So New Zealand has using the GCSB to spy on its friends and allies in the Pacific – and has not only been passing on the results to the NSA, but has apparently passed on the details of the Pacific’s relations with Taiwan to our other best friends, the Chinese. On the side, the Key government has also been using the security services as a National Party toy, to gauge the chances of Trade Minister Tim Groser landing the top job at the World Trade Organisation. Nothing to see here, move on, says Prime Minister John Key. Ludicrously, Foreign Minister Murray McCully has alleged to our spied-on friends in the Pacific that Edward Snowden may have made it all up.
So far, one of the government’s cover stories is that (a) our Pacific friends don’t mind and (b) the New Zealand public don’t care. All praise then to last night’s edition of RNZ’s Dateline Pacific programme, for showing how royally pissed off the actual officials who have been spied on are still feeling.
The same programme suggests why Pacific leaders have been relatively low key so far in their response: their dependency on aid from New Zealand means that Pacific nations have to mute their displeasure, and pick their fights carefully. The Pacific Forum later this year may well be the occasion when these issues get fully aired.
As to whether the public cares… leaving aside whether a popularity contest should be the standard by which the government manages (a) spy services and (b) its regional diplomacy, the incidents raised by the Snowden evidence show just how crucial the mid-year review of the security services will be. Given that the government has used the GCSB so fecklessly, the oversight of our spy agencies has to be beefed up to stop any future government from ever again misusing its surveillance powers, in the way the Key government has done.
In an ideal world, the June review of the security services would result in the formation of a properly independent oversight body to rein in the political abuse of these agencies. A representative committee of Parliament drawn from all parties and armed with investigative teeth – and to which the spy services must annually report, in public hearings – is what is needed. Is that likely to happen ? Hardly. Not when we have a government that seems quite happy to use the powers of the Nanny State for its own party political ends. This is an occasion where an Act Party that really believed in individual rights could make a difference – and could justify its existence as something more than a National Party doormat. Fat chance of any such principled action from David Seymour, though.
Obama as Spock
For the past 15 years, Juan Cole’s Informed Comment site has been a terrific source of insight into events in the Middle East but as you’d imagine, the laughs have been few and far between. In the wake of Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent re-election though, Cole has excelled himself.
The recent death of Leonard Nimoy, (Star Trek’s Mr Spock) has inspired Cole to compare President Barack Obama’s coolly logical, vaguely inhuman take on world events to the resident Vulcan on the starship Enterprise – and with that in mind, Cole has juxtaposed Obama’s actual comments to the Huffington Post, with how Star Trek’s straight-talking Dr ‘Bones’ McCoy might have expressed them. Here are a few examples:
Obama the Vulcan: “Well, I had a chance to speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, congratulated his party on his victory. I did indicate to him that we continue to believe that a two-state solution is the only way for the long-term security of Israel, if it wants to stay both a Jewish state and democratic. And I indicated to him that given his statements prior to the election, it is going to be hard to find a path where people are seriously believing that negotiations are possible.”
English translation: “For appearances sake I had to call that son of a bitch and pretend to congratulate him. But I let him know that his outrageous torpedoing of any Palestinian state has two consequences:
1. Israel isn’t a democracy any more– you don’t get to call yourself that if you plan to rule 4 million Occupied people with martial law forever.
2. The Palestinians and the Americans are not falling ever again for this two-faced lying bastard’s charade of “peace talks” that actually just provide a fig leaf to massive and expanding Israeli theft of Palestinian land…
Obama : “…the status quo is unsustainable. And … while taking into complete account Israel’s security, we can’t just in perpetuity maintain the status quo, expand settlements. That’s not a recipe for stability in the region.
HUFFPOST: “Is there any reason at this point to believe that he’s serious about a Palestinian state?”
Obama : Well, we take him at his word when he said that it wouldn’t happen during his prime ministership, and so that’s why we’ve got to evaluate what other options are available to make sure that we don’t see a chaotic situation in the region.”
English Translation: “Hell will freeze over before Netanyahu lets the Palestinian people go. But with all the turmoil in the Middle East, the Israeli creeping annexation of the Palestinian West Bank and permanent siege of the Gaza Strip are going to blow up in his face and in America’s….Since he’s a roadblock in the way of a superpower achieving its policy goals, we’ll just go around the s.o.b. If we have to, we’ll haul his ass before the United Nations Security Council or the International Criminal Court.”
“HUFFPOST: And what was your reaction to his warning on Election Day about Arab voters heading to the polls “in droves”?”
Obama : We indicated that that kind of rhetoric was contrary to what is the best of Israel’s traditions. That although Israel was founded based on the historic Jewish homeland and the need to have a Jewish homeland, Israeli democracy has been premised on everybody in the country being treated equally and fairly. And I think that that is what’s best about Israeli democracy. If that is lost, then I think that not only does it give ammunition to folks who don’t believe in a Jewish state, but it also I think starts to erode the meaning of democracy in the country.
English Translation: “Israelis of Palestinian heritage going to the polls in droves is bad? Netanyahu’s attitude toward Palestinian-Israelis makes 1960s Southern governors like George Wallace and Orval Faubus look like effing Nelson Mandelas in comparison. He’s creating a Jim Crow atmosphere, coding 6 million Israeli Jews as “white people” and putting all the other nearly two million Israelis under the sign of the N-word. That isn’t a democracy and if it is what Israel stands for now, no one but the other flaming racists and fascists in the world is going to be pro-Israeli. And you can imagine how I feel about the mofo basically using the N-word. You have to wonder if that’s his real problem with me….”
Kendrick Lamar returns
Kendrick Lamar’s new To Pimp A Butterfly album has been previewed by a couple of singles ( “i” and “The Blacker The Berry” ) that combine an exuberant sense of self-worth (on “i” )with its flipside….which in the case of “The Blacker the Berry” means an internalised sense of self-disgust, whereby becoming a killer is the only form of emancipation available. No wonder some people have been depicting this as a vintage Martin Luther King/early Malcolm X double shot.