Travesty or Farce: Ardern and the colonial honours system in New Zealand

Why have these two people become a Knight and Dame for doing well-remunerated jobs poorly?

So not long after Dr Ashley Bloomfield receives his gong from the Governor-General, we have the public holiday for the King’s Birthday. It isn’t actually his birthday, but this is the second honours round for the year. And his new Queen Camilla actually gets the highest honour, just because she is the new Queen. And she has actually been here a few times on paid holiday. If that were not a farce we then have the spectacle of Jacinda Ardern being given her own special status of Damehood, fit for a narcissist.

Of course it is de rigueur for the former Prime Minister to be given a knighthood. It certainly was for John Key, who had reinstated the colonial honours system so he could then receive one. As it happened, Helen Clark had actually tried to abolish the colonial titles, and instigate a local version, but one of Key’s major achievements was to restore the status quo. Now, most of the gongs are given to people of celebrity status, sports stars, or high income earners who are mostly employed by the State. Obviously the generous salary is not enough, but further down the list come the ordinary people who volunteer.

Do I need to rehearse the double-act routine of Bloomfield and Ardern, in their daily press conferences during the lockdowns which did so much damage to the society they were apparently saving. In fact, the key decision was to close the border early, and then force returning citizens into a lengthy quarantine. Once the borders had re-opened, and the Covid death toll rose exponentially, there were no more press conferences for the duo. And the fawning media never did ask Ardern why her favourite drug, that she pushed on her nationwide tours of vaccine clinics, wasn’t saving the vulnerable people she had promised it would. Bloomfield had already resigned before the death toll got too high. Then his bureaucratic successors decided to change the definition of a Covid fatality, to reduce the numbers, even though the media never ran the story anymore, at least in the main TV news bulletins it was not to be highlighted.

So what of the Ardern legacy? On the Covid front she promised a Royal Commission into the policy setting: just as long as it was limited to the glorious period of the press conference double-act, and before the phase when there was reliance on the Pfizer drug known as Cominarty. Apparently the pandemic was over by March 2022, when everyone was fully vaccinated, apart from the recalcitrants who had held out despite being disenfranchised. It seems doubtful that this Royal Commission will ever take place now, but since it was to be chaired by an academic epidemiologist, rather than a High Court judge, it would have had no significant legal status. Ardern appears to have been captured by these so-called experts, and agreed that the ‘unvaccinated’ had to be physically segregated to the maximum degree possible, although she just repeated their obsession with controlling who used public space.

The main public space in the country, the precinct of Parliament, was occupied by protestors in February 2022, and in March they were removed by force, with much damage done to the grounds. If not Ardern’s celebrity. Indeed, it still seems that, even if she was surprised by the occupation, she manipulated the narrative for short term political advantage. By refusing to negotiate with the deplorable people, or concede that any of them were protesting actual vaccine injuries, it appears to have been a classic divide and rule strategy. She came down hard on those that had disobeyed her, when she was only trying to save the citizenry from disease, and proved they were a threat to public safety. She also constructed a narrative in which all the dissent from her actions was irrational, and evidence of conspiracy theories.

In truth, Ardern created a little celebrity bubble for herself and her cheerleaders in the female dominated media. All her public events were carefully controlled, and she only took questions from officially recognised media. Her televised press conferences were orchestrated to take questions from the TV media celebrities first, and then the hacks from the other press outlets after the TV audience was gone. All of the initial questions would be from female political editors. Outside of Parliament she would call off any press conference that attracted someone who wasn’t accredited, even if they were a qualified journalist.

Ardern got stuck with the narrative in which everyone from outside the bubble, or the public profile elite, was either a follower of her or a conspiracy theorist. The media still use the term for every form of dissent, not just that concerning Covid vaccination. But a lot of the dissent came from people who had either been on the receiving end of her harsh quarantine policies, or who had been harmed by the Pfizer vaccine. She chose never to acknowledge these people’s existence; and when she said that she had made mistakes, in her valedictory speech when leaving Parliament, she never stated what the mistakes were. Even if she had been the great saviour she thinks she is, along the way she decided to ignore the legal rights of citizens, flout established constitutional conventions, and make the Parliamentary process a ‘rubber stamp’ for the Executive. She won a rare parliamentary majority under the MMP system, and decided not to make reforms to the tax system which would involve the richest citizens paying some form of wealth tax: she could impose a lockdown on all citizens, but not ask the wealthiest to pay a fair share. Her successor has only just closed a loophole which had a lower tax rate on those with trusts.

So Ardern goes off to her new role as an international celebrity, while she leaves her Labour Party about to lose in a landslide to the National Party. Some problems she left behind include: rampant inflation; a public health system in crisis; schools that are half empty; universities and polytechnics with large declines in students; a youth crime wave; a spate of murders and violence; and a country prone to extreme weather related damage. Of course she couldn’t really do anything about the weather either.

Back to the honours list, the two major parties have always rewarded their loyalists and donors. But there is also a sense in which the right sort of people are to be recognised, not those engaged in dissent. This makes the example of Nicky Hager interesting, who was honoured for his service to ‘investigative journalism’, as an independent writer. He has mainly been a researcher into defence and spying issues, but has also embarrassed both Labour and National Governments with scandals exposed during election campaigns. Maybe he doesn’t have anything up his sleeve this time. But everything he did write was always dismissed as a ‘conspiracy theory’ by John Key. The habit of calling critics a conspiracy theorist has magnified greatly after Ardern’s reign in office, and so there is certainly some continuity there. But you have to see the irony in Labour rewarding the most effective conspiracy theorist of them all.

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The Head Prefect/Student President syndrome that has usurped left wing politics in New Zealand

Chris Hipkins, the boy from Lower Hutt who has assumed Ardern’s legacy of identity politics

I was going to write something on May Day, which still provides a focus on trade union and labour mobilisation around the world. Not just the full on confrontation with the State that we see in France. It is a living tradition in many countries, irrespective of political systems, from Cuba to Australia. Actually the mass event in Cuba was cancelled due to a fuel shortage. But it is also a non-event in New Zealand despite, or because of, the fact that the Labour Party holds a parliamentary majority – what seems a very significant position belies a labour movement that is emasculated, moribund, and can’t organise politically.

This is the legacy of Jacinda Ardern. But rather than indulge in more name-calling, which is what her media cheerleaders still do, I want to be a bit more analytical. There were at least two dominant forces within Ardern’s electoral coalition that can mobilise: the first is the Maori sovereignty activists; and the second are the LGBQT activists. Both these strands are very active, but aren’t necessarily still attached to Labour, as opposed to Ardern. The Maori sovereignty activists can find representation in the Maori Party, which is also present in the Parliament. While the sexual politics activists also lean towards the Green Party. As we saw when someone named Posie Parker tried to visit New Zealand, both of these strands can mobilise, if not become mobs, when the politicians suggest their rights are under threat.

Not so much the labour or trade union movement. It’s not that they don’t get policy gains from having the Labour Party in power, and that they can mobilise when right wing parties return to government and threaten these so-called gains. Unfortunately, the labour movement does not retain its own identity and have the ability to mobilise those that identify with it, in the same way that Maori sovereignty and the transgender activists are able to march in the streets. Ardern was happy to be with them when she was in opposition, and could count on their votes, but her electoral coalition is about to splinter. And her successor, Chris Hipkins, can do nothing about it, even if he had personal charisma or a similar media savvy approach to political management. Neither of these two things would save Ardern’s premiership.

Ardern always retained something of a head girl/prefect sort of persona, along with the goofy grins that made her look like a teenager at times. I don’t think that she was a student politician, but many of her male lieutenants were, including national student presidents like Grant Robertson and Andrew Little; and the other student politicians were James Shaw and Chris Hipkins at Victoria University in Wellington. I was a contemporary of James Shaw in 1993, though older and a postgraduate student by then. While Chris Hipkins was the VUWSA president in 2000-1, and went on to work in Prime Minister Helen Clark’s office not long after that, along with long term allies Robertson and Ardern. Hipkins had also been Head Boy at a small secondary school in Lower Hutt, before it was closed in the 1990s. I happened to go to the main secondary school out there – Hutt Valley High School – and my brother was head boy.

Most of the head pupils and prefects go on to bigger and brighter things, and perhaps some fall by the wayside like me. I hated almost every second of being a student politician and wished I had never done it. This was less political at that point, and more about my experience as a postgrad student and the way that academics conducted themselves. Playing favourites is about the best way to put it, and if you did not do what they wanted, within their ideological positioning, they wouldn’t bother to help. Unless you were well connected they did not feel any need to actively supervise a thesis, but did want to keep the fees already paid. This experience was very different to that of most undergraduate students who tend to be deferential to academics, just repeating what they are told, and the undergraduates becoming student politicians had a similar approach to dealing with the university administrators.

So the lesson for student politicians was to make connections for their own career, and most were open about that being the reason why they went into it. But prior to the 1990s the student presidents and national leaders often appeared in the media, presumably because they represented a movement. I tried to have that debate in 1993, when we needed to strongly oppose the introduction of the student loan scheme, but that battle had already been lost. So in that sense student politicians lost significance, and only remained relevant when the media decided to focus on specific aspects of student hardship, but not policy. But behind all that was the fact that policymaking had become more elitest, and most significant aspects had to be beyond the reach of all ordinary elected politicians, especially in regard to economics.

In previous posts I have effectively referred to a kind of policy tyranny over Covid vaccination, in which everybody had to be deferential and ‘follow the science’ – i.e. the academic experts – even when they advocated removing fundamental civil rights. Despite the data for vaccine efficacy being weak the public health experts wanted citizens to be forced into vaccination, and this was facilitated by politicians like Ardern and Hipkins. Ardern thought she was making the correct ‘captain’s call’ based on the science, but was really just deferring to an academic agenda, and Hipkins followed suit. Indeed, the experts also want every policy situation to be framed in this way, and to impose their agenda directly into policy.

A clearer version of this can be seen in economic matters, especially with monetary policy, where the sanctity of the central bank requires that it has to have constitutional independence. This means that it is meant to focus on inflation, narrowly defined by a statistical index, irrespective of any other economic consequences, and the effect on public finance. There are still some questions about the accountability of having an all powerful central bank governor, but the end result is all that matters, and politicians have no influence. Of course, in New Zealand we have seen that the central bank engaged in untargeted ‘quantitative easing’, with an influx of liquidity in the banking system during Covid lockdowns. The result was domestic inflation, to go with rising oil prices due to war, and this meant the central bank was obliged to hike the rate of discount for the banks. But the cash rate in New Zealand is much higher than in other countries, and the governor literally wants to engineer a recession in what is an election year.

This proves that macroeconomic policy is actually determined by the central bank governor, as the independent expert, just like it is in London. The result of hiking base interest rates is a massive re-distribution of income from mortgage holders to the banking system, and in New Zealand this means mostly foreign-owned banks. All of this is apparently necessary to keep domestic inflation below 3%. But the policy is actually based on an economic theory that denies the fact of there being a fiat currency which the government should manage, with appropriate parliamentary accountability. Ardern, Robertson and Hipkins were powerless to control the ‘magic money tree’ all along. Just like, as student politicians, they were powerless to influence the education policies or practices that affected tertiary students. All they learnt was to be deferential to those who had power and expertise, and just try to occupy empty positions of power. Remember the first thing that Ardern did when she had won the landslide 2020 election: she said that there would never be a wealth tax while she was in power. So much for actually being in office, she wasn’t really in power at all, and Hipkins makes this more obvious every day now.

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Experts try to ride the ‘fourth wave’ of Covid, but was it always a damp squib

This is the Ministry of Health in central Wellington, just up from the Parliament, and commanding a position above the urban motorway. It used to be the scene of press conferences on Covid and presumably the centre for the response. But, it now seems that the academic experts were always leading the more aggressive aspects of the Covid restrictions. As the so-called experts like Michael Baker announce that there is now a fourth wave of Covid, based on health statistics, not only are the statistics in question. But so are the underlying basis for the recommendations to vaccinate again.

A lot has changed over the last little while. Ardern and her histrionics have gone, and so have many of her failed policies. But still we have Baker and co appearing in the media, and are given an unmediated opportunity to pursue more restrictions that the new Hipkins ministry doesn’t really have the stomach for. Certainly not anything that seems coercive. Ardern may have gone but the legal cases resulting from her vaccine mandates continue. This doesn’t matter to the likes of Baker, he always thought that that the recalcitrant anti-vaxxers should have been injected by force. But this would have been a breach of the Bill of Rights, and the right not to accept specific medical treatments, even if it was recommended.

Of course, it has always been assumed that the Ministry of Health had explicitly approved of the use of the Pfizer drug, Comirnaty, and that it should be classed as a vaccine. But new research into the legal cases by blogger Thomas Cranmer (a pseudonym), indicates that the Ministry officials were less than forthcoming about their actual views on vaccine safety and efficacy from the beginning. Cranmer argues that the expert evidence of Dr Bloomfield, and colleague Ian Town, was essentially misrepresented. In fact, the Ministry of Health and Medsafe only ever gave a provisional approval to the use of the Covid vaccine, and this was due to the lack of statistical data coming from Pfizer, about safety and efficacy.

It is worth quoting the key paragraph from Cranmer’s recent blog post which claims that Bloomfield and Town never gave a clear risk assessment of the vaccine. This had four aspects: a) that the duration of the vaccine protection had not been established beyond 2 months; b) that there was limited evidence of protection against severe disease; c) that there was no long term safety follow-up information; and d) vaccine prevention of asymptomatic infection and disease transmission has not been established.

Given the extraordinary nature of these arguments, and the legal impact of fudging them, let’s look at each in turn. The fourth one is not in doubt, it is perfectly obvious that the vaccine has not stopped the transmission of the virus, and people know it. That is why around 1.5 million doses have recently expired, in spite of the expert advice, because ordinary people know it is not working. The third point is extremely important, because officials were aware from the start that Comirnaty could cause serious heart disease like myocarditis, especially in younger people. This explains why the Medsafe safety reports were made weekly to begin with, although the reporting has now ceased completely. Meantime, the second point is also incredibly significant, since it makes clear that the efficacy of the vaccine was always in doubt, and required evidence that it prevented severe disease. Of course the academic experts have always claimed that the vaccine provided the best possible prevention of severe disease, and they produce the studies to prove it, when the actual evidence has been that thousands of boosted people have died in the last year. But the real insight is in the first point, that the officials knew that the vaccine was only worth 2 months ‘protection’, at best, and it obviously doesn’t provide life-long immunity.

Of course, the Ministry of Health officials have authorised advertising which claims that the vaccine does provide life-long immunity, at least for young children. And there has now been a long list of distortions and manipulation of statistics, which now mean that the Ministry’s data cannot be relied upon. When the death toll rose rapidly last year, from around 50 in January to over 2000 in July, the Ministry changed the definition of a death with Covid, to thereafter be counted officially for deaths from Covid. This implied that the Ministry officials could determine cause of death without a formal medical examination. Strangely, for the reports of death caused by the vaccine, assumed to be mostly heart disease, officials like Bloomfield have never accepted causation. The reported deaths remain at 184, as of November 2022, and only 4 of the ‘likely’ cases have been referred to the Coroner. A key part of Cranmer’s blog post is the evidence from Dr Town which highlights the risk of myocarditis from having repeated injections. This is what actually led to the decision to have 6 month intervals for boosting.

It is still hard to reconcile the nature of this advice with the resulting policies, including the coercive mandates and the general assumption of vaccine safety and efficacy that have never been conclusively established in scientific evidence. Yet we were continually told that the policymakers were following the science at all times. It is now clear that they were following particular scientists with an agenda, and doubts over the veracity of the scientific evidence only had a small role in moderating policy; while so-called experts, who have never admitted any safety issues, continue to advocate for mandatory policy.

The situation in New Zealand was even more extreme that in Australia, it would seem. It turns out that the officials there had been aware of the likelihood of vaccine injuries, and they appear to have a process for individuals to make claims (for those that have survived serious heart disease). This was discussed briefly on Sky News Australia, on the Sharri programme, when Sharri Markson was talking to a former official Dr Nick Coatsworth. Although it seems that Coatsworth is far more moderate than his trans-Tasman extremist experts, he still made the extraordinary claim that, despite a few thousand vaccine ‘injuries’, the vaccine is still ‘safe’. Really? How many have to die from vaccine injury, or the virus, before evidence would be there for vaccine failure. Using a utilitarian argument for continued vaccine boosters, which don’t stop the transmission, has problematic ethical implications. So it doesn’t matter if a few thousand die along the way, as long as the vaccine is seen as being better than nothing.

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A personal crisis of faith in the public health system

In the dramatic second episode of Survivors the engineer Greg encounters the aristocratic Anne, who has shacked up with the unfortunate Vic Thatcher. Vic has had an accident with a tractor and his legs were pinned, before Greg got him out. But that is the extent of his knowledge, as neither Anne nor Greg have any medical training. Greg tries to make splints, and Anne eventually decides to abandon crippled Vic.

Besides being one of the most compelling storylines in the original Survivors TV series, it also shows what it is like to live without the implicit assurance of a public health system, and faith in an ambulance being available. In fact, it is mostly about the moral bonds between people, as opposed to the mercenary behaviour that characters under pressure can resort to. Indeed, the callous Anne is actually a complex character: when she was alone she very much needed Vic, but once he became a liability that was it, eventually. Yet, in the TV programme, it was actually Greg that made it clear he was leaving them alone.

Anyway this is all about injuries and the expectation of others, either as family or as health professionals. While Vic broke both legs in the fictional version, in real life, two months ago, I broke both arms when falling off a bicycle. Well, strictly speaking, a fractured wrist on one side; and on the other, broken ribs and a fractured clavicle (collar bone). This is a very common form of injury in road cycling, as seen in races on TV, but professional cyclists have doctors on hand immediately and then go off to hospital. It turns out that this does not happen in the New Zealand public health system anymore.

So I had the accident on an early Sunday afternoon. A motorist had stopped and called for an ambulance. I did not hear the conversation, but I gathered that it was not serious enough to send an ambulance, especially since a hospital is some distance away, in another city. Then another stranger took me to a local medical clinic, that masquerades as the local emergency centre. Anyone who has had a broken collar bone will know how painful it is, especially to take off clothing. I was at the medical clinic all afternoon, but, while it was not busy, it took hours to get X-rays taken. By then the pills they gave me had worn off, so no morphine from this clinic. They had to cut me out of some garments, and then I had a makeshift sling for my broken collar bone arm, and a makeshift cast for my right forearm. It was actually two bits of some old packaging, or so it seemed, stuck together, and pressed close up to my fingers so that I was barely able to use my hand. I was meant to go into the hospital later the next day.

But that never happened. On the next day I was in pain early in the morning, unable to change out of my lycra shorts, and had cold feet. I tried for the ambulance again to take me to the ED in the nearest city. They did send an ambulance this time, but when they got there the paramedics refused to offer any treatment. They also wouldn’t give me any pain relief, and claimed they didn’t have any, an obvious lie. I was lectured about the need to wear loose clothing, rather than lycra, and had to beg for help to change into other clothing, and get some socks on. They then told me to get a taxi back to same clinic again.

I was actually given an appointment for an outpatients service at Kenepuru Hospital, which was 9 days after the accident. The Accident Compensation Corporation arranged for private contractors to drive me there and back; and they eventually provided 3 hours of home help per week. So it took 10 days to get help in the shower, and avoid getting my cast wet. Of course, the authorities knew that I live alone, but did not speed up the process. You may ask why my family did not help. Well, they did, a bit, but my elderly mother was already in Kenepuru hospital, where she stayed for weeks waiting for surgery. I also complained about my initial treatment, but the Health & Disability Commissioner would not accept the complaint. I now face many more months of physiotherapy, mostly in the private sector at considerable cost.

So, there we are, like so many in New Zealand I have been failed by the public health system, and instead of nine hours in an ED to get a competent cast and sling, I had to wait nine days. So I have lost faith in the system, and now rather tire of how the health professionals claim to be so conscientious, but terribly underpaid. Paramedics moan about wanting to help people, but are not getting enough money to be bothered, at least for the deserving patients, not the silly old fools who fall off bikes and ladders.

One has to ask why there is such a shortage of medical professionals around the world, when they are so pious about wanting to help people. Indeed, they are usually paid much better than the average university graduate. Yes doctors have to study for a long time, and often get into a lot of student loan debt. But it takes much longer for other students to become doctors in their specialism, given that most must get three degrees before they can begin a PhD. And medical graduates know they will have a choice of jobs, and can work anywhere they like, when some of us failures with large debts end up working for the minimum wage. And one more thing for anyone reading this in the UK. The medical clinic I talked about had a male Scottish doctor, a female Irish doctor, and a Geordie nurse on staff. As with physiotherapists working in New Zealand, many have come from the NHS in the mother country.

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Why do academics get to lie about vaccine safety to a global audience, via BBC News

Professor Peter Openshaw told the BBC’s global audience yesterday (at 10am British time) that the mRNA vaccines have not caused serious cases of myocarditis. This appeared to be in response to an earlier interview on BBC News, that only their domestic audience saw, which must have based on evidence from those with serious side effects after being injected, which is not that uncommon at all.

So from what I saw, which was at 11pm New Zealand time, Openshaw was asked to clarify the comments made about ordinary patients who had a medical event after an injection. As a so-called expert on Covid 19, Openshaw, like so many other epidemiologists, decided he had to negate the anecdotal evidence just broadcast to cast aspersions on it, which turned out to be from an English cardiologist . He did this by referring to an apparently broad-based survey found in some academic literature. Then he made a number of dubious claims based on its findings. These included: that only 7 people per million of those injected had got myocarditis; these people were all male aged between 12 and 15; and this only happened after the second dose. And, of course, he did not acknowledge that there had been any deaths.

Now, in Australia and New Zealand there is official data on Covid vaccine safety, and reports of serious disease, including myocarditis and pericarditis, as well as other serious conditions. These reports are released by health officials, even though they are trying to maintain the line that the Pfizer vaccine is still safe, despite the thousands of reports from medical practitioners, as well as members of the public. I have referred to New Zealand cases before, the most recent is in the 46th report, released in mid-December, for the period ending 30 November 2022. In fact, this may be the last report because so few people now get injected with the Pfizer vaccine, given that it is obvious it does not provide any immunity and thousands of fully vaccinated people have died in the last year.

So in the most recent ‘safety report’, the cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have now almost reached 1000, and the majority are considered serious. Almost all of these cases are in people older than 15, and, of course, there are women as well as men getting the heart disease. A significant number of myocarditis cases are reported after the first dose of Comirnaty, as was the case with Rory Nairn, the 26 year old who died as a result of the injection. Medsafe have now decided to refer a fourth case of myocarditis related death to the Coroner, although this is a reconsideration of an historical case, which may not be made public. That brings the total number of reported deaths from the Pfizer vaccine to 184 in New Zealand.

Now, the so-called academic experts in New Zealand are never asked about vaccine safety, and they just repeat the mantra that it is completely safely and totally effective, if you keep getting boosted. They usually don’t refer to immunity, but say that the vaccine is the ‘best protection’ against serious disease and death. Nonetheless, in the last year, and since the border has been reopened, thousands of people have died with Covid 19. The death toll was around 50 at the beginning of 2022; when it reached 2000 in the middle of the year, the health officials decided to revise the death toll, and release statistics based on people who died from the virus, not all those who had the virus when they passed. This meant that the officials were making judgments about cause of death without doing actual medical examinations; and this was inconsistent with their practice on vaccine safety, where they never accept causation until the coroner makes a decision. This makes for constant revisions, and rather unreliable statistics, but we know that thousands of older New Zealanders are dying, and most have actually been boosted twice.

Ironically perhaps, the reports of serious disease caused by the vaccine are more reliable,since they are made by doctors who are under incredible pressure to maintain that the vaccine is safe for everyone. By contrast, academics like Openshaw, and the strident vaccine evangelists that occupy the ivory towers in New Zealand, can say anything they like and claim that it has statistical backing. Indeed, it is amazing how these commentators always have a new academic study on hand to back up their opinions. In the old days scholarly research took ages to publish, because it had to be peer reviewed, and scientific theories had to be ‘falsifiable’, in other words, it had to have an empirical basis to be credible. Saying that only teenage boys get myocarditis from vaccines is empirical false, and Openshaw is a shameless liar.

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Why New Zealand’s Commission of Inquiry into Covid policy is a pointless farce

So the Prime Minister and her hapless Minister for Covid 19, Dr Verrall, have now allowed a Royal Commission of Inquiry into Covid policy responses, to begin next year. This was after Ardern stated that there was nothing to be gained by having a formal commission of inquiry. Now she has responded to the critics, but tried to circumscribe the terms of reference, and avoid examination of individual failings. This was also after legislation was passed last week in Parliament, while sitting under urgency, where Verrall was responsible for the repeal of all the specific Covid measures that were still available to use, including all mandates. This meant that there is no Covid response policy left, at all, as cases rise again.

Dr Verrall was invited onto a public radio programme, which purports to discuss current affairs, and she was asked why a Commission of Inquiry was even needed. All of the so-called news media follow the party line in New Zealand, and either still maintain the fiction that the vaccine provides immunity, or choose not to report the rising death toll. When it came to rating her policy performance Verrall stated it was an A+, at least 9 out of 10, and far better than any other country had done, at least in the first two years. This would seem like total arrogance if it were not for the fact that Verrall, with her shaky voice, is not even capable of stringing a couple of sentences together. When she introduced her legislation, two years after she was elected, she still could not speak coherently even when reading a prepared script. It was lucky that all stages of the bill were passed so quickly, and she only had to answer a few questions from non-entities in Parliament, with the Opposition agreeing that no more policy response was needed.

Now to the proposed Royal Commission of Inquiry into Covid policy, and the make up of the inquiry team, which will be chaired by an epidemiologist from Australia. Ardern has stated that this is the highest from of commission of inquiry possible, seemingly without realising that this means it has the equivalent legal status. In other words, a Royal Commission is meant to be chaired by a High Court Judge, or a Kings Counsel, because it is a court of law. Only someone as completely beholden to the ideology of the epidemiologist, and so dismissive of basic civil and legal rights, would think it possible for a Royal Commission to be chaired by an academic. This obviously means that there will be no real scrutiny of the policy advice from the academic epidemiologists: this would include their penchant for persecuting those not willing to take experimental drugs; and their general obsession with controlling who can and can’t use public space, with the systematic removal of civil rights defining the lockdowns.

Indeed, it is what is specifically left out of the terms of reference that indicate the use of a long commission of inquiry to obfuscate, if not cover up, policy failings. Firstly, it is not allowed to look at ‘vaccine efficacy’, presumably because it might be controversial, and attract the deplorable ‘anti-vaxxer’ mob. One still wonders the point of having a public health expert as the chair if the vaccine itself is completely out of bounds. Of course, it would not matter if the local experts accepted what those in Britain have, that vaccines can’t prevent ‘mild disease’, i.e. provide immunity. The official line here is that the Pfizer drug does provide immunity – it’s just that it doesn’t last very long, and has to be repeatedly ‘boosted’. Dr Verrall claimed during the debate on her bill that there was enough immunity in the community, which was partly provided by the vaccine, and also exposure to the virus. Presumably this meant that the people who caught it, and recovered thanks to the vaccine, have immunity. Alas, statistics released yesterday stated that over 9000 cases in the last week were of people who were re-infected.

One of the other no-go areas for the commission of inquiry is that nobody is allowed to refer to individual decisions by clinicians. But since the decisions by practising clinicians are private anyway, I think we can interpret this to really be about decisions made by bureaucrats, whether that be about those involved in cases of border control, or the special circumstances for citizens seeking exemptions from mandated vaccination. I also think that this applies to the specific cases of vaccine safety. After all, one had to be a brave GP or medical officer to inform Medsafe of a death caused by the vaccine. It was not just that the Ministry of Health had a pre-determined agenda whereby the Pfizer drug had to be seen as safe, and almost all referrals of death then fudged or denied. But the whole medical profession had to understand that if they did not accept this verdict, and went public over a suspected death caused by the injection, then they would be forced out of the profession. This process is still playing out, even though those guilty of anti-vaccine sentiments are long gone anyway, that particular conflict is not over.

Then we are left with the Orwellian rhetorical structure created by the so-called experts, and articulated by the media-savvy politicians like Ardern. A world where a perpetual state of fear is constructed, and a sense of crisis is manipulated, when basic civil rights can be entirely swept away overnight. Where one person has the power, or lack of constitutional constraint, to decide that one kind of person is a threat to the majority, and must be systematically punished, whether that be through losing their job or not being allowed to have a haircut. Where the threat of the hospital system being overrun with Covid patients justifies the most draconian policies ever seen in peacetime. But also someone with the power, when the hospitals have become overrun, to rely on the news media not to report the rationing of health care, and the exponential rise in the death toll. It was to be Dr Verrall who would claim in Parliament that New Zealand still had a low death toll, in comparison to other countries; and without ever mentioning this exponential rise in the death toll, the deceased people who were told the vaccine would be the best possible protection. Don’t expect this Royal Commission of Inquiry to establish exactly how many vaccinated people have died in 2022.

What we actually need is an inquiry into the Ministry of Health and its manipulation of the statistics, both of the deaths of those contracting the virus, and from the heart diseases caused by the vaccine.

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Christine McVie: the Saviour of Fleetwood Mac

Danny Kirwan, John McVie, Bob Welch, Mick Fleetwood and Christine McVie

The photo above is actually of Fleetwood Mac, but not as we know it, this was the 1972 line-up, in the Bare Trees era.

It was a great shock yesterday to wake up to the news of Christine McVie’s death. What a great writer, vocalist, keyboardist, and the ultimate team player. No doubt there are a thousand tribute posts on blogs out there. It just so happens that the 1972 line-up above is my favourite, unlike everybody else who associates Fleetwood Mac with Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham. Danny Kirwan, the last link to the Peter Green style of playing was on his way out, unable to handle being de facto group leader and main songwriter. But he was a great melodist, and when the American Bob Welch was asked to join the band, the results were excellent. Bob Welch came up with the title track for their first album together, with Christine a full time member, and she had two tracks on Future Games. ‘Morning Rain’ might not be her best, but the ballad at the end of the album, ‘Show Me A Smile’, is the first of her great songs in my view.

I particularly like the follow up, Bare Trees, for a personal reason. In 1989, as some of us finished university for the year, or for good, we had a bit of tour around the southern half of the North Island in New Zealand. My friend had a cassette of Bare Trees, and it provided the theme songs for the trip. It was the right time of year, late November, but in the southern hemisphere it is the start of summer, whereas the cover of the album has a very wintry set of bare trees in the fog. Danny Kirwan wrote most of the songs, and it’s quite guitar heavy; Bob Welch contributed ‘The Ghost’ and the more well known ‘Sentimental Lady’; and Christine McVie wrote ‘Homeward Bound’ and ‘Spare Me A Little Of Your Love’. This is the first Fleetwood Mac LP with three good songwriters on top form, and it flows well. But Kirwan then left, and Bob Welch took up the band leadership role, or so it seems, while Christine also contributed in her own style, and collaborated with Bob on his more challenging material for the Mystery to Me LP. As Welch left after the follow up in 1974, the rocky ride continued, but Christine had come into her own by then as the main songwriter. I don’t much like the L.A. soap opera period of Fleetwood Mac, but the formula of three songwriters obviously worked, and it seems that Christine was the glue in the band.

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Does it matter who has created the ‘misinformation’, and where is the harm in publishing it?

Below is a graphic published above an article on the censure of a nurse for spreading Covid misinformation. The article, on the Stuff website, referred to comments made by the nurse which it did not repeat because of the harm it apparently might cause. What followed was a completely one-sided, unbalanced article, summarising the case for the prosecution, when the defendant was not even at the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal hearing on Monday 21 November. Or should I say Kangaroo Court. The caption on the graphic stated that she still had name suppression, but the article repeated her name a number of times, even though it had no by-line on it, which I claimed was an act of cowardice. Of course, the reason that the name suppression phrase was not changed isn’t because it was just a simple error, it also reflects the contempt with which the media treat any ‘anti-vaxxer’, especially a medical traitor.

I actually got a substantive reply from a manager at Stuff. Perhaps he thought I was making an official complaint, but there is no point in making complaints because the media in New Zealand aren’t required to show any kind of ‘balance’ any more, not where Covid vaccination is concerned, nor observe journalistic practice. Here is the first of the two relevant paragraphs in the manager’s response to me:

“Your assertion that Stuff’s decision not to repeat misinformation is a “joke”, is rejected. I’m comfortable with the editorial decision made on the grounds it represents responsible reporting, with clear public interest grounds. Your analogy of “even criminals who have been convicted get to have their defence reported” is flawed because criminals’ defences don’t stand to undermine a national health response and affect the wellbeing of the wider community, as repeating this sort of misinformation in this case could.”

My first point in response is: who says that the media have the ‘public interest’ in mind with regard to their reporting. If they believe that this nurse’s statement, made in June 2021, is so subversive that it has to be censored one can only call it a joke. More likely her concerns were vindicated, as it became clear by late 2021 that the Pfizer vaccine was causing serious heart disease. Stuff and other media confirmed as much when they reported the case of Rory Nairn, and the later coronial investigation into his death, which confirmed it was caused by myocarditis after his first injection with Comirnaty. It seemed to be in the public interest to report the Coroner’s interim finding, and suggest that warnings be made about the danger of the vaccination to all people. It was sheer hypocrisy of Stuff to publish it, but they did anyway because they knew other media would too. It is difficult to see how one nurse’s comments in 2021 could have done more damage, but she was obviously punished because of her influence in her community.

Here is the second paragraph,

“The other assertion you make in regard to there being no byline on the reporting is also rejected. For your background (and after two years), journalists continue to be subjected to unwarranted and completely unacceptable abuse, simply for covering Covid-19 in a factual and responsible manner. I’m committed to the safety and wellbeing of my colleagues and in some rare cases – where there is a strong likelihood a story could subject staff to further unacceptable abuse, simply for doing their job, a generic byline may be necessary. Again, I see this as responsible publishing, responsible management and I’m comfortable with it.”

What a shame that the media have been targeted, but he actually admitted in the first paragraph that his organisation puts their perception of support for the Covid vaccination before journalistic balance. So it is not factual reporting at all, and it is obviously biased. Most of the media are actually competing to be the biggest cheerleaders for vaccination, if not for Ardern as leader, and supported the most systematic discrimination and persecution of citizens we have ever seen. Having backed the Pfizer vaccination all the way, the media know to ignore inconvenient facts: such as the 177 cases referred by doctors where a death has been apparently caused by the Pfizer injection; and the death total climbing by over 2000 this year, with most of these victims being ‘fully vaccinated’ people who were boosted; and also despite the Ministry of Health changing the official criteria for a Covid death so as to reduce the overall total. The facts actually point to the total failure of the vaccine to provide immunity and prevent transmission.

Speaking of misinformation and hate speech directed at minorities, we also hear today that our old friend Michael Baker is to receive yet another award for saving so many lives during the ‘elimination strategy’ stage of the Covid pandemic. The New Zealand Herald report that Baker is tonight receiving the Royal Society Callaghan Medal for science communication. Described as a pandemic “evidence-broker”, lets actually look at some of Baker’s greatest hits when advocating for the Pfizer vaccine:

  1. He joined in the call for “No jab, no job”. Admittedly this was mainly attributable to Rod Jackson of Auckland University, who had the T-shirt to match, but Baker was an enthusiastic supporter.
  2. He stated on Newshub Nation that all employers should ensure that the unvaccinated be removed from their premises. This was shot on what looked like a cold morning in Brooklyn, a very chilling effect.
  3. Moving on to an afternoon stroll in Lyall Bay, Baker told Newshub News that all the unvaccinated should no longer be able to “participate in society”, and presumably lose their citizenship completely.
  4. Then on RNZ’s Midday Report he stated that “it’s now recognised that the unvaccinated should be removed from interior space.” Recognised by whom, and what exactly is ‘interior space’? The presenter, who is the fiancée of a Labour cabinet minister, did not seek clarity but obviously it would require force.
  5. Then Baker capped off 2021 by stating that the unvaccinated should be prevented from going to any Christmas parties, including with their own extended families. Strangely, he has not repeated this advice, according to the Herald article, and now just suggests getting tested beforehand, and having the new anti-viral tablets ready for after the parties. Oh and having yet another Comirnaty injection, as one of these times you could just get immunity, you never know if the fifth one just might do the trick.

The really interesting part of the article on Baker, however, was that he stated that he has actually given 5000 interviews on Covid 19, and published 40 articles. What a busy boy he’s been, he makes other academics look lazy, but then, they probably have to teach something to students. Baker obviously has a 7-day a week media outfit running from his home, though he doesn’t appear much in the international media anymore. Also interesting that the article also appears on the RNZ website, the public broadcaster which is not subject to the Official Information Act, or the Archives Act. Indeed, when I made an O.I.A. request, to see if they knew how often Baker had appeared on their programmes, they eventually claimed that they had no records of him ever appearing. When the Office of the Ombudmen became involved, upon my request as a citizen, they had to claim that they didn’t keep any records of who appears on their programmes. Just as well all that advocacy for persecuting the unvaccinated has been erased. We wouldn’t want anyone in the future to think that it might be hate speech or misinformation.

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A Short Guide to New Zealand’s Feminist Authoritarian

OK, so there is not a lot to celebrate in New Zealand politics anymore, as the Covid pandemic remains, the hospitals and schools are in chaos, and the Ardern ministry can’t even help poor people who are about to lose their teeth. There is, however, always a photo opportunity for Ardern to show off her beaming smiles, or goofy grins, and display her perfect teeth. In the photo above, Ardern is joined by all the women in the current parliament, from all parties, who are now in the majority. Nirvana has arrived.

And of course, I’m a white bloke, over 50, and automatically sexist. Indeed, I borrowed the photo from a blog called Against the Current, and a post called ‘Trickle down Feminism’. The point being that just having more female parliamentarians does not necessarily improve decision-making in general, nor the plight of particularly poor women. The point of that blog was that the poverty still remains because the overall agenda hasn’t changed. Indeed, since Jacinda Ardern got a majority for her party in 2020, and had an opportunity to change things, she has chosen not to. She made a big deal of becoming the Minister for Child Poverty Reduction, but, as another blogger has discovered, she has spent all of 14 hours on that portfolio. Others criticise her views on free speech, I have focused on her flawed personal judgment, and the fact that she is not left wing in any sense, while becoming an international celebrity.

So very briefly, how did we get here. Ardern is a protégé of Helen Clark, the previous female Labour Party leader. Clark also came from the prosperous Waikato region, and was the daughter of farmers, who were actually members of the conservative National Party. Then she left the Waikato to attend the University of Auckland, where she studied Politics and History, and became a lecturer in the former subject while trying to complete a PhD. She did not complete the PhD, but became active in Labour Party politics, in what was known as the Princes Street branch. Guided by activist academics, she was able to pursue a career in Parliament, when elected in 1981, initially as an ally of the Labour Party president Jim Anderton (who became an MP in 1984). Auckland MPs came to dominate the Labour Party in the 1980s: most embraced what is now called ‘Neoliberalism’; Anderton formed a breakaway party, with left wing fringe dwellers, in 1989.

So Helen Clark managed to maintain a path through the toxic masculine, right wing politics of the 1980s, while the apparent ideological extremes of the time took flight, either setting up a purist right wing party, or following Anderton’s crusade to save the social democratic base of Labourism as it was understood in New Zealand. Of course, enormous amounts have been written about it, without offering any great insight into who set the agenda. It is often assumed that Clark was still in the latter tradition, but had just fallen out with Anderton over the strategy to combat the right wing takeover of the Labour Party. Indeed, when they had formed a rapprochement, once Clark became Prime Minister in 1999, and Anderton was her deputy, there did not seem to be a need for an alternative left wing party anymore.

More could be written on that, the effect of the Anderton/Clark split, and later alliance, which then resulted in a rather timid, though stable, government for nine years. Clark may be a competent person, with good political judgment, but she is not a left winger. When asked in an interview why she had not restored the swingeing welfare benefit cuts from the early 1990s, she replied that there was not enough money to do it; the truth was that there massive fiscal surpluses in the 2000s decade. For the sake of this piece it is far more important to state that Clark remained a feminist, first and foremost, and the goal of her faction was to put as many women into power as possible. Clark herself went on to a major role in the United Nations’ organisation, but missed out on the top job, which went to another European man.

So here we are in the year 2022, and the majority of journalists in the parliamentary press gallery are women, and they also have a slim majority in the House. Most of the journalists are openly cheerleaders for Ardern, and some obviously believe that it is her destiny to follow Clark’s path, but go one better and become U.N Secretary-General. One former political ‘editor’, named Tova O’Brien, based an entire interview with Ardern on this premise, and Ardern put on her beaming smile throughout. All was on track then. But now it has become clear that Ardern does not believe in free speech, thinks nothing of removing basic civil rights from women as punishment for not taking vaccinations, and has allowed poverty and homelessness to stay entrenched. The only mystery is why her mentor, Helen Clark, has not intervened, and suggest she spend less time on photo opportunities and more on poverty reduction. Maybe she already has, and was perhaps ignored, possibly because Ardern is already the bigger celebrity and doesn’t really need her party faction’s help anymore.

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Keir Starmer and the internecine warfare in the Labour Party

Sir Keir Starmer: his factional warriors have defeated the Labour left but the scars remain

Taking a break from the Covid catastrophe in New Zealand, I have been catching up with British politics, and the major parties conferences. The Conservative Party is having a train wreck as I write, whereas the Labour Party had a good showcase, with no obvious dissension in the ranks. Polling puts Labour miles ahead, enough to create a landslide win like no other under the First Past the Post electoral system. Paradoxically perhaps, Labour Party members seem to want to change the electoral system. New Zealand of course changed its FPTP system to proportional representation the the mid 1990s.

But before writing on the downside of that, I have to comment on the revelations about the British Labour Party during the Corbyn era, as seen in the Al Jazeera documentaries. The programme, called the ‘Labour Files’, is based on a large leak of internal party documents which showed how the Labour Party head office staff white-anted Jeremy Corbyn as a leader, and used accusations of anti-Semitism to remove branch level office holders who supported Corbyn. Some of this was already well known, and was seen as part of factional warfare. But the Labour Files also shows the reaction of former members when shown documents they were unaware of. This indicates both the kind of denunciations made by other party members, and who was supporting this in the Labour hierarchy.

Obviously there is an agenda behind the Al Jazeera reporting, but it is not simply anti-Israeli sentiment and bias. A lot of the journalists working for the Qatar-based network are of European origin, and a significant number are New Zealanders, in fact almost the cream of the crop have gone there in recent times (previously they would have worked for the BBC). Also relevant is an earlier documentary from Al Jazeera, which showed how an operative from the Israeli embassy in London liaised with various players in the Labour Party, including MPs and party members. I recall seeing how a then London-based MP, Joan Ryan, would engage other members in heated debates at a conference, and then accuse them of using ‘anti-Semitic tropes’. Ryan may have gone but similar tactics remain in the factional playbook.

Part 1 of the Labour Files highlights what happened to pro-Corbyn members in Labour strongholds in Merseyside and Brighton (and Hove). In the Wallasey electorate, local members were accused of abuse against the sitting MP, Angela Eagle, based on sexual orientation. Eagle was trying to challenge Corbyn, and the right wing press seized on this example to attack Corbyn with. All the local members appearing on the programme denied it had happened, and claimed that Eagle hadn’t even been at the meeting in question. In Liverpool, Anna Rothery was on the shortlist as a mayoral candidate, at least she thought she was. The Labour head office called off the selection meeting, and wanted an entirely new list for the position, without Rothery on it. During the making of the documentary Rothery is shown a letter from a Labour councillor which is a lengthy denunciation and character assassination, which formed part of the action to halt her selection. Except, when she took the Labour Party to court they did not disclose it to her, and she lost case and had to pay them significant costs.

Even more blatant smears and denunciations occurred after a left wing slate ran in a Brighton area annual general meeting, and in which office holders would all be Corbyn supporters. The files show that Labour Party officials immediately moved to overturn the AGM result, firstly through making false accusations, and then finding legal justifications for it after the fact; and then followed the personal denigration of individuals. A lot of this denigration was through social media, especially Twitter, and included the accusation of anti-Semitism. One particular young Labour activist from London took this to extremes, and created dossiers of abuse and bile on specific targets. One left member in Brighton, a young lawyer, had a dossier accusing him of anti-Semitism sent to his employer, and to his parents. On camera he claims that the dossier had a terrible impact on them, and his step-father died soon after.

Now we could name the aggressive young activist here, but the point of the documentary was to show who was behind him. Obviously when left leaning members complained to the Party about the abuse the abuser was suspended, and an investigation took place. The Labour Files shows that sitting MPs provided character references for him, although it only named the Harrow West MP, Gareth Thomas. But the programme also had a document which indicated that a member of the Labour party’s administrative body (the National Executive Committee), Luke Akehurst, had also helped the young activist with his own case for avoiding expulsion. It also showed a photo of Akehurst with his protege. Akehurst is the main player in the anti-Corbyn faction, and openly states that purging the left of the party is essential to making Labour ‘electable’ again. Anyway, it seems Akehurst could not save his personal factional warrior from a formal expulsion, but that ruling was never actually executed.

Now, after the screening of the Labour files some of the left wing Corbynistas were due to appear on a little talk show, which is posted on YouTube, called Not the Andrew Marr Show. This is hosted by someone called Crispin Flintoff, who appears in an amusing hat and bright suit jacket – in other words it has a satirical edge. But when introducing the show on the Al Jazeera documentary, Crispin first had to mention that he already had received a pre-emptive ‘cease and desist’ letter, warning against defaming the Akehurst protege, sent by a big London law firm called Mishcon de Reya (MDR). Indeed, MDR is an international law firm, with an office in Singapore, and a 24-hour help desk. Why would a leading city law firm like MDR want to represent a bully boy activist from London without a job? Indeed, how would a yobbo like him afford to instruct a Kings Counsel to act on his behalf in a political matter.

Well the answer is obvious if you put Mishcon de Reya into Google, and then add the name Keir Starmer. Many legal publication in 2014 ran articles on how the brilliant former Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Keir Starmer, had joined MDR, to consult in its business crime unit. He had in fact followed his former understudy at DPP, Andrea Levitt KC, who had become a partner at MDR (and still is). Interestingly, MDR received a large six figure fine for not complying with anti-money laundering regulations in 2017, but that was after Sir Keir had left the firm to stand for the Labour Party in the Holborn & St Pancras electorate. But he was still linked with MDR after his election in 2015, and earned a pretty penny as a consultant for Levitt through until 2016, according to an article in The Guardian, when questions were asked about his moonlighting. Starmer appears to have severed the link to MDR when he was put on Labour’s front bench in 2016 (obviously this was a mistake by Corbyn).

Anyway, the point of this careful reconstruction of the issues is firstly, to avoid legal action by MDR, and secondly to suggest that Sir Keir Starmer cannot disassociate himself from the tactics of his right wing faction. He must know how Akehurst and friends operate, with the smears, denunciations by fellow party members, and their fabrication of evidence. There is still a question over how the legal defence of the right faction is funded: one would assume that Al Jazeera believe that the Israelis are involved; but Starmer must know, given his close links with the law firm MDR. And, as the journalist Peter Oborne states in the Labour Files programme, the legal issues that emerge from the documents call into question Starmer’s judgment and how he would operate as a Prime Minister (which he is set to become at the next election).

Now back to proportional representation and the New Zealand experience. In New Zealand we still have electorate seats, but about half the MPs are selected by a nation-wide party vote. This requires that political parties select a nation-wide party list; although in other proportional representation systems there can be regional party lists. Anyway, to cut a long story short, if there is already friction in a party over candidate selection for individual constituencies, then the conflict would really break out in a contest for winnable places on a party list. And controlling the party list gives enormous power to the party leadership and its administrators. Indeed, party list candidates are mostly just lobby fodder: if they don’t tow the line, and vote on party lines, they tend to be forced out, and the next person on the list just takes their place. Even if rogue MPs try to stay on in Parliament, they know they won’t get re-elected.

So we then find that proportional representation would create its own additional problems for the British Labour Party. As things stand, Starmer’s faction would no doubt get most, if not all, of the plum party list places. If he did this he would effectively push the left faction out completely, and they would have to compete as a separate party, meaning that Labour would not get the majority government it so desperately wants. But Starmer’s faction has already pushed the Corbyn faction so far that, if Corbyn himself is not allowed to stand at the next election, a split could cost them yet another electoral loss. The contents of the Labour Files are so disgraceful one would have to say they don’t deserve to win anyway.

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