Our Cynical Bullshittery Was Purely Unintentional…

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Apparently Reckitt Benckiser, the British pharmaceutical leviathan who manufacture the Nurofen brand of ibuprofen painkillers, have been telling lies. According to the Australian Federal Court, they engaged in “misleading and deceptive conduct by representing that each product in the Nurofen pain specific range was specifically formulated to treat a specific type of pain when the products are identical.”

Don’t get it? Here’s a clip courtesy of Australian consumer affairs/comedy show “Check-Out” to explain the entire sordid affair.

On the off-chance that you’re still a little confused, let me break it down for you.

You know when you get a migraine so awful you feel as though a clan of dwarven blacksmiths have taken up residence inside your skull, and if you don’t get some relief from the spirit-crushing, stomach-churning, soul-destroying agony in short order, you’ll carve your own head open with an angle grinder? That’s when you head for the pharmacy/supermarket/petrol station for some Nurofen. And as chance would have it, they happen to have a “pain specific” range on the shelves, allegedly formulated to “specifically target” migraine pain. It’s slightly more expensive than the plain vanilla-flavoured Nurofen, but then this product has been “specifically formulated” for “fast targeted pain relief”, so that’s perfectly understandable, right? Well, no. No it isn’t. Because it’s all bollocks.

See, ibuprofen, by its very nature, is what’s termed a non-selective medication. This means it lacks the ability to specifically target specific types of pain. To use a military analogy, when you drop a couple of Nurofen, you’re using the painkiller equivalent of a dumb-fire missile. It doesn’t differentiate between targets because it can’t; it just obliterates whatever you point it at. So, for Reckitt Benckiser to claim that Nurofen for migraines, tension headaches, period pain and so on, have been specifically formulated to “target” specific types of pain… well, it’s a big fucking lie. If you look at the packaging of these products, you’ll see that they all contain the exact same ingredient — ibuprofen lysine. You’re essentially paying more for no discernable reason whatsoever, and Reckitt Benckiser are laughing all the way to the bank.

Or they were, until they were hauled over the coals by the Australian Federal Court and the Commerce Commission here in New Zealand, who have both taken a very dim view of the pharmaceutical giant’s rapacious, unethical behaviour. As a result, a temporary packaging arrangement has been negotiated whereby these dubious products must now be sold with labels indicating that they are equally effective in the treatment of other forms of pain — which rather puts paid to the old “fast targeted pain relief” scam. How awkward.

nurofen

“Nurofen – For Fast Targeted Pain Relief! …that doesn’t actually target anything because ibuprofen is a non-selective medication. In other news, we’re pathological liars and we regard our customers with barely concealed contempt.”

Or it would be awkward if large multinationals displayed any sort of social conscience whatsoever. Which they don’t. True to form, Reckitt Benckiser would have us believe it’s all an unfortunate misunderstanding/unintentional oversight, and they have nothing but our best interests at heart. A company spokesperson stated, “Nurofen specific-pain products were launched to help consumers with the navigation of pain-relief options in the grocery environment where the support of a healthcare professional is limited. Nurofen NZ takes this matter seriously and regrets that its packaging may have been misleading, as this was never the intention.

That’s right, kids. You’re a slack-jawed knuckle-dragger unable to “navigate” the “grocery environment” without Reckitt Benckiser selflessly lying to you as you shuffle aimlessly through the aisles. They know how challenging it is to shop for painkillers without a GP conveniently stuffed in the baby seat of your trolley, and they were just trying to help. Bless them. Of course, the reality is that there was very likely a meeting of the marketing staff where this dubious practice was discussed and approved. “We flog off the same product with slightly different packaging, at a higher price point, and no one’s the wiser! People are stupid and lazy and they never read the ingredients anyway!” “But isn’t that… you know, unethical?” “If you’ve nothing constructive to contribute, Stephanie, the photocopier’s almost out of paper. Why don’t you be a sweetheart and go fill it up for us?

Incidentally, in 2010 Reckitt Benckiser were fined 10.2 million pounds for “anti-competitive behaviour”. Truly, a fine, upstanding corporate citizen.

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Stealing Is Naughty… Unless You’re The Government

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So… it turns out that WINZ (Work & Income New Zealand) have been systematically underpaying those in receipt of benefits… for the past 18 years. Apparently, it’s a legislative oversight, and the government is now intent on retrospectively amending the relevant legislation in order to avoid having to compensate beneficiaries. Anne Tolley, Minister of Social Development and lemon-sucking shrew, casually stated that the amount of money in question was not “a huge amount” — the implication being that the grubby beggars on benefits should shut up and be happy they get anything at all.

Anyone with the misfortune to ever owe money to a government department, be it WINZ, or the IRD (Inland Revenue), will tell you that they’ll gleefully pursue you to the ends of the Earth in order to get back whatever paltry amount was incorrectly paid out to you. You’ll receive an entire rainforest’s worth of nasty letters threatening all manner of punitive actions and grim consequences for what is frequently a minor error made not by you, but by the government department in question. Things are vastly different when the shoe is on the other foot, however.

tolley

Anne Tolley – Minister For State Sanctioned Theft And Swindling The Poor

When they owe you money, it’s up to you to discover it, and then take the necessary steps in seeking redress. You never get a letter in the mail advising you of the fact that they appear to owe you large sums of money. That information is not volunteered. You have to conduct your own investigation, collate all the necessary paperwork and even then, having them actually pay the money back is like getting blood from a stone.

Basically, what they’re saying is this — if you owe us money, then we’ll spend the rest of forever hounding you for it, even if the money is owed due to our own administrative incompetence. We may even seek a conviction through the courts for your shameless attempt to defraud a government department. However, if we owe you money — money to which you are entitled under the law, we’ll simply go back and change the law. And you can all fuck off. Haw haw haw!

Dreadful Human Being Creates Equally Dreadful Shoes

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Back in 2011, I wrote this — a post lamenting the lengths a dim-witted public will go to, to acquire a pair of shoes. This included theft, assault, resisting arrest and child neglect. Now, those are the sorts of behaviors you’d ordinarily expect from… I don’t know, the residents of a crack house, or a mental health outpatient with a chronic methamphetamine addiction. They’re not the usual pastimes of the average American consumer. At least, not as far as I’m aware. I don’t live in the US, so you could all be homicidal shoe fetishists, and I’d be none the wiser. In fact, I suspect in certain parts of the country, it’s regarded as an entirely valid lifestyle choice.

Here in New Zealand (or “Noo Zeelund”, as Americans pronounce it), things are a little more pedestrian — though, sadly, we still remain whimpering peons enslaved to the malignant devils of consumerism. This was aptly demonstrated recently with the release of narcissistic man-child, Kanye West’s latest sneaker — the Yeezy Boost 350. As detailed here, those with an inexplicable fixation on ugly, over-priced footwear created by an inexcusably wretched human being, were quite content to spend two frigid nights camped outside Loaded, waiting to piss away $300 on a pair of fucking shoes. One of the prerequisites for anyone wishing to purchase these crimes against podiatry, was immediate transport from the store post-purchase, presumably to prevent ecstatic, vacant-eyed dribblers from being knifed in the kidneys and tossed into a skip by less affluent, but equally enthused, members of the Kanye West bum-sniffers club.

Yeezy

Further proof of Kanye West’s unrecognized genius — a manky carpet slipper glued to a bit of old car tyre.

Years of careful observation has lead me to conclude that some people will queue to purchase a landmine smeared in dog shit and broken glass if you just tell them it was designed by Justin Beiber’s penis. Kanye West’s godawful shoes are no exception. As you can see from the photo above, they look a bit like an ugly lace-up carpet slipper with an old piece of car tyre glued to it. $300 for that?! You’re having a laugh.

Annoying Song Of The Week – Major Lazer, DJ Snake & M0 ‘Lean On’

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It’s been absolutely ages, but I’ve finally been released from prison for my drunken indiscretion with a shop window mannequin, and what better place to resume my anti-social shenanigans than with another Annoying Song Of The Week? You’re not enthused? Piss off then. It’s my blog and I can do what I like. Hooray!

Anyway, today’s unforgivable crime against melody, rhythm and all things vaguely musical is from Major Lazer (three tedious blokes in sunglasses with a propensity for silly haircuts and ironic T-shirts), DJ Snake (a French bloke in sunglasses who has obviously graduated from the Andrew Eldritch school of attempting to look all moody and sinister, but ultimately looking like a twat), and M0, a young lady from Denmark who has a proper name apparently, but prefers to be called Moe. Or Moo. Or something.

So, what’s so fucking awful about it? Pretty much everything actually. It’s repetitive. It features a shrill, whiny chorus that makes you want to hammer a rail-road spike through your skull, and the video features choreography by a fat middle-aged man with the palsy, and an advertisement for adult nappies. (Seriously, M0 squats and wobbles about the place as though she’s just filled her pants.) The entire abortion was filmed in India apparently, and I suspect the Indian backup dancers were all having a bit of a chuckle  at the spastic efforts of the featured musicians. I don’t dance because I can’t. And neither can you people. So just fucking stop it.

If you haven’t already seen it (because you’ve been living in a fallout shelter or you’re blind), then here’s the video.

No need to thank me. I’m all about giving back to the community through selfless acts of public service. I should really be awarded a medal, and given an envelope full of money or something.

I’m Perfidion Jones, and this has been Annoying Song Of The Week.

The Hollow Men

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We all know politics is, to varying degrees, a dirty business. Despite the carefully manufactured facade of Government Ministers earnestly grappling with the pressing issues of the day, we harbour a bone-deep suspicion that they’re being less than honest with us. We watch our Prime Minister smirking his way through parliament’s Question Time, hurling childish insults and then sniggering like a naughty schoolboy, and we feel the last vestiges of faith in our elected representatives wither and die. And we’re right to despair. Because they’re liars, and cheats and willing servants of a malignant ideology that would see a powerful and corrupt minority reinforce their dominance, while reducing the rest of us to the status of serfs.

Investigative journalist, Nicky Hager, gets written off as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ — most often by those whose ethically dubious actions have been the subject of one of his investigations. As someone only vaguely familiar with his work, I had no idea if this perception of him was in any way based in fact. I had noticed, however, that it was a perception peddled with disturbing regularity by certain politicians, pundits and PR spin doctors of a decidedly right-wing bent. The name Matthew Hooton springs to mind for some reason. Given the growing horror with which our current National government is increasingly viewed, I decided it was high time I examined Hager’s work for myself, and so I picked up a copy of ‘The Hollow Men’ – a detailed exposé of the National Party’s 2005 election campaign under the leadership of former Reserve Bank Governor, Don Brash. I finished it this week, and it was both fascinating and profoundly depressing.

Nicky Hagar's 'The Hollow Men'

Nicky Hager’s ‘The Hollow Men’

It is essentially the story of one man’s political ambition and ideological blindness leading him down a dark and twisted path of deceit, manipulation and, ultimately, failure. Hager, with the aid of several anonymous National Party figures who had become deeply concerned at both the direction the National Party was taking, and the methods they were prepared to employ in order to get there, reveals a sordid world of ‘anonymous’ campaign funding by corporate interests, political influence by current and former US government advisors, and a deliberate campaign of public relations chicanery organised by an odious cabal of professional spin doctors – most notably, Crosby-Textor. Also disclosed is the involvement of so-called ‘independent’ think-tanks, particularly The Maxim Institute, which is little more than a badly constructed front for the political meddling of evangelical Christians. I find it deeply ironic that people who profess such enthusiasm for shining the light of truth into the darkest recesses of the human soul, seem so averse to that same light being brought to bear on their less than honourable activities. And then, of course, we have what proved to be the nail in the coffin of Brash’s campaign – the revelation that creepy religious weirdos, the Exclusive Brethren, were anonymously bankrolling anti-Labour/Greens election advertisements (essentially doing an end-run around the Electoral Act), and that Brash, despite claiming otherwise, was wholly aware of it.

None of this is new of course. It is, after all, the reason why most people regard politicians as little more than suit-wearing cockroaches. What is most shocking, to me at least, is the way in which the general public are regarded with such brazen contempt. Brash refers to us as “the punters out in punterland”, and we’re repeatedly described as “the chattering classes” during several enlightening e-mail exchanges between PR consultants. There is open discussion on how to court the vote of Christians, the elderly, and in particular, swing voters – and it is the calculated approach and all pervading sense of purposeful mischief that is so offensive. These people know they’re being intentionally deceitful. They know they’re lying, either through omission, or outright. They are completely and utterly conscious of the fact that their cherry-picked statistics, dodgy polls and deliberately skewed research is likely to give the general public a wholly false impression of a reality that bears little, if any, relation to the truth. And they just don’t care. In fact, they revel in it. It’s all a means to an end.

Don Brash - "And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for you meddling kids!"

Don Brash – “And I would have gotten away with it too, if it weren’t for you meddling kids!”

It is also interesting to note that many ministers in our current government are featured in Hager’s book. Prime Minister, John Key, Transport Minister, Gerry Brownlee, and Minister for Science and Innovation, Steven Joyce, all make appearances. Joyce in particular is heavily featured, likely due to his role at the time as ‘campaign manager’. The fact that these men were able to emerge relatively unscathed from the political fallout is either testament to their skill as political operators, or further proof that the voting public of New Zealand suffers from some sort of degenerative brain disease – probably Alzheimer’s. The National Party has never, ever genuinely cared for the less fortunate, the disadvantaged or the disenfranchised. It is a party of rich white men in suits. It is funded by rich white men in suits, and it only ever considers the needs of rich white men in suits. I’ve personally witnessed the misery wrought by consecutive National governments, and it’s like watching the same train wreck in slow motion, over and over again. Bolger, Shipley and now Key – they all peddle the same poisonous concoction; the only thing that ever changes is the grinning visage of the soulless charlatan attempting to con you into voting for this year’s brand of concentrated wretchedness. Please, New Zealand, stop voting for these bastards. Just, stop it.

And if you need something to do in the meantime, go and buy yourself a copy of ‘The Hollow Men’. It’s a cracking good read, and you may just learn a thing or two.

Thanks For Nothing, Peasants!

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In yet another example of the relentless greed of corporate interests in New Zealand, Fletcher Building has decided they’re going to throw more workers under the bus in an effort to “position the company to grow in the future”. They plan to close their Taranaki branch, resulting in the loss of 37 jobs. Also destined for occupational oblivion are 8 unfortunate souls in Wellington, and another 16 in Auckland – most of them skilled tradesmen. This is despite the company reporting an annual net profit of $326 million, which is a 76% increase over last year’s profit of $185 million.

And this is what makes me sick about companies like Fletcher Building, and big corporates in general – they continually feed their workers the line that “we’re all in this together, and if you work hard, the company will grow and become increasingly profitable, and all of our futures will be assured” which, as the scores of people who have been made redundant by big corporates in recent years will bitterly tell you, is a massive, bare-faced lie. Your loyalty means nothing to them. Your years of faithful service count for nought. If the bean counters calculate that they can increase dividends for shareholders, while at the same time cutting costs and increasing efficiency by punting your sorry carcass off the nearest cliff, then you’re doomed, mate. Got kids to feed? Too bad. Got mortgage payments to make? Tough. Welcome to the Brave New World.

"Trust me. I have your best interests at heart."

“Trust me. I have your best interests at heart.”

But the worst thing about it, particularly in New Zealand, is that we’re all so apathetic. We sit here, a horde of glassy-eyed dribblers, soaking up the abuse. It’s like we’re a nation of hopeless masochists who get our jollies from being repeatedly punched in the face and lied to, and yet, instead of being outraged, we sit meekly in a corner, plaintively saying “Sorry, Boss. Yes, Boss. I know, Boss, it’s all my fault. I’m a wretched excuse for a human being and I deserve to be treated this way…” Is it really any wonder our Minister of Finance had the audacity to state on national television that New Zealand’s low wage economy was a good thing? Of course it’s a good thing. For companies like Fletcher Building, for whom workers are simply another expendable resource to be exploited and discarded as they see fit.

Behold the irony, courtesy of Stuff:

The job cuts come a month after newly appointed Fletcher Building chief executive Mark Adamson said the company was planning to hire extra staff in New Zealand, particularly to work on the Christchurch rebuild.

Planning to hire extra staff were you, Mark? Either you don’t know that making people redundant is the OPPOSITE of hiring them, or you were being wholly disingenuous. As far as I’m aware, vast tracts of earthquake ravaged Christchurch are still in ruins, so it’s not as though you’ve run out of things to do. But then the day I take a CEO at his word, is the day Satan rides a snowmobile to work.

The Politics Of Envy

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I hate that phrase. It’s used far too often and it’s so dishonest. Essentially, the obscenely wealthy would have us all believe that the only reason we’re so appalled by their grotesque excesses is because we’re jealous. We’re bitter and miserable and all bent out of shape because we secretly yearn to be just like them.

No. I’m sorry, but no, no, no, fuck no. Frankly, if I were a grasping, narcissistic parasite who sat on top of an enormous pile of money all day long, pissing into the faces of the working poor, I’d likely be crushed to death by the sheer weight of my own self-loathing. But then I suspect when your heart is a withered, raisin-like husk of spite and avarice, concepts like compassion, empathy, honesty, or any sort of social conscience are anathema.

If you’re compelled to lie to yourselves, fine. Manufacture whatever fanciful theory you believe justifies your shitty attitude and utter lack of consideration for the well-being of your fellow man, let alone society as a whole. Whatever helps you sleep at night. But a lot of your lies aren’t terribly clever and are, for the most part, held together with a rickety amalgam of balsa wood and chewing gum. Lies like this…

We pay higher taxes, therefore we contribute more to the economy than the grubby serfs we employ.

Actually, no, you don’t. You should, and according to current tax law you’re legally obliged to pay your fair share of tax at the higher rate, but you don’t. Why? Because you’re greedy scum employing a small army of accountants and lawyers to exploit any loophole they can find in order to minimise the amount of tax you pay. You hide it in family trusts. You stuff it into offshore bank accounts in tax havens. You create a multitude of corporate ‘entities’ in order to conceal your assets and earnings, and then you pay yourself a paltry salary. And you pay tax on that paltry salary. Because you’re a spoiled, petulant child and you don’t want to share.

"I say, Giles, have you paid any tax recently?" "Tax?! Hahahahahaha! Oh, Hugo, you're such a card!"

“I say, Giles, have you paid any tax recently?”
“Tax?! Hahahahahaha! Oh, Hugo, you’re such a card!”

Don’t believe me? From the New Zealand Herald:

“Two-thirds of New Zealand’s richest people are not paying the top personal tax rate, with increasingly complex overseas schemes and bank accounts being used to evade the taxman.

Inland Revenue has found that 107 out of 161 “high-wealth individuals” who own or control more than $50 million worth of assets declared their personal income in the last financial year was less than $70,000 – the starting point for the top tax bracket of 33 cents in the dollar.

The multimillionaires used a variety of 6,800 tax-planning devices – such as companies, trusts and overseas bank accounts – to avoid paying tax. One had a network of 197 entities.”

197 entities. You people REALLY don’t want to pay your taxes, do you? I just don’t understand why. I mean, you’re multimillionaires. It’s not as though paying your taxes is going to result in you rummaging through bins in search of toast crumbs or drinking out of puddles. But apparently there’s just no such thing as ‘enough’ for you, is there?

For former property developer and current bankrupt, Jamie Peters, $80,000 isn’t enough to live on for 24 months. Also from the Herald:

The former property developer, in turn, is applying to be discharged as a bankrupt, which he was declared in October 2009.

Yesterday it was revealed in court that Peters, between late 2009 and 2011, had access to an eftpos card tied to an account of one of his family friends, Brenda Dixon.

Through the account, he spent $18,000 on an diamond engagement ring for his partner, who he is now married to.

Peters also used the account for “day-to-day” expenditure such as shopping at Nosh Gourmet Supermarket and a liquor store in Matakana, near his current address in Omaha Flats Rd.

Oh, okay. So you’re bankrupt, but you still have sufficient funds to spend $18,000 on an engagement ring and do your grocery shopping at a ‘gourmet supermarket’. Life must be unbearable. But wait, there’s more…

Over the period when the $80,000 was spent, Peters said “all he was doing was surviving”.

“I managed to survive two very difficult years,” he said.

OA lawyer Gareth Neil said that someone would need to earn between $60,000 to $70,000 a year from an employer to generate that sort of net income.

“It’s pretty hard to survive on that kind of money, ” Peters said during the exchange.

Neil said such a salary would be considered a good one for many New Zealanders.

“It’s an average salary it’s not a huge salary, it’s not extravagance…,” said Peters, although he accepted buying the engagement ring was an extravagant purchase.

“Quite frankly we barely survived on that [amount],” Peters said.

Barely survived? On $80,000? Are you fucking joking? I don’t make $80,000 in two years, and you think enduring 24 months with a paltry $80,000 at your disposal was “very difficult”? Maybe if you shopped at Pak’N’Save like the rest of us peasants your pittance might last a little longer, you self-entitled arsehole.

And this is what the rich simply don’t understand. We’re not jealous. This isn’t envy. I don’t want your Mercedes SLK, or your 20’ luxury yacht, or your enormous mansion on Parnell Rise – I really, really don’t. I’d just like enough to live comfortably, rather than having to scrape and struggle every week just to stock the pantry. I’d like to be able to work a normal, five-day week, safe in the knowledge that losing the weekend overtime isn’t going to make paying the rent nigh-on impossible. I’d like to know that ten years of sweat and toil is worth a little more than a $4 raise and a mouthful of condescending corporate bullshit about making “an invaluable contribution”. And if, every now and then, I had enough left over to treat the kids to a day out at Rainbow’s End, that’d be nice too.

But not essential, obviously. Perish the thought I push my feudal overlords too far.