        Helen Clark possibly deserves the ‘ups’ for the current ‘do up’ of the Wellington City Council flats, if my memory serves me right, there was a deal struck with a previous Council by the Clark Government giving the Council X amount of cash for refurbishment if they agreed to not sell or change to market rents for X amount of years…

      • millsy 3.1.3

        I belive that the governments shrinking of the state housing will result on a similar outcome here.

    • gareth 3.2

      I tend to think the large influx of eastern Europeans has exasperated things in London, Coupled with the fact that many work in the grey economy for very little pay (It wasn’t uncommon to find poles earning as little as 20 quid a day as laborers) as such they are forced to live in squalid cramped conditions. It seemed at the time that there was very little appetite for addressing this as middle classed people loved their extremely hard working cheap cleaner or cut price builder meaning politicians were loath to address it.
      It also put downward pressure on the wages as their were plenty of people suddenly available who were prepared to work for next to nothing.

      A tories wet dream I suppose ….

      • grumpy 3.2.1

        My son lives down by Woolwich, truely an eye opener.

      • Colonial Viper 3.2.2

        A tories wet dream I suppose ….

        Wage deflation leads to living standard deflation and working poverty, and also lowers business costs driving increased corporate profits and dividends to shareholders.

        See how it works?

  4. urban rascal 4

    Woke to the Disturbing news of Tony Blair’s return to the debate in the UK. Obviously war crimes aren’t enough to keep Blair off the masthead 10 years on.

    http://www.medialens.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=692:the-return-of-the-king-tony-blair-and-the-magically-disappearing-blood&catid=25:alerts-2012&Itemid=69

  5. Pete 5

    Is it perhaps a little too easy to start a business in New Zealand?

    The European Union became concerned enough that last year it struck New Zealand from its so-called “white list” of countries that require only minimal customer due diligence for transactions involving financial and credit institutions. Concerned that New Zealand could be prone to money laundering and terrorist financing, the EU reaffirmed this year that New Zealand wouldn’t be on the list, which includes Australia, Canada and the U.S.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10823341

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      We did the neo-liberal thing and dumped regulations and now we’re beginning to find out what that actually means. Corruption abounds in a society once mostly free of it and, due to the lack of regulation and oversight, we can’t actually find it.

  6. Jackal 6

    Bob Jones – Asshole of the Week

    The Treaty of Waitangi talks about rights that are not lessened through the passage of time… It talks about sharing New Zealand so that all Kiwis can reap the rewards of living in this great country…

    • fender 6.1

      Good on ya Jackal.

      This gold plated asshole should stick to sitting in the audience at another corrupt boxing bout. Jones is an irrelevant voice with his racist rants and should not be given space in the Herald or anywhere else. One can only assume he has some kind of Gina Rinehart hold over this news outlet.

    • Bored 6.2

      Article 2 of the Treaty states “Her Majesty the Queen of England confirms and guarantees to the Chiefs and Tribes of New Zealand and to the respective families and individuals thereof the full exclusive and undisturbed possession of their Lands and Estates Forests Fisheries and other properties which they may collectively or individually possess so long as it is their wish and desire to retain the same in their possession;

      To me that means Maori unless they have gifted, sold or otherwise agreed with the Crown have full and exclusive possession of the river….as a proponent of “property” rights which bit of it does Bob Jones fail to understand? Or does he think Maori property rights are second class and invalid?

    • mike e 6.3

      No wonder his daughter ended up in the sex industry.

      • Bored 6.3.1

        Tell me more, sounds like some salacious gossip, could be fun.

      • Colonial Viper 6.3.2

        Sadly, lots of women do, who can’t make ends meet, or can’t access the financial resources needed to take different options.

        • QoT 6.3.2.1

          And stunningly, some sex workers choose sex work willingly because it suits them and they enjoy it!

          • Colonial Viper 6.3.2.1.1

            Given that her family is worth many millions of dollars, that is also a possibility.

          • felix 6.3.2.1.2

            And either way it’s not really something to slag someone off for just because their Dad’s a bit of a dick.

    • millsy 6.4

      Interesting how the right wingers seem to support the undisturbed right of New Zealanders to enjoy our natural resources, ie rivers, beaches, lakes etc…

  7. Pascal's bookie 7

    The prime minister is literally an ass. http://bit.ly/PfHUkC

    • fender 7.1

      ..”the law is an ass”

      ..”but I’m comfortable with what he’s done”

      Fits in well with Frankly Speaking: Identifying a hypocrite

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      Ah, so John Key admits that he’s comfortable with fraud (signing a document without reading it), lying (just how many convenient memory leaks did Banks have) and apparent bribery (saying that help will be available if a donation is forthcoming). We know he’s comfortable with this as he hasn’t fired Banks.

      • Vicky32 7.2.1

        Ah, so John Key admits that he’s comfortable with fraud (signing a document without reading it),

        I heard Trevor Mallard ping him well, on 1 News tonight! 😀

        • Morrissey 7.2.1.1

          John Key admits that he’s comfortable with fraud (signing a document without reading it)

          Remember the way the corporate media went after Helen Clark in the absurd “Paintergate” furore? Which is more serious—Clark carelessly scribbling her signature on a piece of paper at a charity event or Key signing his name to indicate he has read documents that in fact he has not read?

          • Carol 7.2.1.1.1

            In the House this week, Banks used the eg of Clark and the signed painting as something far worse than anything he’d done:

            http://www.parliament.nz/en-NZ/PB/Business/QOA/5/e/4/50HansQ_20120731_00000007-7-Schools-Charter-Progress.htm

            Hon Trevor Mallard: Will the curriculum in charter schools include a unit on ethics; if so, will it make it clear that it is unethical to lie to the media and, through them, to the people of New Zealand?

            Hon JOHN BANKS: It could include a provision for the teaching of ethics, and the charter school kids might be taught that one should not sign a painting if one did not paint it, because that is forgery—that is forgery.

            PS: what if a celebrity signs a painting of themselves that they didn’t actually paint?

  8. Johnm 8

    Privatization: The Big Joke That Isn’t Funny
    by Paul Buchheit

    The privatization of public goods and services turns basic human needs into products to buy and sell. That’s more than a joke, it’s an insult, it’s a perversion. It generally benefits only a privileged group of businesspeople and their companies while increasing inequality and undermining the common good.

    Various studies have identified the ‘benefits’ of privatization as profitability and productivity, efficiency, wider share ownership and good investment returns. These are business benefits. More balanced studies consider the effects on average people, who have paid into a long-established societal support system for their schools and emergency services, water and transportation systems, and eventually health care and retirement benefits. These studies have concluded that:

    “Public good” and “profit motive” don’t mix. It’s a cruel joke to put them together, except in the distorted world of people who view the needs of society as products to be bought and sold.

    Link:http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/07/30-2

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      Good link. I think this sums it up:

      As summarized by the UN’s International Policy Centre, “Privatisation has failed on several counts…the focus of investors on cost recovery has not promoted social objectives, such as reducing poverty and promoting equity.”

      The League of Women Voters takes the position that “Privatization is not appropriate when the provision of services by the government is necessary to preserve the common good, to protect national or local security or to meet the needs of the most vulnerable members of society.”

      “Public good” and “profit motive” don’t mix. It’s a cruel joke to put them together, except in the distorted world of people who view the needs of society as products to be bought and sold.

      And we’ve seen that in NZ. The failure of the privatised telecommunications to get us the services that we need while pulling billions out in profit is proof that privatisation fails the community.

      • framu 8.2.1

        also from the same article (but down in the comments)
        ———————
        As a resident of North Fulton County, I can tell you of a few things that allowed Sandy Springs take this path. At the time of incorporation is was pretty much build up, all infrastructure was already in place, they haven’t had to build any thoroughfares or other capital intensive public works. The tax base was already there, lots of businesses and many very well of neighborhoods, and very few poor ones (but even these look rather fancy if you compare them to some places in South Atlanta).
        ——————
        I lived in Sandy Springs for 5 years. I agree with gandalfhah. Also, they haven’t done a very good job of keeping up the infrastrucutre…try getting from Johnson Ferry Road to Perimeter Mall at 5 pm.
        ——————-
        Whilst outsourcing is a good idea for some things a government does, I’m not convinced that every city can and ought to engage in such widespread outsourcing. As others have noted, the city started out with good infrastructure already – and more importantly, I don’t think we should find it surprising that a rich suburb, which thus has better access to tax revenues, and less costs associated with poorer residents, is in rude financial health.
        ———————
        How about interview some residents that can attest to the level of service now provided by these companies. There is a flip side to every coin and I think you should show that in your article.
        ——————-
        so maybe not the randian nirvana your trying to sell it as

        (whats with the cloud pop up – its really annoying when your trying to edit something)

        • McFlock 8.2.1.1

          not to mention the wonders on can do in an extremely affluent town, compared with the rest of the country. I.e. the citizens can afford to pick up where the city falls short.

      • mike e 8.2.2

        It looks like the destiny church head quarters

  9. David Clark has come up with a cost for increasing the minimum wage – $427m.

    It’s not clear if that is just estimated wage increase costs or if it includes normal wage overheads. It’s also not clear if it includes wages currently at or greater than $15 that would be pushed up.

    What seems to be clear is Clark’s lack of understanding of business fundamentals. It also seems clear he’s out of touch with Dunedin business group leaders.

    He dismissed the arguments put forward by Mr Scandrett and Mr Christie, saying BusinessNZ was running the “same line” throughout New Zealand.

    Clark seems to be treating them like opposing politicians rather than groups in his electorate he should be working alongside.

    http://yourdunedin.org/2012/07/31/david-clark-versus-employers/

  10. Carol 10

    Touche, Trev……. supplementary to Banks about Charter Schools curriculum, reading – will it include something teaching children to read documents before signing them,…etc, etc…. and another supplementary about forgetting donations.

    • gobsmacked 10.1

      Banks coped with it easily enough. As soon as the question was tabled this morning, it was obvious what the follow-ups would be about. Labour in the House never seem to ask themselves the basic question: “Can you see it coming?”. In this case, anyone could, even Banks.

      They had an hour of free targets to play with, and they only really hit Pita Sharples, which is like candy from a baby.

      • Carol 10.1.1

        Well, I didn’t see it coming, was expecting a serious question, and laughed at the question that came. At one stage Banks looked a little miffed and emotional, but then he recovered and retaliated.

        Yes, Pita looked pitiful.

        • gobsmacked 10.1.1.1

          No offence, but it was Banks’ first day back since he got off, and the media were only asking him about one thing, and it wasn’t charter schools. So an experienced MP would have known exactly what to expect in a supplementary question from Trevor Mallard, regardless of the primary pretext.

          Here’s another predictable one, from today …

          David Shearer: “Is his conclusion from the police report that where they said they did not have enough evidence to prosecute, that is the same as complying with the law?”

          Rt Hon JOHN KEY: “Well, if there was a case to be answered, a prosecution would be taken. I know the Labour Party members would know about that, because they face lots of potential prosecutions.”

          (italics added)

          The follow-up? It’s been a recent post on the Standard, so it’s not hard … compare and contrast, the case of Bradley Ambrose. Key said – in Parliament – that Ambrose was guilty.

          “In the light of that answer, does he stand by his statement in this House … (etc)”

          How could the leader of the Opposition not be prepared for that? A goldfish memory? He lost his bit of paper? Nobody in his office saw it coming?

          Not good enough.

          • gobsmacked 10.1.1.1.1

            Correction to my previous comment:

            Key said of Ambrose “At the end of the day, his actions have been deemed unlawful.”, but I can’t find a record of him saying it in Parliament.

            That doesn’t change the essential point – Key found Ambrose guilty, and Banks not guilty. And since it took me a few minutes on dial-up to find the quote, it beggars belief that Shearer’s staff couldn’t.

  11. http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_careerists_20120723

    The Careerists
    Posted on Jul 23, 2012

    By Chris Hedges

    The greatest crimes of human history are made possible by the most colorless human beings. They are the careerists. The bureaucrats. The cynics. They do the little chores that make vast, complicated systems of exploitation and death a reality. They collect and read the personal data gathered on tens of millions of us by the security and surveillance state. They keep the accounts of ExxonMobil, BP and Goldman Sachs. They build or pilot aerial drones. They work in corporate advertising and public relations. They issue the forms. They process the papers. They deny food stamps to some and unemployment benefits or medical coverage to others. They enforce the laws and the regulations. And they do not ask questions.

    Good. Evil. These words do not mean anything to them. They are beyond morality. They are there to make corporate systems function. If insurance companies abandon tens of millions of sick to suffer and die, so be it. If banks and sheriff departments toss families out of their homes, so be it. If financial firms rob citizens of their savings, so be it. If the government shuts down schools and libraries, so be it. If the military murders children in Pakistan or Afghanistan, so be it. If commodity speculators drive up the cost of rice and corn and wheat so that they are unaffordable for hundreds of millions of poor across the planet, so be it. If Congress and the courts strip citizens of basic civil liberties, so be it. If the fossil fuel industry turns the earth into a broiler of greenhouse gases that doom us, so be it. They serve the system. The god of profit and exploitation. The most dangerous force in the industrialized world does not come from those who wield radical creeds, whether Islamic radicalism or Christian fundamentalism, but from legions of faceless bureaucrats who claw their way up layered corporate and governmental machines. They serve any system that meets their pathetic quota of needs.

    These systems managers believe nothing. They have no loyalty. They are rootless. They do not think beyond their tiny, insignificant roles. They are blind and deaf. They are, at least regarding the great ideas and patterns of human civilization and history, utterly illiterate. And we churn them out of universities. Lawyers. Technocrats. Business majors. Financial managers. IT specialists. Consultants. Petroleum engineers. “Positive psychologists.” Communications majors. Cadets. Sales representatives. Computer programmers. Men and women who know no history, know no ideas. They live and think in an intellectual vacuum, a world of stultifying minutia. They are T.S. Eliot’s “the hollow men,” “the stuffed men.” “Shape without form, shade without colour,” the poet wrote. “Paralysed force, gesture without motion.”

    It was the careerists who made possible the genocides, from the extermination of Native Americans to the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians to the Nazi Holocaust to Stalin’s liquidations. They were the ones who kept the trains running. They filled out the forms and presided over the property confiscations. They rationed the food while children starved. They manufactured the guns. They ran the prisons. They enforced travel bans, confiscated passports, seized bank accounts and carried out segregation. They enforced the law. They did their jobs.

    Political and military careerists, backed by war profiteers, have led us into useless wars, including World War I, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. And millions followed them. Duty. Honor. Country. Carnivals of death. They sacrifice us all. In the futile battles of Verdun and the Somme in World War I, 1.8 million on both sides were killed, wounded or never found. In July of 1917 British Field Marshal Douglas Haig, despite the seas of dead, doomed even more in the mud of Passchendaele. By November, when it was clear his promised breakthrough at Passchendaele had failed, he jettisoned the initial goal—as we did in Iraq when it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction and in Afghanistan when al-Qaida left the country—and opted for a simple war of attrition. Haig “won” if more Germans than allied troops died. Death as score card. Passchendaele took 600,000 more lives on both sides of the line before it ended. It is not a new story. Generals are almost always buffoons. Soldiers followed John the Blind, who had lost his eyesight a decade earlier, to resounding defeat at the Battle of Crécy in 1337 during the Hundred Years War. We discover that leaders are mediocrities only when it is too late.

    David Lloyd George, who was the British prime minister during the Passchendaele campaign, wrote in his memoirs: “[Before the battle of Passchendaele] the Tanks Corps Staff prepared maps to show how a bombardment which obliterated the drainage would inevitably lead to a series of pools, and they located the exact spots where the waters would gather. The only reply was a peremptory order that they were to ‘Send no more of these ridiculous maps.’ Maps must conform to plans and not plans to maps. Facts that interfered with plans were impertinencies.”

    Here you have the explanation of why our ruling elites do nothing about climate change, refuse to respond rationally to economic meltdown and are incapable of coping with the collapse of globalization and empire. These are circumstances that interfere with the very viability and sustainability of the system. And bureaucrats know only how to serve the system. They know only the managerial skills they ingested at West Point or Harvard Business School. They cannot think on their own. They cannot challenge assumptions or structures. They cannot intellectually or emotionally recognize that the system might implode. And so they do what Napoleon warned was the worst mistake a general could make—paint an imaginary picture of a situation and accept it as real. But we blithely ignore reality along with them. The mania for a happy ending blinds us. We do not want to believe what we see. It is too depressing. So we all retreat into collective self-delusion.

    In Claude Lanzmann’s monumental documentary film “Shoah,” on the Holocaust, he interviews Filip Müller, a Czech Jew who survived the liquidations in Auschwitz as a member of the “special detail.” Müller relates this story:

    “One day in 1943 when I was already in Crematorium 5, a train from Bialystok arrived. A prisoner on the ‘special detail’ saw a woman in the ‘undressing room’ who was the wife of a friend of his. He came right out and told her: ‘You are going to be exterminated. In three hours you’ll be ashes.’ The woman believed him because she knew him. She ran all over and warned to the other women. ‘We’re going to be killed. We’re going to be gassed.’ Mothers carrying their children on their shoulders didn’t want to hear that. They decided the woman was crazy. They chased her away. So she went to the men. To no avail. Not that they didn’t believe her. They’d heard rumors in the Bialystok ghetto, or in Grodno, and elsewhere. But who wanted to hear that? When she saw that no one would listen, she scratched her whole face. Out of despair. In shock. And she started to scream.”

    Blaise Pascal wrote in “Pensées,” “We run heedlessly into the abyss after putting something in front of us to stop us from seeing it.”

    Hannah Arendt, in writing “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” noted that Adolf Eichmann was primarily motivated by “an extraordinary diligence in looking out for his personal advancement.” He joined the Nazi Party because it was a good career move. “The trouble with Eichmann,” she wrote, “was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terribly and terrifyingly normal.”

    “The longer one listened to him, the more obvious it became that his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else,” Arendt wrote. “No communication was possible with him, not because he lied but because he was surrounded by the most reliable of all safeguards against words and the presence of others, and hence against reality as such.”

    Gitta Sereny makes the same point in her book “Into That Darkness,” about Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka. The assignment to the SS was a promotion for the Austrian policeman. Stangl was not a sadist. He was soft-spoken and polite. He loved his wife and children very much. Unlike most Nazi camp officers, he did not take Jewish women as concubines. He was efficient and highly organized. He took pride in having received an official commendation as the “best camp commander in Poland.” Prisoners were simply objects. Goods. “That was my profession,” he said. “I enjoyed it. It fulfilled me. And yes, I was ambitious about that, I won’t deny it.” When Sereny asked Stangl how as a father he could kill children, he answered that he “rarely saw them as individuals. It was always a huge mass. … [T]hey were naked, packed together, running, being driven with whips. …” He later told Sereny that when he read about lemmings it reminded him of Treblinka.

    Christopher Browning’s collection of essays, “The Path to Genocide,” notes that it was the “moderate,” “normal” bureaucrats, not the zealots, who made the Holocaust possible. Germaine Tillion pointed out “the tragic easiness [during the Holocaust] with which ‘decent’ people could become the most callous executioners without seeming to notice what was happening to them.” The Russian novelist Vasily Grossman in his book “Forever Flowing” observed that “the new state did not require holy apostles, fanatic, inspired builders, faithful, devout disciples. The new state did not even require servants—just clerks.”

    “The most nauseating type of S.S. were to me personally the cynics who no longer genuinely believed in their cause, but went on collecting blood guilt for its own sake,” wrote Dr. Ella Lingens-Reiner in “Prisoners of Fear,” her searing memoir of Auschwitz. “Those cynics were not always brutal to the prisoners, their behavior changed with their mood. They took nothing seriously—neither themselves nor their cause, neither us nor our situation. One of the worst among them was Dr. Mengele, the Camp Doctor I have mentioned before. When a batch of newly arrived Jews was being classified into those fit for work and those fit for death, he would whistle a melody and rhythmically jerk his thumb over his right or his left shoulder—which meant ‘gas’ or ‘work.’ He thought conditions in the camp rotten, and even did a few things to improve them, but at the same time he committed murder callously, without any qualms.”

    These armies of bureaucrats serve a corporate system that will quite literally kill us. They are as cold and disconnected as Mengele. They carry out minute tasks. They are docile. Compliant. They obey. They find their self-worth in the prestige and power of the corporation, in the status of their positions and in their career promotions. They assure themselves of their own goodness through their private acts as husbands, wives, mothers and fathers. They sit on school boards. They go to Rotary. They attend church. It is moral schizophrenia. They erect walls to create an isolated consciousness. They make the lethal goals of ExxonMobil or Goldman Sachs or Raytheon or insurance companies possible. They destroy the ecosystem, the economy and the body politic and turn workingmen and -women into impoverished serfs. They feel nothing. Metaphysical naiveté always ends in murder. It fragments the world. Little acts of kindness and charity mask the monstrous evil they abet. And the system rolls forward. The polar ice caps melt. The droughts rage over cropland. The drones deliver death from the sky. The state moves inexorably forward to place us in chains. The sick die. The poor starve. The prisons fill. And the careerist, plodding forward, does his or her job.

    • Draco T Bastard 12.1

      You really don’t need to copy/paste the entire article.

      Hey, LPrent, maybe a 500 word limit enforced server side?

    • McFlock 12.2

      On the flipside, you have career administrators who enable doctors, teachers and fire fighters to work more effectively. 
               
      Not all bureaucracy is bad. It’s the politicians and politically-appointed managers who direct whether a bureaucracy is good, bad or indifferent.

      • Morrissey 12.2.1

        Not all bureaucracy is bad.

        Hedges did not make that claim. Once again, you haven’t read something thoroughly.

    • marty mars 12.3

      maybe i just don’t get it. It seems to me that blaming careerists is similar to blaming the elite.

    • Colonial Viper 12.4

      If define a “careerist” as someone who operates in a role or organisation with the sole aim of furthering or buttressing their position and influence in that organisation, then yeah its a bad thing.

      If you define it as someone who is dedicated to their profession and organisation, gathering new experience and expertise over the years and striving to improve how they add value daily, then its a good thing.

  12. http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10823341

    Has this had anything to do with Adam Feeley’s resignation?

    How come on Mr Feeley’s watch, Don Brash and John Banks were never charged for signing Huljich Kiwisaver Scheme registered prospectuses dated 22 August 2008 and 18 September 2009 which contained untrue statements?

    The ‘old boy’ network protecting DODGY John Banks?

    That’s how I for one ‘perceive’ it.

    [John Banks is the Leader of the NZ ACT Party and MP for Epsom, upon whose pivotal vote the Mixed Ownership Model Bill (which allows ‘partial privatisation’ of essential electricity assets) was passed 61 – 60. ]

    Penny Bright

    ‘Anti-corruption campaigner’
    Attendee: 2010 Transparency International Anti-Corruption Conference

    http://www.dodgyjohnhasgone.com

  13. jellytussle 14

    Couldn’t help but chuckle at news thump today……I can see Bennett getting ideas from this!

    http://newsthump.com/2012/07/27/majority-of-paralympians-fit-enough-to-work-insists-iain-duncan-smith/

    • marty mars 14.1

      LOL – that was very good.

      I can imagine bennett saying all of that – “Enough is enough is enough is enough” indeed.

    • Vicky32 14.2

      Couldn’t help but chuckle at news thump today……I can see Bennett getting ideas from this!

      Goodness, I am dense! It took me about 5 minutes to realise – whew, it’s satire, though knowing him…

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