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Sunday, 2 December 2018

Its time to have a rant about China!

Traitor: a) One who betrays anthers trust or is false in an obligation or duty, b) one who commits treason

In 1999 Jenny Shipley (then PM of NZ and now currently going through the courts for not doing due financial diligence as a Director of Mainzeal before it went into liquidation) parked some buses in front of a group of protesters in Christchurch so that they would not be visible to then Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

It was an odious moment in New Zealand history and one which set in motion a series of events which culminated in the recent decision by our current government to not allow Chinese telecommunication Company Huawei to bid for building New Zealand's 5G network.

Because for the last two decades, since Shipley decided that a bunch of Kiwis, lawfully protesting the Chinese occupation of Tibet, should be put second to possibly offending the Mr Zemin; New Zealand has been licking the boots of China.

Both National and Labour governments since that date have repeatedly prioritized China over ordinary Kiwis (and while National is the worst culprit its was under as Labour government in 2007 that a reporter was evicted from a Beehive event because the Chinese delegation objected to their presence) and now we find ourselves with one of the two major political parties (National) little more than a hollowed out front for Chinese interests, with Chinese spies in parliament and all because we want to sell our milk there.

Well, its like Heather du-Plessis-Allan says, the time has come to pick a side except that du-Plessis-Allan is a naive dupe if she thinks that siding with China is the smart option because: Donald Trump.

How so?

Let us count the ways.

First China is not a democracy, not even close, its a one party state lead by a god emperor for life whose word is enshrined at the same level as mass murderer Mao-Tse Tung and where human rights, free speech and all that good stuff that we like to have in an open and free society is not available in any way shape and form where any attempt to ask for democracy is crushed with brutal force (like Tiananmen Square in 1989) or suppressed and smothered (like the 2014 Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong); where places like Xinjiang and Tibet are held by force against the will of the general populace; a country which has built the great firewall (to censor the internet from anything which would embarrasses the Chinese government) and co-opted Google to build secret project, called Dragonfly (a search engine which, like the great firewall, censored search results to the Chinese governments liking).

Then there are things like its actions in the South China sea and its general history under communist rule, things which include the great leap forward (an insane, state sponsored economic program which saw millions die from famine) and the cultural revolution (a paranoid orgy of blood-letting and murder which saw millions persecuted and over a million killed).

And did I forget to mention its corruption and environmental issues where the country is toxic to your health and your wallet.

In short the Chinese government is not a friend of New Zealand, it is in fact the enemy, plain and simple.

There is nothing wrong with the people or the culture (and having lived and worked there and I like both) but the government of China and the Chinese Communist party is hostile to you as a citizen, to New Zealand as a free democratic nation and to to anything and anyone which gets in their way.

So explain to me again, why we are puckering up and smooching Chinese backside to get our dairy products on Chinese store shelves when its clear that Aotearoa is now the meat in an increasingly hostile China vs US sandwich?

Some people say that we can sail a middle course, we can be a neutral party in all of this but such statements are people who would happily oppose places like North Korea or Saudi Arabia or people like Donald Trump yet feel its ok to bend over and spread for China. There is nothing in recent Chinese history which shows that the Chinese Government will do anything less than undermine everything we believe in and then some.

I say no way.

New Zealand's culture and heritage (both Maori and Pakeha) have little in common with the designs and interests of the power elite in China and a lot with the value systems and ideals of both the US and the free-world in general. We would not tolerate the things China does in NZ yet we are willing to go silent because of Chinese money?

Such a path undermines the very things we hold dear in NZ.

So if siding with the US and the Five Eyes gets us taken off the Chinese Christmas Card list then so be it, it was long over due that we put some eggs in other baskets anyway.

 And if you think the US and its actions in Iraq/Afghanistan and at home even compare with whats going and gone on in China then I have a bridge for sale because this is not a better the devil you know argument but one of fundamental differences.

The fact that National has pent the last nine years facilitating China to the extent of allowing Chinese intelligence operatives in government and is more than willing to sell slots in the party to Chinese interests is plenty for them to be called traitors and to have a long hard look at their suitability as being part of the political system in NZ because if we tolerate spies and seats for sale we might as well just give up now.

I am thankful, very thankful in fact, that I live in a country where I can blog about such things because if I lived in China the though police would be kicking in my door right now.

But its important to keep in mind that this is not some call to start an anti-Chinese jihad because, as I said before, this is not about the people or the culture of China but a political system and structure which is antithetical to our own politics and way of life. We should not fear or hate someone just because they are from China or are Chinese but if they happen to be card carrying members of the Chinese Communist party (ie Jin Yang) then they should be refused outright.

Ever since Jenny Shipley parked those buses they day was coming where the cognitive and ethical dissonance of our doing business in China and our own security (both physical, political and spiritual) would finally be so obvious that they could not just be talked away or ignored; and today is that day.

And there is no easy option out of this, we cant manage China or its expectations or designs with good old Kiwi diplomacy because whether we like it or not conflict between China and the US is coming, maybe not war but the history of great powers is one of conflict at the top, or for the top of the pile and who would you rather see sitting there?

For the politically simple, the mantra would be "neither" because Donald Trump is obviously just as bad as Xi Jinping but that is just rubbish as while US democracy is suffering at the moment, its still functional enough that Trump will be voted out of office in three or seven years and as flawed as democracy is its infinitely better to what the Chinese Communist Party has planned for you.

New Zealand needs to wean itself off doing business in China if the cost of such business is forfeiture of our own political system and values and we need to get China out of NZ politics or its not NZ politics its Chinese politics.

And the kicker for all this is a Chinese telco banned from trying to do business in NZ because its a security risk.

I will be the first to admit that there is not much public evidence for the actual threat but when our own intelligence agencies are trying to get back-doors built into our communication systems why in gods name would we trust anything from a business which has direct links to the Chinese Government.

If you live in NZ and believe in the political and social system we have then what the Chinese Government represents (specially with its actions in NZ) is the direct opposite of those things and you should oppose it with great zeal because if you don't you wont always have that option.

Finally, you can still support National and not be happy with what Simon Bridges & Co (specially Judith Collins and Jin Yang but so many others as well) are doing with regards to pandering to Chinese interests but you might just want to be a bit more critical about National and its behavior and not just be down with Simon because you cant stand Labour and Jacinda, lest you find yourself on holiday in Cambodia.


Sunday, 25 November 2018

The Ballad of Tutū Jones

Ta te tamariki tana mahi wawahi tahā - Maori Proverb

(Note - This post was written about two months ago but as always got put on the back burner by the antics of Jamie-Lee Ross. Its a record of a conversation between me and my old friend. The words contained are checked for accuracy but in places I have paraphrased with permission)

I caught up with my old friend Tutū at at Arcadia bar in Christchurch on a rainy Friday night. We had not seen each other in the flesh since the late 90s but we had kept in touch since that time due the strong bonds we had built as students at university and soldiering together in the military.

Arcadia, is a bar cum retro video arcade on the edge of the rubble zone in the Christchurch CBD which I had taken to frequenting for its old school arcade games, pinball machines and rackuos 80s music that when combined with the cheap booze made for more than a few nostalgic nights.

Being early I grabbed a beer and headed for the pinball tables and was deeply engrossed in trying to get the Jackpot on Scared Stiff (with Elvira) when I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see a face from my past smiling at me.

"Ya bloody started without me" Tutū said before offering his hand and, as I took it, dragged me into a hug.

"I needed some practice or you will kick my arse like last time" I replied, referring to our last pinball "duel" in late 1999.

Tutū looked older but it was still the same face, same movements and same brick-shit-house frame as old with now more of a mellowed/weathered look and style about him as his expensive yet casual attaire implied.

But this post is not about two middle aged guys trying to recapture their past but instead about two middle aged guys talking about the future as this post is as much mines as it is Tutū's.

And if your wondering, no Tutū Jones is not his real name, he chose that name himself and I will leave readers to figure out why he might have chosen it but the rest of of his story (minus the names of any individuals or identifying details) is entirely true. 

Tutū and I met at university in the early 90s and hated each other from the moment we first met. He thought I was some smart mouthed Pakeha who thought he knew it all (and that assessment was true) while I thought he was an angry Maori with a chip on his shoulder (which he freely admits he was). 

We both were doing Pol Sci (although different years) and both wanted to change the world in our own way. It was a recipe for heated debates, racial tension and two young Kiwis of different yet similar backgrounds finding out that they had far more in common than they had different amid the backdrop of New Zealand in the 90s with its bitter economic reforms, pre internet culture and educational changes (read the end of free university education and the dreaded student loans).

Needless to say we did not socialize much after our first few clashes and a few months later the university year ended and our social groups went their different ways.

The next time I saw Tutū was three months later in a remote back valley on the West Coast of the South Island as he was getting of a RNZAF UH-1H Iroquois helicopter during practice drills for insertion by chopper during annual camp for Territorial soldiers. 

I was in the next "stick" to go up so I had no time to say anything even if the noise of the rotors had not made it impossible to hear anything but after dinner I wandered the camp till I found him with his section mates near a Unimog parked near the back of the camp and "re-introduced myself".

Somehow during those previous debates neither of us had identified ourselves as being in the military or that we both came from families with military backgrounds and it was this new fact and setting which allowed us to "reset" our relationship and talk again with the common ground of military experience (from barracks and parade ground to exercise and field) to fall back on.

So we talked that evening while wandering the twilight camp and found out we had a lot more in common that just wearing green for a living, we also shared a passion for the comic 2000AD and hanging out in video arcades as well as having both grown up under "hard" fathers who showed their love in their own special way.

It was the start of a great friendship, we would catch up at uni to skip lectures and play pinball, talk endlessly about Judge Dredd (who we both admired) and always NZ politics as both of us had somehow allowed our own fragile egos to miss the fact that our first meeting had been at a protest against the then National Government under Jim Bolger, which both of us despised.

We also crossed paths at times in the Army, sometimes in camp, sometimes in the field, where we would let each other know when we were around in our own special way and often my first knowledge that Tutū was in the area was one of his "playful" punches in the ribs: be it in the mess or on exercise.

And things stayed that way for the rest of the 90s unil I shipped out for Japan in early 2000.

The last time I saw him was at his flat in the then student slum of Brockworth Place where we talked about the Millennium Bug and if it was actually going to happen. He said no, I said yes, but looking back now I realize that I was just bored and wanting something to come along and shake up the world rather than actually thinking it was going to happen (9/11 came a long a year and a bit later and provided that).

In the years between then and now we kept in touch via email and we regaled each other with our various "adventures": me roaming Asia and him in the Middle East and later South Africa.

Because while I got out of the Army in 98 to concentrate on study Tutū stayed in and moved up the ranks before deciding to put his skills to use in Iraq after the US had invaded in 2003 where he found himself helping guard supply trucks moving from Basra to Baghdad after the US had "liberated" the country and an army of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) moved in.

The money was good but the work was monotonous as he and many other kiwi "grunts" who signed on were not of a high enough caliber (ie not ex or serving special forces) to have the glamours jobs like protecting VIPs but instead were used to protect the endless supply convoys that moved around the country keeping the big military bases stocked with food and ammo (and sometimes covert shipments of drugs).

In the end Tutū and another two people we both knew ended up serving in Iraq with PMCs. Suffice it to say it was not what they expected or what the media were portraying it as and all three reported first hand experiences of the rape of Iraq as the US effectively privatized the essential services like power and handed much of country over to large US corporations or other "connected" parties to run like their own personal fiefdoms.

Meanwhile this was still the early days of the insurgency when the danger level was just below that of an actual war but still high enough to make seeing dead bodies an almost daily reality. 

I have never pulled the trigger in anger but Tutū  says he did on more than one occasion and while he can never definitely say if he killed someone he believes he did.

"I had one dead in my sights and saw him fall" he said after a few beers "but we did not usually have the time to check as we had to didi mau* out of there before their friends showed up but you dont put rounds into someone like that and they live"

"It was terrifying, nerve racking shit being on those trucks**, sitting in that cab" he said "it often started with rocks being thrown and sometimes it was only just that through almost every town we passed but sometimes it was more". 

Its worth pointing out here that one of the key mistakes of the US in the wake of the invasion was in disbanding almost the entire Iraqi army. Putting out of work hundreds of thousands of trained soldiers in a country which was awash in weapons and ammo and where there was almost no other work to be had which, in effect, helped to create not only the post invasion insurgency that the US and other international troops fought but was also instrumental in helping create groups like ISIS by the fact that fighting was often the only thing they knew how to do (and had been trained to do) and they had nothing else to do.

But Tutū stuck it out for 12 months and when his boss offered him another 12 months working security on the convoys he took it despite our other two mates having decided that they had had enough no matter how much they were making (Tutū made in excess of 200K US taxfree in his first year) and having seen more than enough "action" decided to go work someplace else.

Roughly six months into Tutū's second tour something happened which made him decide that he had better things to do with his life, which are in Tutū's own words.

"We were going through this town, just some shit-hole place on the road to Baghdad and sometimes you get forced off the main road and have to do a detour".

"So we go round and we are going down these streets near a river or canal and its a lot narrower there, high walls round the houses and palm or date trees or whatever hanging over which close it in and make it more like a corridor than a street."

"Then the stones start up and its like, rocks and shit bouncing off the cab, the roof and sides and its sorta like rain after a while except that you can often see these things coming in, some small but others like bits of brick or whatever and they hit with a real thump or crack and, shit you really start to get nervous as this is perfect ambush territory and the noise and lack of vision means that you already have less info and options that you want."

"The driver of the truck I'm in, this this guy from the Midwest in the US, Kansas or something like that, just a truckie who was driving there and decided to come out here and make some good money driving the Basra/Baghdad route, was named Keith or something like that, big guy, liked his coffee, thats all I remember. I did not know him very well but we had worked on the same convoy before so we got along."

"So its this back street, this shitty narrow back street and I'm scanning as best I can, listening to the radio chatter from the convoy lead and hoping we are going to get through this quickly and back on the road. Things like this had happened before, and some of the other convoys had had hard times but for me it had only just been stones and locals running round with AKs and stuff, not really organised, just pissed off people really. You popped off rounds sometimes but just to drive them off, scare them, let them know you mean business if they get too close.

"And now the rocks are coming real hard and you get these flashes of the people throwing them, popping out of alleys or the sides of houses or on a roof or something and there is no time or way to return fire and I did not want to either unless we really had to because the instructions are not to stop or shoot unless shits getting real coz its better the keep the trucks moving than stop so we just keep on.

"Then there is this sound like a cracker biscut being snapped and part of the front windscreen cracks and the truck jerks to halt. It was drivers side so I figured Keith was just stopping for a second to check if it was still going to hold in place, as its a big mess of cracks but as I looked over I see he is slumped back in his seat and there is blood all over the place.

"So I'm saying, "Keith, you ok man?" and he is not moving or saying anything but I can now see he has been hit in the head, whatever it was it musta been a big caliber round as it was real messy at the back of his head and it was clear he was dead, really fucken dead,so I'm grabbing the radio and calling for help and one of the drivers from another truck comes up to help.

At the time I was not scared, it was training and adrenaline kicking in and we gotta get moving as the convoy lead is saying its not safe and so we gotta get outta town before we can do anything so its the three of us in that cab, me, the other driver and Keith. I'm trying to get a pulse but there is nothing and I just keep seeing how messy his head is and I know he's dead.

Tutū was not scared at the time but he got scared later and after that he decided that money or not it was time to move on, even when his boss offered him a bonus to stay the rest of the contract.

And the list of PMC and contractor deaths in Iraq is significant and many of them were in convoy ambushes or from IEDs.

"The things about soldiering for money" Tutū said as we settled on a couch near the back as the place filled up "is that the money is only good if your alive to spend it". "Sometimes I thought if I died my dad would get my payout and how that would help him, he's old and he is still trying to row that boat out even after his operation and I just want to make sure he is looked after but after that I was "fuck-it!, I'm looking after myself!""

Tutū left Iraq and came back to NZ for a few months before taking up a job in South Africa through contacts he had made with fellow PMCs in Iraq and he stayed there until his recent return to NZ.

His work in South Africa was for the one of the many private security companies which exist there to protect the people, mostly rich Afrikaans and Blacks, from the poor blacks and others who will try to rob, car-jack, rape or just home invade on an almost daily basis, any time, almost anywhere in the Rainbow Nation.

"Its barbed wire, guns and dogs. That's my job mate." Tutū said as we rolled into our fourth beer of the night. The cheesy 80s music was blaring loudly mixing into the roar of arcade games and pinball's while the dim lighting and the bright colors of the games gave everything a slightly neon glaze***. 

"You got these gated communities and those inside want to keep their stuff and everyone else outside wants that stuff, or just to kill, or rape you if your a woman, its really feral behavior and lotsa people got guns, lotsa people go armed everywhere, specially if your white."

In South Africa Tutū met a girl from Ireland, a nurse, and worked his way up the company food chain until he was number two for his region and making good money. By then he was living in a gated community himself with his newly wed wife and their baby daughter and acutely aware of how dangerous their existence actually was.

"I had a routine for leaving the house, no matter what time of day or for how long. You know how people go "keys, wallet, phone" before they go out the door". He said, setting up in that particular tone of voice  I knew from past experience was the punchline to a joke, "well in SA it is "Keys, wallet, phone, hand gun, vest and pepper spray" he laughed but it was a grim laugh and I could tell that he was able to joke about it now but it was probably not so funny when he was actually having to do it daily.

"And when the government decided to take land back from the white farmers without compensation and give it back to the blacks things just got too serious, that shits not going to end well despite what people say and I decided it was time to get back to NZ, see the Whānau and let my littlie see her granddad before he passes away." 

"I man they say its only going to be a bit and not just run everyone out but Zimbabwe is right across the border mate and they said the same things there as well. The government there [meaning SA] is corrupt as and its only interested in staying in power so they will do this and leave the mess for others, like me to keep outta sight." Tutū looked earnest as he said this and as we talked he made it clear that from where he had been in SA it was already a borderline situation and this was only going to push it over the edge.

"People here, on both sides don't know how bloody lucky there are to have the Treaty to keep things going forward" he said, looking at the front door and the crowd of 80s attired hipsters that had just come in. There was a DJ now spinning songs that sounded like they were off the Wedding Singer soundtrack and the dance-floor was filling up as the smoke machine kicked in. "Maori will rise up again and when they do its as one with Pakeha or its utu mate, pure bloody utu! No joke, we gotta do this as one people, all of us or its going to be like there" he said referring to South Africa, "and if its like there then its like there and money ain't going to buy you protection forever."

I was feeling like we were back in those early days when we first met except that it was not revolution he was expounding now but evolution. "I'm proud of the Maori in me but also the Scot as well, you know? But above that all I'm a Kiwi, a New Zealander and I wanna be that over having to define myself by race first. Family and where you come from is important but not when its going to start a war." he was earnestly looking at me and I nodded and let him continue.

"I look at that fucked up shit in South Africa and I just don't want that here but that's where a lotta Maori are going and I saw that in Iraq and SA, just pissed off people, so pissed off that the only option left was to turn to violence and when you are at that level anything can happen." Tutū was speaking as honestly as he always had but now with age and experience behind it, I had to admit it was a hard argument to refute.

Tutū is back in NZ now, living in the North Island and seeing what his options are. His experience in security makes him very employable in some places but not so much in Aotearoa and he is acutely aware that he has to do something with his life but his skill set is great for only one thing. 

We sank one final beer (my fifth, his sixth) as Arcadia wound down, the Friday night rush over and the lights were coming back on, and talked about our futures. My plans are what they have always been, vague and indistinct, but Tutū's got some ideas and the means to make them happen (his time in South Africa was extremely well paid overall) and we joked about those early days at Uni and our plans to change the world.

"Maybe I will go into politics" Tutū said only half jokingly "you wanna be my adviser?" 

I paused for a moment to see if he was really serious and for a second I was looking at the guy I first met over two decades ago at a student demonstration in Christchurch, deadly serious, 100% committed and with a plan to change the world.

Then things flicked back and I was facing a 40 something man who filled his clothes like he had been poured into them but still with the handsome features and winning smile that had made him popular with the ladies when we used to go out drinking and I knew that as much as he would like to stay in NZ and make his home here, he will probably be back overseas sooner or later doing the only things he really knows how to do.

"Sure, I can advise you" I said "and right now I am advising you that we better get the fuck outta here before you have to carry me out, like the old days. Lets get some food and air". Tutū took my advice and we exited into the chilly September night.

Postscript - Two months later as I get this ready to post Tutū is still in NZ and thinking about setting up his own security business in NZ or going to work for one of the local security companies. His wife has found work as a nurse and his daughter is going to a local school and enjoying spending time with her Granddad. He has no plans to go into politics, yet, but knowing him I would not put it past him. Kia Kaha mate, Kia kaha.

*-Army slang from the Vietnam war era which means to get out of there quickly.
**-While not the convoy Tutū was on this video may help readers get an idea of what the situation he was in was like.
***-Or maybe it was just the beer

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Moving house, moving island, moving jobs

I'm writing this in the middle of Cooks Straight.

Regular readers (there are a few of you) may have noted that a lack of activity on my part lately.

This is because I am moving back to Wellington after nearly four years in Christchurch.

Quake city was nice and all but Wellington is where the work is and when opportunity knocks one must answer.

So blogging has been a bit lower on the priority list lately to things such as packing house, sorting out the new role, handing over the old work (everyone loves getting another persons case files don't they) as well as sorting out a new place to live (thank you Q for the gracious landing pad for my first few months) and getting the contents of my life (mostly boxes of books and music and a cat) across Cooks Straight.

Right now its 10.18 PM on a Wednesday night and after several days (and nights) of frantic packing and very little sleep (because I keep forgetting how much time it actually takes to pack up and clean a house) I am sitting in the cafeteria of the ferry running on a combination of energy drinks and the nervous excitement of going back to the city I have come to love so much.

Its not just the cosmopolitan atmosphere, the coffee and most of my friends being there that make Wellie what it is but also the fact that in regards to the work I do, its where the action is and Christchurch was always a short term option in my grander plans.

Not that my plans have been that grand, the last 18 years of my life have seen me move house on average of every two years starting in Asia and ending up in NZ. My most recent place (a lovely old brick statehouse with a garden that just screamed old lady) was home for just on two years, before that 18 months, before that four and a half years, before that it was 12, months, 18 months, one month, 12 months and so on all the way back to the distant year of 2000 when I first shipped out for Japan.

What I am trying to say at this point is that its time to put down some roots and I have chosen Wellington to do it. Unfortunately its in the middle of a surge in rental and property prices so I have a range of options from shoe box with a view to shoe box with no view to choose from in my current price range once I move out of the digs Q has so kindly lent me in a few months time.

Still, prices or no, Wellington is where I am going to call home and short of something very serious I will not be moving and maybe even one day (keep buying those Lotto tickets) I may be able to get my own place complete with some sort of hellish mortgage to bequeath to my kids.

I have been following NZ politics as always but in the larger scale of things the Jamie-Lee Ross scandal was more of a frantic blip on whats become a rather mundane downwards curve for NZ politics and I put this down to the difference between the previous third term government (that being National) to a first term government (that being the Labour led Coalition).

To be sure things are still happening but after scandal ridden antics of National under John Key, and later Bill English, the current government and its activity has just not generated the same kind of breathless drama that made up our regular diet under Mr Key and his evil little minions.

So to compensate for the shocking lack of scandal (because the Ian Lees-Galloway immigration saga is just not the same as Judith Collins doing dodgy deals with China, Gerry Brownlee playing cover-up for corruption in the quake rebuild in Christchurch or Key himself with things like his personal lawyer shilling for dodgy foreign money) I think its time to focus on the larger issues in NZ politics as well as elsewhere until we actually get something out of the current government worth discussing.

Thus the following is a list of topics/ideas I have been working on:

  • More posts in the "Meanwhile..." series
  • AI will kill us all: or at least take our jobs!
  • Post Jacinda politics in NZ
  • Populism: is it real?
  • Revolution in NZ
  • The problem with political media in NZ
  • US Politics (because my god how low can they go?)
  • An argument for Regulation in an increasingly deregulated world
  • Any other ideas my warped mind can cook up
I suppose that with a new job and being back in the gossip stream of Wellington I may also get more of the info which drove some of my early work but give me a month of catch-ups over coffee before I can be sure of that.

However, when NZ politics decides to actually start doing stuff worth discussing we shall discuss but for now I think its better to let Jacinda and Winston stew in their own juices.

Also I think its time for me to get some sleep before this ship docs in Wellington.

Regular blogging will resume soon.


Monday, 5 November 2018

Oh so now NZ wants to talk about about immigration!

Its a 6.4 on the sarcasto-meter(TM)!

Its funny isn't it that the immigration debate in New Zealand can limp along with barely any discussion on exactly how problematic the situation is for years until a Czech drug smuggler gets permanent residence then people loose their minds.

There has been some good coverage over time, such as Steve Kilgallon and Dileepa Fonseka's excellent series of articles on Stuff about exactly how widespread migrant exploitation in NZ is and how badly our immigration system is being rorted, but I have not herd the words "migrant exploitation" or "immigration rort" in the last six months as much as I have herd the words "Czech drug-smuggler" in the last week.

And perhaps its because there did not seem to be an obvious and easy way for the media or the desperately sinking National party to make a political football out the issue with those other two where as its been incredibly easy for people to focus down on the who and how of the recent decision rather than look at the bigger picture and ask exactly whats going on with immigration in this country.

Can we say dog whistle politics here. Yes we can.

Ian Lees-Galloway, as Minister of Immigration, made his decision about Karel Sroubek in one of the three following contexts:

1. Lees-Galloway (or one of his minions*) did not actually read past the cover sheet and just made their decision on the easy (but incorrect) emotion angle of the case,
2. Lees-Galloway read the file but the file the file did not have all the info so the decision was made with incomplete information, or
3. Sroubek was given residency as part of some deal with the Police, or some other agency, as part of his connection to the Hell's Angels and drugs smuggling in NZ.

Any of the above could be true but since we are listing facts about this case then lets list a few more.

4. Immigration NZ is run like a fast food franchise with lowly paid employees, quantity over quality decision making, outsourced  and offshore functions** and a risk adverse senior management which knows the problems exist but will not face them,
5. Appeals to the Minister of Immigration only make it to their desk when ALL other avenues are closed and things are looking BAD (as in nobody wanted to approve your application), and
6. Its a total crap shoot when your case is gone to the minister for appeal, anything could happen.

In my five years at Immigration NZ I watched all sorts of cases get declined at every single other level and then go to the minister for final judgement and in some cases people that should definitely not be allowed into the country got to stay while those who had cases with the most compassionate grounds ever get rejected outright with no reason or explanation, because at that level the Ministers power is effectively absolute and there is no appeal if you loose (or in the case of those highly questionable individuals who got in: won).

That said the Minister can also make the right decision and one of the most heart wrenching cases of my career, that I was unable to approve despite it being a obvious "yes", finally got approved later by the Minister; to my utter happiness, and relief.

And for the record the Minister that I, and most of my fellow Immigration officers, felt made the best decisions was Michael Woodhouse.

For whatever reason when it usually needed to be declined he did and when it needed an approved he approved while, in my time at least, the worst  Minister was Jonathan Coleman who we could only believe was deliberately doing the opposite of what should be done, every single time, as there seemed to be no other rational explanation for the atrocious range of appalling decisions he made (including allowing such a group of obviously questionable individuals to remain in NZ that I can only assume he had an obvious agenda to give residency to human rights abusing monsters over genuine cases***).

So the real questions in these circumstances is not "why did the minister approve Sroubek" but how can Peter Thiel get the red carpet treatment but Karel Sroubek cannot?

Or was he in the process of getting such treatment before the media turned it into a cheap morality play?

I'm not arguing for Sroubek to stay, I'm in the kick him out camp but I am also for stripping Mr Theil of his citizenship and that of anyone else who lies about their history and background (like National MP and Chinese Spy Jin Yang) because whats the bigger threat to the integrity of Aotearoa's immigration system and its democracy: a Czech drug smuggler or a Billionaire with a political view that lies somewhere to the right of Ann Rand and an intelligence agent of a foreign power with dictatorial political system and notorious human rights record as a sitting MP?

Hmmmmmm. Gee, I wonder what the answer could be?

But I have blogged about issues with Immigration in NZ before (here, here and here) and as easy it is to cry for the head of the current minister the reality is that we (or more correctly successive left and right governments) have decided that cheap labor is the key when we have an economic system which wants to keep wages low no matter the cost and that the only way to offset Kiwis heading across the Tasman, for better wages and living standards, is to over-inflate and over hype our international education system and ignore scams like getting married (and residency) for money on a large scale.

Yet the likely outcome is Sroubek will go while Theil and Yang get to stay because apparently Kiwis can only get outraged about immigration issues when its drugs and not abuses by the wealthy,  obvious cases of espionage, migrant exploitation or marriage-for-residency scams which makes this less a genuine issue and more the most recent round of "wont someone think of the children!".

So lets not turn the issue into another round of political point scoring or as an obvious distraction from a genuine high crime, like National selling slots in their party to the highest foreign bidder, but instead say "yes" to kicking Sroubek out but lets also get rid of that billionaire guy who got citizenship only because he's filthy rich and that lying intelligence operative for a hostile power who is also, mysteriously, still roaming the halls of parliment.

And for those who think this is just some rant against foreigners let me add in that I am all for citizenship to those who genuinely want to be here or have no other place to go (like most refugees), who come to NZ because its a better place than where they come from or because they have a brighter future here than back in their homeland (read your average economic migrant).

NZ is built on the successive waves of immigration that have come to our shores but the current one has become less about genuine immigrants adding to the New Zealand experience and more about selling citizenship which opens us up to looking less like a functioning democracy and open society and more like a sleazy tax haven or banana republic.

I could go on here and write about how most immigration advisers (espically the prominent ones) are more part of the problem than a solution or how INZ has stripped staff and resource from its compliance arm to to such an extent that only the most brazen crimes get investigated even while staff and managers know exactly how bad things are, but those are posts for another day.

Suffice to say that Labour did not do itself any favors when Jacinda told people to "read between the lines" but the narrative in much of the media that Iain Lees-Galloway should be shaved and sterilized lest he escape, mate with Clare Curran and thus further dilute Labours political gene-pool with drooling mongoloids is overblown media focus at best (and as someone who like hyperbolic statements I know what that looks like) and desperate false flagging by National at worst because one crappy decision by the Minister of Immigration is just the tip (and not the summit) of the mess that immigration in this country has become.

If Sroubek goes so should Thiel, Yang and all those other "economic citizens" who will have the dollars to buy a seat in Parliament because its just not right.


*-Because, if my memory serves me correctly, the ministers private secretary can decide or advise on immigration appeals to the minister as much or the minister.
**-Immigration's document collecting functions are outsourced and many decisions are made in offshore branches by locally engaged employees working to fill what is effectively a quota
***-Id love to say more but all IOs agree not to disclose what they know when they leave INZ so thats as much as I can say without getting  my "hands smacked".

Friday, 26 October 2018

I'm just going to leave these here

They say it cant happen here!

If you want some great examples of why bloggers are often doing a better job than the media these days you would be hard pressed to go past the following posts from the left and right of the political spectrum around National having Jamie-Lee Ross sanctioned (read forceably incarcerated) for "mental health issues" as a means to keep him from dropping any further dirt on National.

And the mainstream NZ media has been notably absent in this area because, as I have said before, they are far to close/embedded to those they cover to keep on reporting and as such they remain compromised and entirely suspect in Nationals bad behavior.

First we have Cameron Slater  of Whale Oil (yes that Cameron Slater of that Whale Oil)(via the Daily Blog) pointing out that it was National that got Ross locked away by the cops out of fear of Ross saying anything further, or worse contradicting Nationals set narrative.

Meanwhile Left-wing blogger Chris Trotter adds his own take on things from his own blog (Bowalley Road) and this is again well worth the read.

And there is so much in both of those posts that I will say no more but encourage readers to put any political prejudices they may have aside and go read them and see for yourself.

What I will add is that I was aware of some of these details through my own source in National but did not feel I could outright say what I had been told given the inability to verify it but that is where my allusion/comment to National assembling a "political hit team" in my recent post came from as Ross was high enough and deep enough into Nationals power structure to have more than enough dirt to team wipe National in its entirety and my source indicated as such.

And as this story is now well beyond Ross and his behavior things are verging on terminal scandal as Bridges has been caught red handed whoring the party for money and the only way out is to silence Ross from making any further revelations so Bridges and Co will be using any and all tricks to get Ross to shut his mouth as there are political reputations and careers at stake here and plenty of vested interests who would go down as well if National gets exposed as little more than a front for the PRC.

And if this is all somewhat shades of Karen Silkwood or that poor bugger who's name I can recall but who got killed in mysterious circumstances for having data disks from the Bank of New Zealand which suggested it was up to no good, then so be it because it does happen here!

Its probably time we started to ask some serious questions about National and its Chinese "friends".

Thursday, 25 October 2018

Sex, lies and Judith Collins

Listen to this while reading

Some people may have been shocked at the dirty laundry put on display last week when Jamie-Lee Ross and Simon Bridges went head to head in the public sandpit like two junkies high on cat pee but if you have spent any time in Wellington such stories are just the tip of the iceberg.

Take for instance the following:

·         A prominent minister in the last National Government was known to have such an insatiable lust for hiring pretty blonde women to work in his office that staff started to screen applicants based on hair colour
·         The speakers apartment, on the top of Parliament, has been the scene of several drug fuelled orgies involving MPs, sex workers and parliamentary staff
·         There are at least three brothels operating within 5 minutes’ walk of the Beehive; one set in a high class apartment building on the Terrace, another in an oddly decorated house slightly further up the terrace and one just across the road from Parliament: all have MPs as clients
·         Political lobbyists with access to parliament have provided drugs and sexual services
to MPs as part of their job
·         A highly paid Wellington courtesan operates under the cover of being a “communications consultant” to MPs and has her expensive Agent Provocateur lingerie insured as a “business expense”
·         Parliamentary services staff in the mid-2000s noted the operation of an individual they nicknamed “the groupie” whose mission it seemed to be to sleep with every male MP in parliament
·         An acquaintance of mine who has worked in the offices of five MPs, from various parties, over the years noted that all of them had affairs with their staff, all were married at the time and the offenders were both male and female MPs
·         The wives of at least two current MPs met their mates after working in their offices and having workplace affairs with them

Seven of the above are confirmed true and one remains suspected but unproven, you guess which one.

The point of the above is not to provide salacious titbits but to show that the kind of dirty laundry exposed by the Simon Bridges/Jamie-Lee Ross spat is not anything new if you work on or near the beltway in Wellington. Such things are, in fact, depressingly mundane.

And while the public may enjoy seeing MPs going at each other the reality is that it drags politics in general further down the slippery slope it has gone in the last decade (as Tracy Watkins has recently noted in Stuff).

It also doesn’t help that a recent round of research has shown that MPs are increasingly divorced from the general public they seek to represent (as well as reality) and most current MPs are now the kind of career politician that have no real life experience or basis in reality to lead a country or represent their electorate (given that the report notes distinct lack of MPs with any farming or trade background).

But Watkins is being deliberately naive if she thinks that this recent round of childlike squabbling is going to bring about a happier healthier parliament or more moral MPs (come on Tracy, at least try and be realistic on this one) by the sudden realization that someone has gone too far.

Still, parliament remains operational by recently having the third reading of the highly controversial and ultimately dangerous CPTTP trade deal (boo, hiss!) while also seeing a bill that would empower the Commerce Commission to look at anti-competitive behavior, and specifically the fuel market, also pass its third reading (Yaaay!) and thus showing that despite all the sexual shenanigans things can and do get done there.

Unfortunately all of this is being undermined by parties selling out democracy, wholesale, just so someone can buy their way into parliament (as National has recently been exposed doing) and no bill passing its third reading is going to offset that.

Nor is having people like National Party president Peter Goodfellow or Deputy Leader Paula Bennett stirring the pot or obviously playing the game for their own ends, by keeping Simon in the dark about Ross’s bad behaviour going to do National any favours by leaving Bridges looking naked and vulnerable as leader.

Thus we get to the most recent political poll results, done in the wake of Nationals spectacular meltdown, and what do you know, National down, Labour up, Greens up and Judith Collins (up several points to 5% as preferred PM) breathing down the neck of Simon Bridges (down 3 points to 7% as preferred PM) like the villain in a slasher movie.

Of course the reality is that with Jacinda Ardern now sitting on 42% as preferred PM it makes not a whit if its Judith or Simon who polls higher at this point as all Nationals internal ruckus has done is expose further the rift in National between the various party factions and your seven or five percent won’t be making the nut on election night against Labours 45% and Jacinda’s 42%.

And the even grimmer reality is with the Greens up 1 to 7% Labour and the Greens can govern alone as Winston and NZ First went nowhere at 5%. This means that the direct political outcome of all of Nationals infighting was to boost Labour, Jacinda and the Greens while weaken National and Bridges and set Judith’s heart all aflutter.

Unfortunately for Judith “I stab from the front” Collins, National does not appear suicidal enough yet to let her be leader which is a good thing because polling or otherwise National are now teetering on the brink of the political abyss that Labour fell into, with it nine cruddy years in opposition and endless leader swaps, which is a good thing because letting Judith run the show would bring the party to a place which it does not want to go.

Yes, the Judith Collins, as the Donald Trump of NZ politics scenario has been discussed before but not only is the NZ political landscape not polarized enough to facilitate such antics but Collins is such a tainted figure that it would be easier to leave Simon in charge and see what rocks he can steer the ship onto rather than allow Collins to rally the atavistic hordes to her dubious crusade.

Hunter S Thompson once said Richard Nixon represented the dark side of US politics and the same could be said for Judith Collins and politics in NZ. Just as Nixon did everything to advance his own political goals at the expense of all others so to would Collins do anything to get her backside on the throne, and NZ would be poorer for it if she did.

However, never say never as given how National has handled this crisis Collins might somehow exploit the chaos to grab the top job as Leader but she would never make it to PM and once that door is opened it cannot be closed and National would soon be begging John (or even Max) Key to come back and lead them rather than sink further into the murk that Labour has only recently climbed out of because if Collins for Leader, why not Brownlee, Bennett or (shudder...) Nick Smith.*

And there is even the rumor doing the rounds that Jamie-Lee Ross’s actions and later meltdown were subtly engineered by Collins (who Ross was a previous supporter of) so that the ultimate result would be to weaken Bridges and boost her own profile (and remove potential contender Ross) all in one foul swoop.

Given how fractious National has become and with Bridges smack-down on certain MPs its clear that such a scenario could be used for personal advantage but it remains just a theory and while the path to  the top job always has a few bodies to step over it would not be sound to engineer some sort of fratricidal bloodbath just to be queen. Or would it?

I don’t know where this will end but it’s safe to say that, after a brief hiatus in the wake of the 2017 general election, FukYoo Politix is back with a vengeance.

Is it any wonder that politicians are viewed in the same vein as child sex predators and lawyers?

And its a mood noted elsewhere so with that in mind rather than burn the Beehive to the ground and behead all sitting MPs, their staff and pets, here are my suggestions to a better Parliament, more open political parties, cleaner MPs and a healthier democracy:
  • Term limits of being an MP (say four terms/12 years)
  • No political donations to parties over 10K and all donations over $1000 must be declared in full
  • Lobbyists banned from parliament and not allowed select or individual access to MPs or senior govt staff
  • Pay of MPs cut to under 100K
  • All MPs must have at least 15 years experience in non political/government jobs or roles related to their portfolio (ie must have been a farmer to be minister in any farming related role in government)
  • Repeal the Waka jumping law
None of the above are particularly extreme and yet they would be a lot easier to deal with for MPs and parliament than allowing the ugly, angry and sometimes violent specter of populism/FukYoo politix to predominate and ultimately do the same thing.

Reader can suggest their own in the comments.

*-Amy Adams omitted because she is the obvious choice to succeed Bridges and go against Jacinda but I suspect that National male egos may not be ready for that yet (much as Labour was not able to stomach such a thought until they had scrapped the bottom of the barrel so many time that Andrew Little was leader before things got so desperate that Jacindamania happened. Also Adams may be playing the long game and lettering Judith run herself out of contention by tilting now, rather than when its less messy. Its what I would do.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Dead Party Walking

Jamie-Lee Ross’s press conference and release of a recording of him and Simon Bridges discussing all sorts of murky activities has been the political equivalent of a suicide bombing, detonated for maximum effect, in the middle of parliament.

Also, as Ross potentially has more dirt to dish (including other secret recordings), this is not over by a long shot.

The tape itself is enough to sink any political career, let alone a mediocre one like Bridges with its discussion of how to hide donations, from wealthy Chinese, from the rest of the party and the public, the effective sale of membership in National to foreign interests (not that this was anything new for National), the culling of serving party members and sitting MPs to accommodate said foreign buy ins and the kind of blue blooded arrogance that has become Nationals trademark over the years.

Bridges of course counter attacked this morning (claiming X, Y and Z) but it’s too late, far too late, and well beyond the scale of any possible repair that some half-baked apology is going to fix.

So without getting into all the details, Jamie-Lee Ross has crippled the National Party by not only completely exposing its deep internal divisions but also by conclusively displaying that National is as mercenary as they come, willing to whore itself out to all and sundry without any thought of anything (or anyone) but the dollar.

Worse still, is that Ross is not finished and there is likely more damage to come, more secrets and more internal ruckus as those MPs who have suddenly discovered that they are expendable, if some Chinese donor has enough cash, will not take this lying down and surely revolt.

However the absolute summit of this horribly spectacular turd mountain is that National is now effectively dead, both politically and socially. They may not know it yet but that’s it for Bridges and National as even without Ross  adding any new dirt added to the pile there is enough here to keep Nicky Hagar in business for years!

A week ago there could still be some genuine speculation about who would be government in the next election (2020) but now that door has slammed shut with a brutal finality as now its Jacinda and Winston for the win, without even trying, and even with all the issues that have built up under their current leadership.

Now we are back to that point I blogged about in late 2016 when the situation in National after John Key left was also bleak with national effectively headless and the rats either jumping ship or being pushed off (often by bigger fatter rats).

Then there is the Botany Bay by-election to consider and how this will play out, in public, with Ross clearly willing to stop at nothing and dish all the details in what could only be categorized as Hell has no fury as a MP scorned.

In fact, if Ross plays this right, and secures the seat then he has the makings of being able to start his own party, ala Winston Peters, as not only is he willing to go head to head in a no holds barred gladiatorial showdown with Bridges but he also has a potential stable of dissident MPs to pull to his side from all of those “f**king useless” MPs that bridges was willing to sell down the river for Chinese funding, to build a party from.

Some National voters will probably sit still for this, because even at its nadir Labour still had a core of 24% who qualified as true believers, but a lot will not. Some will cut loose and look to parties like TOP for their rational policy fix, while other more conservative types will start to agitate for some vehicle to replace ACT. Others may even embrace the dark side and consider voting for NZ First or (shock horror) Labour.

And its not surprising that behind all of this are the same faces that we always fear and loath with Jerry Brownlee being the catalyst for all this when he demanded, what had supposedly been promised to Ross, and got it because “he will sit on the back benches and throw rocks” (according to Simon) and Paula Bennett acting as bully boy for Bridges and setting Ross up for his final suicide dive.

So yes, Bridges avoided having Brownlee “throwing rocks” but instead got Ross lobbing, what one acquaintance of mine described as, “thermonuclear hand grenade” into the core of the party and taking out everybody.

Seems the Gang of Four (Bennett, Brownlee, Smith and Collins) remains as toxic as ever and in allowing their toxicity to predominate at the highest levels in National, Simon Bridges has allowed the cancer to spread and grow to such a volume that it’s exploded forth with a wave of puss and foul ichor.

I contacted my national party contact (T) yesterday to find out what had gone on but got a rather short “not today mate, give me a week” in reply so when I get the inside scoop from him I will post it here but even so there is so little left that’s not been revealed or exposed as to be an open secret that I don't expect to be too surprised at what he reveals.

I have side this before and I am saying this again, that National had been on life support in the early 2000s after English and Brash had bent the party over and spread itself wide (see Nicky Hagar’s The Hollow Men) and it was only the miracle intervention of John Key (and the public reaction to an increasingly matriarchal Auntie Helen) which saved them from political oblivion then as to all intents and purposes they were politically bankrupt.

Today, without the necromancer magic of Key to sustain them, National is completely and utterly politically bankrupt and Simon Bridges has allowed Jamie-Lee Ross to destroy the brand in the most fatal fashion.

No-one wants to be identified with quislings willing to sell out ones country (and as the international mood swings against kissing Chinese backside National and their Chinese courtesans are on the wrong side of the debate) nor publicly link themselves with idiots, fools and incompetents. People are going to walk, people are going to talk and Bridges has not only let the narrative slip out of his hands he has completely and irrevocably destroyed both the internal and external fixtures of National.

So from now until it dies, National is a dead party walking, it will shamble forward as some sort of political zombie, maybe even Judith Collins will get to be leader, but only the most hard-core (or apathetic) National supporter will be willing to stand up and remain loyal.