Thursday, December 18, 2014

Murderers, thugs and cowards

Taliban, Cuba's ruling thugs and Sony Pictures respectively.

On the Pakistani Taliban, it is telling what it takes for the Pakistani Army and Government to actually take this evil group seriously and seek to wipe it out.  For previously the policy was "let" the Taliban run the north-western provinces and for all major parties to support negotiating with "moderate elements" (i.e. the ones that only murder infidels, not Muslim children).  This is why Osama Bin Laden lived in comfort in Pakistan, as the Pakistani Army had essentially appeased the local Taliban. The fact that one of Pakistan's greatest financial and military supporters over the decades, the United States, had had thousands of its citizens murdered by this outfit, was irrelevant.   Furthermore, even the attempted murder of Malala Yousafzai for daring to support the education of girls, didn't animate the misogynistic theocratically minded rent-seekers in the Pakistani government.  It has taken hundreds of children to be murdered en masse, for there to finally be some effort taken to wipe them out - as they should.

For the negotiate with the Taliban, as with ISIS, is like seeking to negotiate with the Nazis for a peace where they continue to rule over some people, or to agree with a mafia over the territory they can still bully people over, or to agree with a pedophile cabal that they can only rape children within a certain area.  It's morally bankrupt, because the only winner in a compromise between good and evil, is evil, particularly when you have the means to defeat it at little relative cost compared to letting it be.

So if there is anything positive that could ever come from hundreds of children and their teachers being murdered in cold blood, is that it turns enough Pakistanis against the Pakistani Taliban, and provides the testicular fortitude in the government and army to hunt down, and defeat every last one.   In that mission, Pakistan should have the full support of those that fear a Taliban takeover the most, including India, the United States, the UK and yes, Iran.  For, as a nuclear weapon state, Pakistan, as very flawed as it is by any measures of political and individual freedom, and more flawed as a corrupt state of pilfering mediocrities, it is nothing compared to what it would be like if ruled by the pedocidal Taliban. 

Thugs being appeased, is one way of looking at President Obama deciding to make friends with the dictatorship on his doorstep, Cuba. This is easy to be critical of, because Cuba is not introducing political or civil freedoms, and is not introducing any form of liberal democracy.  It is just freeing some political prisoners.  In exchange it gets diplomatic recognition, direct telecommunications and greater freedom of movement of Americans into Cuba.   Does it provide succour to a despicable regime?  Yes.  However,  there is little doubt to me that, on balance, this is good for freedom in Cuba.  Why?  Because the more Cubans get contact with their relatives and friends from the United States, and receive money and goods from them, the more they will understand how utterly stultifying their regime is.  The main negative of the policy will be that the key beneficiaries of any liberalisation of trade will be the thugs in charge and their families, who they will grant favours to.  

However, even if this is so, the regime's monopoly on power will not be strengthened by heightened corruption and the enrichment of an elite which gained and sustained power on the basis of everyone being equally impoverished (not that the party elite were denied privilege, but the Castro mafia is not known to be anywhere near as self-aggrandising and enriching as its ideological soul brothers in other dictatorships).   Greater contact with the outside world is a good thing, and while the trade embargo will not be removed without Congressional approval on the US side (which seems far from likely), the liberalisation that does occur, will enable Cubans to taste more of capitalism and freedom than they can at the moment.   If the trade embargo is lifted, then the regime will no longer have the excuse of the embargo for the relative poverty in the country, and more will be able to tell their stories of a derelict health system (despite how much it is lauded by leftwing activists), and how harassed they are by officials.

So, on balance, liberalising contact with Cuba is a good thing.  For it leaves restrictions on the country coming predominantly from the Cuban government side.  Yes, it looks like Obama is rewarding a dictatorship for doing little, but you must think beyond that.   Eastern Europe was undermined more by greater liberalisation of contact with the West, than by maintaining tight restrictions on it.   Cuba too will change, and on balance this is one step towards this.

Cowards.  The word to describe Sony Pictures Entertainment, and the cinema chains refusing to show The Interview.   It's astonishing, that a bunch of hackers, probably led from Pyongyang, but also likely to include some paid in China and elsewhere, can frighten a company that is part of a conglomerate with a turnover 50% greater than north Korea.

Yes.  Sony had turnover of around US$70 billion in 2014, whereas the DPRK's reported GDP (on a purchasing power parity basis) was US$40 billion in 2011.  What the hell should they be scared of?

Do they fear more cyber attacks? Well talk to banks, talk to the US IT giants that fear cyber attacks more.

Do they fear physical attacks?  Oh please.  "Team America - World Police" upset the Kim mafia when it came out, and the regime can't even control this. The DPRK has little record of engaging in international terrorism outside Asia, so it is difficult to envisage that it could convincingly pay anyone in the United States to perform such acts.  

More importantly, the film makes fun, pokes humour out of a regime that prohibits such humour. One of the first acts of any authoritarian regime is to ban parodies and comic depictions that "dishonour" its leading thugs, which of course dishonours them by doing so. 

So it is very important that this film be released and shown, and for people to go watch it and laugh. Laugh at the fat hedonistic boy king who got a fine Western education, has Western tastes, who loves NBA basketball and instead of sharing this wisdom and expanding the potential of the people he inherited from under the jackboots of his father and grandfather, he's put on a new pair himself.

His father at least didn't have the excuse of knowing as well as he does, about the outside world, for the short brat was scared of flying, so hardly travelled outside the country at all.  He proudly sacrificed hundreds of thousands of ordinary people to stay in power for fear the army would overthrow him.  

So the fat boy king is now emulating his grandfather, who is one of the great frauds of the 20th century.  He deserves to be laughed at, and Sony is doing a disservice to the people of Korea, and indeed the people of Japan threatened by north Korea, and to the USA, which stopped all of Korea being under the Kim family crime syndicate (and indeed helped transform Japan into a country that could allow Sony to be established and thrive).

So if Sony Pictures is too gutless to distribute this film - sell it - let someone with courage show it, and shame on those who refuse to do so, out of fear of a bunch of upstart north Korean kids trapped at the basement of a monument in Pyongyang (well that's where I saw banks of unexplained PCs well connected before the door was slammed shut on me). 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fighting against ISIS

In the past few days reports have come out about British citizens, some of whom are of Kurdish extraction, others not, travelling to Syria explicitly to fight ISIS.  They make it clear they are not being paid, in part for legal reasons, but their decision to take on ISIS directly, and bravely, has confused the Home Office.


The reason for the confusion is the moral equivalency that has been granted between ISIS and its Kurdish opponents, although David Cameron has confidence that the UK Border Agency can tell the difference.

I don't share his confidence, particularly when it comes to Kurds who wish to fight, who may be assumed to be aligned to the Marxist-Leninist PKK separatist group based in Turkey.  Given there has been absolutely no terrorist activity in the UK aligned to Kurds, they ought to simply be left alone.

In New Zealand of course, you can't go off as a mercenary to fight ISIS, because the Clark Government, encouraged by the Greens, and also supported by Jim Anderton and Peter Dunne. National and NZ First opposed the legislation and you can read here the banal background as to why it was supported, though it is telling that the only member of the Select Committee who is still an MP is Peter Dunne.

The Santa legend

This report I read from Manchester brought up for me what really was going on here. 

Parents are upset that a lie they tell children was contradicted by a teacher telling the truth.

So here is the perennial seasonal issue - is it ok to convince children Santa Claus is real?

I believed in the legend when I was a child, until some kid at school said I was an idiot for believing in it, and then it started to make sense. I felt foolish for a while, wondered why my parents would lie to me, and got over it. It isn't a big deal at all. After all, if you can't figure out by a certain age that a big fat man with a flying sleigh and reindeer delivering presents to 2 billion children over 24 hours isn't bizarre, then you're not going to be able to know how to use cutlery, dress yourself or be a functional adult.

So what should parents do?

The choice is a little complicated.

You either run with the lie and let the child find out, and complement the child for being smart (or console because someone told the child first and explain why you lied). OR
You can run with the lie and then tell the child later the truth. OR
You can say Santa Claus is a myth, but lots of kids believe it and don't spoil it for them.

I'm not a parent, so I'm quite open about the idea.

It's beautiful to see kids enjoying Christmas, the sights, sounds and the celebration of this time of year.

However, what does Santa Claus teach? "He" teaches that you can get presents from someone far far away, who knows if you've been naughty or nice, so you better be good or he will deny you presents.

Hmmm. Not quite socialism, as you "earned" the presents. However for what? Being good? Sounds a little like Kim Jong Il dishing out presents to the little people.

Monday, November 17, 2014

ISIS has "progressive potential"

not only that it is a "valid and an authentic expression of their emancipatory, anti-imperialist aspirations.”

Did this come from another group of Islamist men seeking to cheer on their murderous comrades in their proud courageous rampage through villages of non-believers, as they behead men, women and children?

No, it came from the British left, an organisation called Left Unity which has the backing of George Galloway and Ken Livingstone, both well known as firebrands who have sympathised with authoritarians of many colours.  Guido Fawkes has this coverage of the event.

Yes - now just think about the contradictions.

When ISIS governs it would mean:

- Strict orthodox Islamist theocracy, where other faiths and atheism would not only be banned, but their practice would be punishable by death;
- All freedom of speech that was critical of the caliphate or Islam, or deemed to be blasphemous under ISIS's strict reading of the Koran, would be forbidden, and harshly punished;
- Women would be in no positions of authority, and be expected to be submissive breeding stock.  Intended to produce children, raise them and be completely submissive to their fathers, then husbands;
- Much if not most books, magazines, music, films, television, audio programmes, paintings, photographs and other media known in most cultures would be prohibited and destroyed;
- And of course, being gay/lesbian/bisexual etc would be totally forbidden, and any expression of such behaviour would be punishable by death.

By what stretch of the imagination of any, so-called, liberal leftwing campaigner, is this emancipatory, without the sort of Orwellian contortions that are used in Pyongyang to talk of its regime being free and democratic?


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Air NZ creates market opportunity

There has been rather little wailing and gnashing of teeth from some quarters about predominantly state-owned Air New Zealand making an entirely commercial decision to restructure its regional domestic operations.

There has been some focus on it dropping flights altogether to Kaitaia, Whakatane and Westport, but it is also dropping some other services like from Wellington to Taupo (Rotorua isn't that far).  On the other hand it is significantly increasing capacity on other routes as it flies larger ATR72 aircraft into centres like Napier and New Plymouth, then enabling its 50 seat Q300s to fly into smaller airports like Wanganui, Blenheim, Timaru and Hokitika.  More seats mean cheaper fares.  For most of the regional locations this is good news.

The current services are losing money because people aren't prepared to pay the fares necessary to keep services going, at NZ$1 million a month, or NZ$26 per trip.  People aren't prepared to pay that much more, and there is a longer term issue is that the planes that Air New Zealand uses, Beechcraft 1900D (through its subsidiary Eagle Airways) need replacement.  Air New Zealand, to its credit, has been using them intensively, but there simply isn't a 19 seater turboprop airliner available that could replace them economically.

So airports that can handle the much bigger 50 seat Bombardier Q-300, get them, and the airline gets some more of the ATR72s to service larger centres.

What of the airports that are losing services?  It's a market opportunity.  One of the few acts of liberalisation of the Muldoon Government (which curiously, the then Labour Opposition opposed, with one Richard Prebble leading the debate opposing it), was to deregulate domestic air services, removing Air New Zealand's statutory monopoly on domestic services (although it took a lifting of the foreign ownership limit from 15% to 50% and later abolished altogether to see Ansett NZ challenge Air NZ on the main trunk route).   For decades it was thought "normal" for the state to guarantee air services by its own airline providing them, and woe betide any upstart with lower costs competing with the heavily unionised state carrier.  

Not any more.

Already Sunair and SoundAir have been talking about new services as a result, which is exactly how it should be.  Opportunities to shift a dozen or so people by air between small airports give rise to innovation and entrepreneurship.  With a relatively highly valued NZ$ it is also easier to bring in high capital goods like airliners.  We shall see what happens (and of course, it does beg the question as to why the state continues to own the rest of Air NZ).

Contrast that to how Auckland urban transport is treated by politicians and planners.  One of the main tasks in recent years has been to seek to snuff out entrepreneurship and innovation by bus operators running commercially viable services, preferring to dish out ratepayer and fuel/RUC taxpayer subsidies to routes the planners deem best (without even mentioning the billion dollar railway that loses money).

Odd then, if the free market is seen fit to deal with how regional towns and cities get air services (noting in quite a few countries, including Australia and the US, rent-seeking rural lobbies have gained subsidies for uneconomic air services to be operated by state approved monopolies), why not for how people get around cities?  Is it because it wouldn't deliver the planners' answer of passenger rail in lower density cities with dispersed commuter patterns, but rather a more dynamic network of buses and for roads to cost a bit more in the peak, but a lot less off peak?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Forgotten Post from the Past: Gordon Brown, temper tantrum

The one thing that can't be said of current UK Labour Leader Ed Miliband, is that he loses his temper, he is positively serene compared to his predecessor, if not any more competent.  Gordon Brown is much closer to NZ erstwhile Labour loser David Cunliffe... it's worth recalling this story from four years ago....

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Major allegations in the weekend that Gordon Brown is a bully deserve more careful consideration than the obvious kneejerk. There was never any allegation of violence, but reports in both the Observer and the Evening Standard allege Gordon Brown:
- is always look for someone to blame;
- is constantly on the verge of an explosion;
- does not get as much information as he could or should get because he erupts with bad news and blames the messenger;
- repeatedly throws mobile phones in anger;
- repeatedly threw computer keyboards (and staplers) onto the floor in anger.

Bullying? Well those who allege such a thing ought to stand up. However, the bigger story is his anger in dealing with staff, and difficulty in accepting blame. Not for one moment will Brown accept he overspent whilst he was Chancellor of the Exchequer, even though he almost always ran significant budget deficits - during the good years. Not for one moment will Brown accept some responsibility for an investment environment that encouraged property speculation and rewarded the banking industry for investing the vast quantities of fiat money that buoyed the economy, until it crashed. Nor will he accept that the vast spending increases on the NHS have delivered much other than increase salaries and tread water.

In short, he doesn't like taking advice which tells him he is wrong, and so because he does not receive bad news as quickly as he should, and because criticism and self-reflection have to be driven internally, and not from advice, he is more prone to making mistakes.

Now there is never a shortage of reasons to vote against incumbent politicians. Most are gutless against the claims and calls of the vested interests who want other people's money, want to restrict the private property rights of others and prevent competition. Lying, deliberate obfuscation and a belief they know best for others are all par for the course.

However, to be unable to listen to advice, to be only too willing to blame those around him, when he himself makes the decisions. To be so obviously incapable of making certain decisions, such as when to hold an election (after teasing for so long that it was imminent), to "what's my favourite biscuit", is the sign of no leader.

The man who boasted of abolishing "boom and bust" had a whole team behind him, many of them are with Ed Miliband (and includes him).  Why would anyone trust them at all to lead a TV quiz show team, let alone lead a government?