Sunday, April 26, 2020

On The Curious Un-Death Of Kim Jong Un - Schrodinger's Dictator

So for the past 48 hours, I've witnessed a lot of excited chatter about the alleged incapacitation of Kim Jong Un. First it was because he'd had surgery and was having a tough time of recovery; then it was because he was in a coma; then it was a vegetative state (which some wag imputed to mean he'd just sampled his first vegetable); and then it was a death, with his sister poised to take over and make totalitarian autocracy the equal-opportunity sport it had always longed to be.

Except here's the thing. There's no actual proof that this has occurred.

What there is, are a range of predominantly American news-sites, falling over themselves to report that he's dead, on the strength of what appear to be unconfirmed rumours.

Meanwhile, South Korea - who are both figuratively and literally closer to the situation than just about anyone - have expressed considerable skepticism, and believe everything's basically normal (or, at least, as normal as the DPRK-o-sphere ever really gets).

Now, in fairness, it is possible that Kim Jong Un is dead. It is possible that there's some sort of coup underway and the news he is dead has been put out for some intentionally aimed-for impact. It is possible that Kim Jong Un himself put out the news he is dead, because he saw how much "fun" the whole 'inject disinfectant' thing was, and wants to have a go at "JUST A PRANK, BRO - WORLD LEADER EDITION" himself.

All of these things are possible, although I am not sure how many, if any, are actually likely.
For now, he is Schrodinger's Dictator. The Man In The Box.

And until there is actually some sign one way or 'tuther from the DPRK, it would be entirely premature to actually believe that these "rumours" you're all suddenly placing massive credence in, have a solid ring of truth to them.

[And seriously, looking at the American right-wingers around the place - you people turn on a dime! You go inside 24 hours from claiming the media makes up anything and everything to make a leader you like look bad (potentially by playing unaltered clips of him speaking) ... through to just taking everything that's being said about a leader you don't like (but that your leader kinda likes) at face value because you like how it sounds!]

If one looks into it, it turns out that the DPRK appears to be run by a cabal of necromancers. Because on a reasonably regular basis, we hear a report of this or that general or senior official or music-star that's supposedly been executed in cartoonish supervillain style ways - only to have them turn up alive and well at some function in public view looking surprisingly healthy for a corpse. Particularly one that's supposedly been used as mortar or anti-aircraft gun target practice.

This has taught me to have a reasonable degree of skepticism whenever such claims are made. It doesn't mean that executions, disappearances, or dynastic transfers of power are all an illusion. Only that rumours of some deaths are greatly exaggerated, often by people with an agenda - whether that's to make the DPRK seem more relatably evil as a narrative antagonist, or simply to sell you something, or especially both at once as they both feed of each other. (the shifting stories o some DRPK defectors can also be viewed in this light)

But who cares. Many of you seem to want a "feel good" news story. Because if the death of one is a tragedy and a million a statistic .. the deaths of tens of thousands amidst the present pandemic can apparently be eclipsed by the admittedly rather large figure of one Hermit King in a missile-transporter hearse.

Have a bit of skepticism, and some care - we don't know that Kim is Dead. It's possible that his shade is chilling right now with Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction, instead.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Winston Wronged And HDPA Right - The Unexploded Truth Of The Pension Payment Settling Of Accounts

So earlier this week, two things happened. Winston got his lawsuit result back ... and the National Party started demanding that he pay for it.

Now, in a sense, you could be forgiven (by somebody else) for seeing National's point. The judgement was reasonably clear - the assertion that Paula Bennett and/or Anne Tolley (inter alia) had leaked Winston's pension overpayment details to the media as part of some sort of targeted political hit-job, was unproven. Indeed, would have been very difficult to actually prove in the first place.

So therefore, if Tolley & Bennett were not found guilty - and the taxpayer was footing the bill for the whole fruitless exercise, perhaps some recompense was in order?

Balderdash. There are three salient points to be made here. The first is that the judgement also quite clearly agrees that Winston's privacy was breached, in a highly unusual and improper manner. The only thing it disagrees with is that the culprit could be positively identified.

And that, as it happens, is not necessarily too terrible of a thing. Insofar as, if we cannot actually prove to a reasonable standard that somebody has done it ... then of course the law should not assert that they have.

The second, is that as Winston's privacy was breached in this way, it's good that somebody took both government apparatus and relevant Ministers notionally responsible to task over it. Bennett has a bit of a history of making improper disclosures about Ministry of Social Development payment recipients for political impact - and previously she has managed to get away much more easily than she did this time. Possibly because impoverished mothers dealing with WINZ are less able to afford High Court lawsuits than veteran pensioner politicians armed with the resources of state.

The utilization of taxpayer money in this way, in other words, while it might seem a vainglorious counter-charge in pursuit of political scalps as part of a personal vendetta ... is actually a safeguarding and upholding of our rights as taxpayers to be treated fairly by our state and government. It is, in short, that thing NZ First has so often claimed to be about - "Keeping The Bastards Honest".

But the third point ... is that I am not sure the judgement as it was, really lets National off the hook. At least, not enough for it to be pompously demanding that the victim - and for all his faults, in this he truly was - of malfeasance, pay back the entire sum total of his costs in pursuit of justice.

Now, I am going to astound everybody - not least of which, myself - by stating that Heather du Plessis-Allan got something right. Not recently, but a year ago, but of fresh saliency and relevance in light of this week's judicial findings.

To quote her - "The reason I say that is because in the weeks before the leak, I was told by the Nats that the nats had the information. 

They told me they were considering leaking it. They told me how they would leak it, the process they would follow to cover their tracks. Without going into details, I can tell you that’s exactly how it played out.

So the chances that the Nats leaked it are about 99 per cent."

That's from a piece upon the subject she wrote in late August of last year. A veritable lifetime ago in multiple senses of the term. But nonetheless, an interesting remark in light of what has just occurred.

For while this is not exactly the sort of evidence that one could viably take to court - partially because it is hearsay, and partially because I suspect a journalist's protections of sources would mean that it would be difficult to compel her to unveil more details that might actually lead to surety about the situation ...

... it nevertheless suggests rather strongly that Winston WAS right to point the finger toward National.

And that what has just happened this week, wherein the verdict has come in, and National are demanding that Winston pay up, apologize, and all the rest of it, is a case of a party who were probably actually guilty of wrongdoing having an incredibly lucky escape and then doubling down on their visage of tortured innocence. Certainly, they have had few strong blows against the Government in recent weeks (for entirely understandable reasons - blow-BACK on the other hand, being another matter), so the chance to actually salvage some shrinking vestige of moral high ground must have proven irresistible.

The fact that Tolley and Bennett have escaped direct and official censure for this gambit, should in no way detract from the fact that Winston has been partially vindicated. It should also not distract from the very real possibility that National remains secretly guilty of the offence that has been charged against it.

It is repugnant for it to be found that Winston was, indeed, the victim of such a breach - and then to expect him to have to pay for the proving that he has been wronged against.

It is also most curious that we can have senior figures of our political and journalistic sphere pretty sure that National as a party WAS actively involved in the leaking which ensued, and because we cannot decisively prove WHICH National high-up it came from, this therefore lets the party as a whole and as an entity off the hook.

National can and will spin this as some sort of grandiloquent vindication. It is nothing of the sort.