Monday, September 14, 2015

Jeremy Corbyn the new communist Leader of the Opposition

Ed Miliband's greatest failure as former leader of the UK Labour Party was not losing the 2015 election worse than Gordon Brown did in 2010, but in leaving it a new process for electing leader that has helped ensure that one of the least appropriate MPs in the House of Commons, now leads the Opposition.

To make it clear, Jeremy Corbyn has, for decades, been a bit of a joke.  One of the handful of MPs on the Trotskyite extremes of the Labour Party, who has never held any office in the Labour Party shadow cabinets, nor in government.  Not only was he never a parliamentary undersecretary under a Labour Government, but he was never a shadow spokesman either.  His views are not only well to the left of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, but also Neil Kinnock and arguably also Michael Foot - whose 1983 election manifesto was famously the "longest suicide note in history".

As Conservatives guffaw at him becoming leader of a party, that only months ago it feared losing to, it's worth remembering some of his positions, but also the context within which "Corbyn-mania" has appeared.

Corbyn believes there is nothing worth doing that shouldn't be managed by the government.  He believes that education should be under the control of a National Education Service, wants all public schools under central control and would strip private schools of their charity status (and would prefer if they all closed down too).  He wants to abolish tertiary tuition fees and to guarantee all graduates a job.

He wants the multiple private railway companies and the gas and electricity companies to all be nationalised, without compensation to the owners.  He opposes "austerity" and is open to printing money to pay for large government infrastructure projects, mostly around more state housing and public transport.  He wants higher taxes, higher welfare payments and a massive programme of building council houses, and to introduce rent caps on the private rental sector.

He wants to reopen coal mines, ban fracking and wants a new "Green economy" funded by taxpayers. Yes, he believes in the environment and coal mining.

Suffice to say that a man who thinks Venezuela is a shining example, is an economics moron, but it is much worse than this.

Corbyn's approach to foreign affairs can be summed up by three points:

-  The Western world is the source of all of the world's ills;
- When other countries have dictatorships or wars, it is probably the fault of the Western world somehow;
-  Israel is the source of evil in the Middle East, or it is the USA.  Take your pick.

He says "the survival of Cuba since 1979 is an inspiration to the poorest in the region", forgetting of course that this is done on the backs of an authoritarian one-party state that imprisons and tortures opponents.  What else can be said of a man who called the murderous Sandinistas heroic?

What of his welcoming members of the IRA to the House of Commons weeks after the IRA bombed the Grand Hotel in Brighton, killing five people in 1984 (attempting to kill PM Thatcher)?  What of his colleague John McDonnell saying it was time to honour IRA bombers, because it was they who gave up the war and created peace?

He believes the UK should abolish its independent nuclear deterrent because it would "set an example" to countries like north Korea to disarm.  Is he stupid, or does he simply think that totalitarian socialist states have some good in them that can be appeased?

He talked of his friends at Hamas and Hezbollah, justifying it saying he calls "everyone" he meets friends and it is important, when seeking peace, to talk to all sides (the same excuse he gave for meeting the IRA).  He has yet to meet anyone from the Israeli Government of course (nor Ulster unionists, let alone paramilitaries).  Then again, he also donated to Deir Yassin Remembered, a campaign run by Holocaust denier Paul Eisen.  Corbyn vehemently rejects anti-semitism, and I believe he is genuine.  However, he associates and gives succour to anti-semites and those who want Israel "wiped off the map".  It's difficult to see how he reconciles this.

He would like the UK to withdraw from NATO because he opposes its "eastern expansion", ignoring that a key reason for that expansion are former satellites of the USSR keen to be protected from their former imperial master.   However,  he doesn't see Russia as being so bad.  Indeed, he thinks NATO has provoked it, by talking to Georgia about membership (of course it didn't happen, and part of Georgian territory is now Russian occupied), and Ukraine (ditto). 

He rails vehemently against Western imperialism, which means any military action by the West or Western states, but he never protests such intervention from Russia or Iran or China.   He opposed the UK defending the Falklands from a military dictatorship, indicating that in any conflict, he will tend to take the view that the "other side" probably has a point, and the UK (and the West) should relent.   

Of course, none of this is new, he's been a Marxist rebel for over 30 years, but he has backing, from a solid core of old-fashioned communists, who miss the USSR (think George Galloway, Ken Livingstone), and a new generation of airhead Marxists, brought up on the class, race, gender consciousness of identity politics in schools and universities, and using the internet to spread their hate filled ignorance.

Don't forget at the height of the Cold War, this sort of politics did gather nearly 28% of the vote.  For those joking that Corbyn and his views are "unelectable" consider what is in his favour that was not the case in 1983:

- Thatcher had barely won back the Falkland in a big show of patriotic success, which Labour had opposed.  There will be no winning war likely in the next few years;

- The Liberal Party was in a position to ally itself with a breakaway party from Labour (the SDP) and had been on the resurgence.  By contrast, the Liberal Democrats were almost wiped out at the 2015 general election and are moribund, and unlikely to present a credible alternative;

- The anti-NATO/anti-nuclear campaign in 1983 was in the context of taking on the USSR, which no longer exists as an example of "what socialists really want".  A whole generation of airheads have no idea about what life under the jackboot of Marxism-Leninism really is like;

- Far left voters partly drifted to the Greens and SNP in the last election, if Labour pulls back many of those voters, they will come close to the Conservatives in share of the vote - but with First Past the Post that might be plenty to win a majority;

- The demographics of the UK have changed, with more immigrants and ethnic minority voters who tend to support Labour, although that relationship is not as tight as Labour would hope, it is one reason Labour did relatively well in London at the General Election.

So don't rule him out completely, but then I fully expect the Conservative Party to not take advantage of this move to the far left, but rather engage in a sopping wet contest for the middle muddle ground of mediocrity.  It already has with its commitment to raising the minimum price of labour to the so-called "living wage" level (with some retailers already warning about how inflationary that will be, which will make the "living wage" even higher and so on).  It continues to engage in totemic wasteful projects like HS2, and a massively subsidised nuclear power station, whilst worshipping the NHS religion and playing corporatism and central planner with multiple sectors.  Too many in the Conservatives would rather win a massive majority for the sake of power than actually reverse socialism and state privilege wherever it may be.

With David Cameron standing down before the next election, is it too much to ask for a Conservative leader who actually is opposed to not only the policies, but the principles and rhetoric of the new Labour leader?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Farewell Air NZ 737s - the noisy revolutionaries

On the 6th of September, NZ557 from Christchurch to Auckland marked the end of Boeing 737 service for Air New Zealand.  This was barely mentioned by the press, but there is history behind Air NZ (and its predecessor NAC) flying Boeing 737s, because they truly revolutionised travel within the country in the 1960s and in just over 10 years or so they had seen off the end of the Wellington-Lyttelton overnight ferry, the Christchurch-Dunedin-Invercargill overnight train and one of the two Auckland-Wellington overnight train services - despite best efforts by politicians to prop the latter three up with subsidies.

Before aviation enthusiasts jump on me, yes, I know the Boeing 737-300s that have been flying the last decade and a half are not the ones that started flying in 1968.  These were the 3rd generation of the type NAC first flew on the "main trunk" Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch Dunedin", and yes there is now a 4th generation (which are the types flown by the likes of Qantas and Virgin Australia to NZ today), but the basic design retain a lot of commonality.  Besides, I like an excuse for a bit of history, and this one contains a political element that demonstrates, once again, how "democratic control" of a business can so easily sow the seeds of failure.

NAC was wholly owned by the Government and had virtually a statutory monopoly on domestic air services.  Other airlines did provide services, but they had to prove to the bureaucracy that there was demand for the service (heaven forbid a business start up service risking it might not have customers!) and prove it would not interfere with the services provided by existing operators.  So NAC had a legal veto over competition.  Nevertheless, it almost always operated profitably overall, although the reality was that the "main trunk" was gouging passengers and making high profits, whereas services to provincial airports like Kaitaia, Gisborne, Oamaru and Westport were unprofitable, but considered politically important (unlike today, with Air NZ which is profit focused across the network).   Still, NAC, as government businesses were at the time, was run by aviation professionals and as the jet age started in the 1950s, by the early 1960s it was becoming clear that the next revolution in air travel would be pure jet travel.  It gained Government permission to go to tender for jet aircraft to fly domestic services in 1965.

The three main manufacturers at the time, Boeing, Douglas and British Aircraft Corporation all were shortlisted.  Boeing with its, as yet unflown, 737. Douglas with the DC-9, and BAC with its BAC 1-11.  NAC's criteria for the aircraft to choose included speed of turnaround, fuel efficiency and ability to manoeuvre safely and reliably at Wellington Airport (which had a runway even shorter than it has today).  Herein comes the "democratic control" element.  The then Holyoake National Government wasn't impressed by the conclusion of NAC's analysis, that the Boeing 737 was the best aircraft for the job.  It was more interested in international trade diplomacy and winning the support of the British Government in securing favourable trade access when it would eventually enter the EEC.  It insisted that NAC "look again" at its business case, delaying approval for its capital investment in the 737.

NAC did, and once again made it clear that the 737 was the right plane for the job, and so it proved to be.  Over 8,600 Boeing 737s have been built (and are still being built), of the four generations of the original design (and a fifth generation is being developed).  The BAC 1-11? 244 and production ended in 1982, although Romania's Ceausescu regime was licensed by the Callaghan government to produce 22 it struggled to complete 9 by the time the vile regime was overthrown in 1989.  It was not the last attempt by a New Zealand Government to intervene commercially in the decisions of its airlines, but fortunately the airline won and so NAC was one the earliest operators of the Boeing 737 (Lufthansa was the first), the plane that (after some slow years) would be Boeing's biggest selling variant ever.

So what was the result? It cut travel time on the routes it serviced by nearly half, and it was 50% faster than the Vickers Viscounts it was replacing, so one Boeing 737 could fly around twice as many services a day with 50% more passengers, saving them a considerable amount of time, but also enabling airfares to be more affordable, particular for growing business traffic between the main centres.   As a result, the competing modes were increasingly hit hard.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Emotionalism - the new post-religious puritanism

Forgive the length of this piece, but this is a very big issue that should concern not only those who embrace academic freedom, but also more generally individual freedom and the importance of reason.

As Mary Wakefield in The Spectator last week put it:

Back in the 1990s, PC students would stamp about with placards demanding equal rights for minorities and talking about Foucault. This new PC doesn’t seem to be about protecting minorities so much as everyone, everywhere from ever having their feelings hurt.

The illiberal left (and I am not being pejorative here, but believe that despite their claims, these are people who are as illiberal as any hardline social-conservatives, in their own way) regard the term "political correctness" as a reactionary pejorative label against "liberation" movements that seek equal treatment of people based on a whole set of agreed identity politics based categories.  It is swiftly dismissed, rather than the key arguments behind it tackled, not least because, unfortunately, so many who claimed "political correctness gone mad" (as if it was ever sane) were themselves not particularly articulate about their concerns, or (if you scratched the surface) racist, sexist and homophobic.

Today the illiberal left (yes there is a genuinely liberal left) have moved on, into what I call the new tyranny of emotionalism.  It is the belief that if something someone says or gestures or does, hurts your feelings, the person who says or gestures or does whatever, should refrain from doing so, to protect the hurt feelings of the "offended".

It is seen in the reaction of illiberal left to the Charlie Hebdo murders by Islamists - after a cursory expression of horror, their first reaction was that nobody should say anything to upset Muslims, by taking on the tyranny of those seeking Islamic blasphemy legal principles to apply to the free world. Then it went much further, with television in the UK refusing to show the cover of Charlie Hebdo magazine, because it might offend a tiny minority of viewers.

It is seen in the anonymous vitriol poured out by those offended by an article published in a newspaper that was neither illegal, nor gratuitous (but the newspaper was from the spawn of the devil - being The Times, owned by the illiberal left's own pantomine villain - Rupert Murdoch - whose main crime has been to establish or buy media outlets that express views they not only disagree with, but importantly disapprove of).   It saw the newspaper pull the article because of the angry mob.

It is seen in the complete absurdity of a UK National Union of Students Women's Conference asking delegates to not applaud speakers because it "triggered" anxiety for some students.  So "Jazz Hands" were suggested instead.  The language used by one of the advocates for this hyper-emotionalism responded by saying:

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Harmful Digital Communications Act indeed

Turn away for long enough and I find the NZ government does something outrageous to curtail freedom and to expand Nanny State, sure enough it has with the Orwellian sounding "Harmful Digital Communications Act".  Even if I supported it, if I was a Minister getting that title passed over my desk by a Ministry of Justice manager, I'd have tore a strip off of her or him for having had a complete lack of any education in either literature or history to give ANY legislation such a title.

The purpose of the Act as well has shades of Big Brother:

"to deter, prevent, and mitigate harm caused to individuals by digital communications; and
provide victims of harmful digital communications with a quick and efficient means of redress"

It's a curious post-modernist trend for laws to be created not to protect rights based on well worn principles of individual rights and freedoms, property rights, contracts and torts, but to "prevent harm" - to have laws to sanitise life so that "everyone" is protected.

However, the term "harm" doesn't mean physical harm.  There is no need for new laws covering an actual infringement of your body (although the digital dimension does justify ensuring laws protect your property and covers contracts and torts), for such laws exist - in abundance - including ones to protect you from yourself.  The harm being covered is, what "The Flight of the Conchords" would say are "hurt feelings".

Being offended, is to be harmed.  To be distressed by what someone else has said, is to harmed.  This goes beyond defamation, which is - indeed - damage to one's property in the form of your reputation. It's an almost childlike drive to make everything structured and inoffensive.  In the UK, it came out in its most absurd form a few months ago with the National Union of Students Women's Conference saying:

"Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping, as it's triggering anxiety. Please be mindful"

I didn't make that up.  If someone is a little bit upset, then everyone else must conform to avoid upsetting that person.  It's the radical so-called "progressive" identity politics champions being manufactured by post-modernist university departments out of air headed students raised on this form of Newspeak. 

So the Harmful Digital Communications Act is about "serious emotional distress".  It is now a crime in New Zealand to make someone else upset, digitally (now now!).  I know I did that when I separated from my wife, thankfully I didn't do it by text message today, or I might be in trouble.

However, let's see how you might get into trouble, because Amy Adams, the National Party, the Labour Party, the Maori Party, NZ First and much of the Green Party thinks your freedom of speech should be curtailed, in case it distresses someone.  Kudos to ACT's David Seymour for standing up to it, and indeed Russel Norman, Gareth Hughes, Julie-Anne Genter and Steffan Browning for having thought about it.  

I know this legislation has had much coverage online for what's bad about it, but it deserves constant attention, and every single MP who voted for it needs to be exposed for their moronic endorsement of it.  It's a disgrace to all who voted for it, and if anything indicates clearly how utterly incompetent they are in being able to apply principle and concepts to problems and issues, it is this law.

I encourage all to push the boundaries of this law to expose this incompetence.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

70 years since VJ Day - a victory that was necessary and moral

I remember hearing the stories of the men who endured being POWs of Japan in World War 2. Growing up with TV series such as Tenko exposed me to a taste of the sadism and violence of imperial Japan.  So it is with some sadness to note that one of the primary narratives, from the so-called "liberal" left has been not remembering the brutality, fascism and racism of Japanese militarism, but demands for American apologies for Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It's a small sign that culturally, the stories of the Burma Railway (which saw around 100,000 work as slave labour), the Nanking Massacre (at least 50,000 killed, 20,000 women and girls raped) and Japan's brutal occupation of almost all of east Asia from Korea to today's Indonesia, have such a low profile. You can be sure that China's modern tyrants and the two Koreas damn well make sure nobody forgets in their countries, as they don't need to exaggerate the genocidal approach Japan took to placing their lands under the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere".  Perhaps it is because Western leftwing academics aren't excited when it isn't Europeans doing the invading and killing, as it doesn't fit the banal "only white people can be racist" narrative.   The so-called "peace" movement has no answer as to how the world should have responded to imperialist Japan, is it because it is less concerned with "peace" than it is with opposing Western civilisation, liberal democracy, freedom and capitalism, with a distinctly anti-European bent?

The endurance of those who fought militarist Japan is difficult to calculate.  There were Americans, Koreans (not Kim Il Sung after 1940 despite the complete fictional account he based his legitimacy on), Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipinos, Australians, New Zealanders, Indians, Nepalese and many others, and they were rolling back a regime that had at its centre a philosophy of:

- Racial supremacy:  The Japanese were the master race, all others were inferior.  Indeed, Koreans  and Manchurians were so inferior that chemical and biological weapons were tested on them (and yes the Allies took the research conclusions for their own purposes after the war).  

- Militaristic fascism:  Japanese imperial rule was based on the entire militarisation of society, with no sense of consultation or input from the governed.  All were subjects, all were to do as they were told and to operate effectively as slaves, for the Empire of Japan.  It was a complete totalitarian regime, and given the superiority of Japanese rulers, its subjects were deemed to be grateful for the mercy of the Emperor.

- Religious authenticity:  The rule of the Empire was deemed to come from the Emperor, who was the living embodiment of god.  That was absolute and not able to be questioned.

One measure of the human cost of Japanese imperialism is over 6 million deaths due to murder, under its occupation from 1937 to 1945 alone, but Japan's imperialism started in 1910 (with Western consent) in Korea and its invasion of China commenced in the early 1930s.  100,000 were massacred in Manila alone in early 1945.  The "Three Alls" policy applied to China after 1940 was to "kill all, burn all, loot all" in retaliation to Chinese resistance to the occupation.  Women and girls throughout the occupied territories, particularly in Korea, were kept as sex slaves (so-called "comfort women") to please the military.   Japanese newspapers even celebrated the "contest" between army officers as to who could kill 100 with a sword first.

Japan's militarist regime was the aggressor, but it also had the compliant and enthusiastic support of a people who did what they were told, who worshipped their Emperor and basked in the propaganda that told them how superior and special they are, and how lucky they were to have been chosen to lead Asia.  What dissent there was in Japan was not organised and on a minor scale.  Japan's dictators had the effective consent of its population to conquer.

So the defeat of Japan, unconditionally, was wholly moral and justified.  The use of nuclear weapons to accelerate that defeat and contribute towards it was also moral and justified.   The reason Japan had nuclear weapons applied to it was because it had invaded the United States, it had conquered and placed much of Asia under its brutal sadistic jackboot.  The moral culpability for the deaths inflicted in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and indeed already by conventional bombing in Tokyo, Osaka and many other cities, was the Imperial Government of Japan, which was willing to continue murdering and killing innocents abroad and refusing to surrender in a war that it started.

No one can doubt the abject horror and suffering the two atomic bombs caused, the horror they inflicted undoubtedly contributed not only to them not being used in Korea by President Truman (against military advice), but also inadvertently creating the deterrent effect which remains to this day.  However, the justification for their use is not from those impacts, but because defeating a ruthless, sadistic and murderous tyranny justifies using weapons that minimise the casualties of your own population.   Better to use the atomic bombs than to suffer greater Allied casualties by ground invasion or not obtaining an unconditional defeat and complete withdrawal of Japan from Asia.

When a tyranny wages war against its neighbours, and brings death and destruction upon them, its victims cannot be constrained from inflicting defeat upon it, for fear of the inevitable deaths it causes upon the weakest who reside under that tyranny.  All tyrannies hope and expect that governments with less appetite for war than it, will weaken in the face of taking such unpalatable decisions.  These same tyrannies don't think twice of massacring others.  The children killed in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the responsibility of their parents - the same parents who remained in Japan, working and contributing towards a system that had been waging a sadistic expansionist war against its neighbours.

So yes, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, appallingly dreadful and unspeakably vile though they were, were a considered, reasonable military decision to seek to accelerate an end to a war that was the responsibility of the Empire of Japan.   The attacks on Japan were acts of self-defence, to remove a regime that until the last day of the war, insisted on retaining control over Japan, on taking responsibility for prosecuting war crimes itself, and essentially no change in government.   It took the evidence of the nuclear attacks to force Japan to surrender with only one condition - that the Emperor would be protected.  That was one condition that could, grudgingly, be accepted.  You don't need to imagine what the Empire of Japan would do when it defeated a country - for it did so many times - it enslaved the entire country under martial law, and engaged in forms of genocide.

Those who fought against Japan were heroes, they defeated one of the most malignantly evil regimes of the 20th century (albeit this has quite a long list), an expansionist racist tyranny that any "true" liberal would celebrate the defeat of, without question.

The hand-wringing about the atomic attacks may be understandable, given their historic significance. However, to talk of the suffering of those attacks outside the wider context of Japanese eliminationist racism and militarism, is disingenuous.  It smacks of cheap anti-Americanism.   There are questions that can be asked about how some Japanese war criminals were effectively excused and some Japanese atrocities were deliberately ignored after the war, and bigger questions about how Japan still hasn't effectively faced up to its history (but then neither has communist China).  

However there should be no questions about the victory over Japan.  Moreover, given the enormous assistance the West gave to Japan to rebuild, reject communism, become a friend and until recently become the second biggest economy in the world (with a standard of living to match),  and be a functioning, vibrant liberal democracy,  the picture painted of an evil USA engaging in mass murder of Japanese civilians unjustifiably, seems selective indeed.   Now if only Japan's leaders could start treating their wartime history like German leaders treat theirs.