Sunday, April 24, 2016

Three elections, none are likely to please: 1. London election

Yes it's been a while.  Having moved from one employer to another,  and with a load of house improvements I've been spending more time with life than pontificating, but there are two elections in the coming three months that I can vote in.  Of course the biggest one in the world is going on in the US, and from the point of view of a pro-capitalist objectivist libertarian, none of them seem likely to provide an outcome that is pleasing.  Why?

These are the London Mayoralty election, the UK EU referendum and the US Presidential election. First, the London Mayoralty.

London Mayoralty - 5 May:  The lowest profile one,  the least important, but also the election one that can't help but be disappointing.  Not one of the candidates is worth my vote, especially not the two leading candidates - Labour's leftwing candidate, Sadiq Khan, who nominated the neo-communist, anti-capitalist, totalitarian apologetic Jeremy Corbyn to be Labour leader (then didn't vote for him to be leader, and the "Conservative" leftwing Green candidate, Zac Goldsmith, who has spent much of his life lazily trotting out enviro-fascist agin-prop.  Despite some concerns, Khan is not an Islamist, and is less offensive than the vile old Castro-phile Ken Livingstone, but he has had poor judgment with those he associated with.   One of his former aides is a racist Islamist.  The imam at the mosque he attends rails against Ahmadi Muslims, like the murdered shopkeeper Asad Shah (killed by a fellow Muslim because he dared wish customers a Happy Easter - because Mr Shah was a model of tolerance, as Ahmadi Muslims tend to be).  Khan's response, and the response of the Labour Party is to shout "racist" at anyone questioning these links,  but that's almost stereotypical standard far-left identity politics laziness.  Bear in mind that his main opponent is backed by another, much more famous, much bigger Muslim political figure - Imran Khan (Zac is his ex.wive's sister after all).  Not that this endears me at all to Zac, because he is beyond the pale too.

Zac Goldsmith epitomises much of the worst of the Conservative Party, for he exemplifies the self-serving "generosity" of the inherited wealth entitled classes that decide that instead of producing anything or achieving anything (he dropped out of Cambridge), they can "serve" us by having power of us.  Much worse though, is the guilt-dripping  embrace of trendy authoritarian environmentalism, which drips of the greatest hypocrisy.  You see as Zac once fought genetic engineering (organics for him, to hell with the price of food for the poorest), he now fights airport expansion because of climate change - not that he shows any sign of giving up long haul travel, he just embraces policies that will keep the price high (can't have the oiks going to the Caribbean can we?  It's for their own good).

He follows from Boris Johnson whose main quality was that he is entertaining and has a slight libertarian streak, although he has a fancy for totemic vanity projects.  Zac is neither entertaining, nor has any libertarian streak.

More importantly, neither Sadiq nor Zac have any clue how to make a significant difference to the policies that the Mayor of London has powers to change, and which are the biggest London-centric issues the city faces.

On housing London has a crisis of supply.  It is usually talked of as a crisis in affordability, which is the result of the supply crisis, although far too many politicians think it is something different.  Khan and Goldsmith both admit supply needs to increase.  At the moment London's population is increasing by 10,000 per month, but the number of new home units is increasing by only 25,000 per year.  Given average occupancy of over two per unit, it is far below what is needed to accommodate a growing population.   Khan thinks the answer is more council flats and to hobble the rental market because he sees increasing rents as landlords ripping off tenants, not a function of a market where demand exceeds supply.  Indeed, Khan thinks that new private builds should be 50% "affordable", that nonsense euphemism in London for "subsidised".   What he (and many politicians in London) ignore is that to cross-subsidise cheap social housing for those on modest incomes, means the remaining 50% have to be priced to cater for high income Arab, Russian or Chinese investors (although they have decreased in number in the past couple of years).  Middle income or middle/upper income Londoners flee to the home counties and spend inordinate amounts of time on subsidised railways commuting into London.   Goldsmith isn't much better, but he is obsessed with new builds on public land and "brownfield" sites, but wont confront the two issues that constrain growth in housing - the strangling of the market by central planners.

London's housing problem is a function of the Leninist central planning approach adopted in the 1940s by the Atlee Government called the Town and Country Planning Act.  It nationalised land development and usage, giving local authorities large scale powers to control development and meaning any property owners needs to seek permission (and anyone can object to this) to build anything that doesn't involve repairing an existing structure.    Councils impose planning demands on home builders that range from a minimum subsidised stock, to a minimum number for the disabled to prohibiting any off road parking (except for the disabled) or even banning residents of new developments from being entitled to on-road residents' parking (Councils in London in particular see car ownership as pernicious and to be reduced by fiat).   The effect of this is that house building is a market dominated by a small number of large firms that can afford to waste months or years of lawyers' and architects' fees to meet the demands of Council planning committees.  Tens of thousands of pounds get spent just on meeting the demands of people who themselves put not a penny into developments, so of course, this adds to housing costs, but more importantly constrains supply because the market simply offers little realistic scope for small scale developers.  With the exception of loft conversions, there isn't much in the way of new housing build in London that isn't the preserve of large developers, and of course Council planners see them as full of money that should be spent meeting social policy goals rather than building housing the market demands.

A perversion of this is the encouragement this presents for developers to delay construction as prices continue to rise.  Former Labour leader Ed Miliband wanted to ban anyone from owning land they had permission to build on, yet not embarking on using that permission.   What he didn't admit was that the sole reason this practice exists is because of the scarcity of supply inflicted by the likes of him and his comrades.   Why build this year, when next year the sale price would be 15-20% higher with construction costs only rising by a tenth of that?  So a planning system that makes small scale development uneconomic, but demands large scale development meet the social policy goals of politicians rather than market demand is constraining supply.

London greenbelt, more land used for this than any other purpose
The second problem with London housing is more visible, and it is the blight of the Green Belt.   Khan and Goldsmith have vowed to protect it and not allow any new housing construction on it, but this is complete madness.   The Green Belt policy had two purposes.  One was to ensure that some open space would remain in a growing city, the other was to constrain sprawl.  It has profoundly failed to do the latter, as people live as far out as Ipswich, Brighton, Kings Lynn and Luton and commute into London by train.   London has sprawled using the railway network and the few goods that service its outer suburbs, by sheer factor of housing supply.   22% of the land in metropolitan London is Green Belt much of the image above is beyond that, but envelops greater London strangling people so that those with homes adjacent to it can enjoy ever increasing prices, undisturbed by new people.  Indeed,  another 43% of land is London is "green", that being parks, gardens and other green space that is not protected as Green Belt, so around two-thirds of London isn't built on.

However, only 22% of the Green Belt land has environmental designations, so 78% does not involve protected habitats.  59% of the Green Belt is farmland, subsidised by the EU, which if made available for housing would be worth many times what it currently is  (indicating that housing is more important than uneconomic farms).   7% of the Green Belt is golf courses, and 2% of the Green Belt is buildings, roads, railways or driveways/car parks.  

Furthermore, 60% of the Green Belt is within walking/cycling distance (2km or less) from an existing underground or overground railway station.  So there is much land that building on would simply enable more utilisation of existing transport networks. 

Green Belt defenders (and nobody is saying abolish the Green Belt, rather just let some of it be released to allow housing) talk about "paving over the countryside" yet less than 5% of the total land area of the south-east of England is built on (buildings, roads, parking lots/yards).   Only a small proportion of Green Belt land would be needed to transform London's housing market, but neither Goldsmith or Khan will touch it.   The votes of NIMBYs are worth more than those who can't afford to live in London.

On transport, they are both equally uninteresting.  Khan is taking the traditional far-left Labour view that fares on the monopoly subsidised public transport services should be frozen for four years, whereas Goldsmith talks about bikes and electric cars.  Both pay lip service to controlling Uber.   However, neither ever suggests that the behemoth monopoly, Transport for London, get broken up and privatised.   Both say next to nothing about roads, which carry the majority of people and nearly all freight in London.   There is no suggestion that the competition coming from the likes of Uber should be encouraged and extended to buses, nor any suggestion that the main roads be run more on business like lines.   In short, nothing interesting to see here, just maintaining the status quo, which is driven by technocratic beliefs in what is good for people and business, rather than reflecting choices and embracing innovation.   Automation and connected vehicle technology, with ultra fuel efficient engines can transform urban transport (buses and trucks could run in train like formations on main corridors with a fraction of the pollution of today), but to make it work roads have to stop being managed like Soviet style tools for social change.

Both oppose expansion of Heathrow Airport, the hub airport of the UK that is at 99% capacity and can finance a third runway (and construct it in a location that reduces the numbers exposed to noise, which itself is dropping because of aircraft technology).  Khan is prepared to support a second runway at Gatwick, which, of course, is not actually in London, but itself is at 90% capacity and can also be justified (but is not a substitute for allowing the hub to expand).    For me, it doesn't help that he said the Airports Commission (the third study in recent years into what airport expansion in south-east England should look like) had a "pre-conceived" outcome already determined, although I spent a couple of years working on it including being one of a small team who screened through over 50 proposals into the shortlist.   Goldsmith didn't like the outcome of the study, so he criticised those involved, as he can't accept that he might have been wrong (he never admits that, just stops talking about it- like GMOs).

What the Mayoral campaign tells me is how utterly asinine local politics is in the UK.  Two mainstream candidates, one whose biggest achievement was becoming a lawyer (human rights lawyer) and the other who became the polite son of a billionaire, who are ultracrepidarians either unwilling or unable to conceive of the sort of transformations needed to fix London's biggest problems.   They are attention seeking, focus group informed professional politicians, and on housing they will continue to exacerbate the problem, not confront it - because they embrace the problem's sources to the core.

So I haven't voted for Mayor, I crossed out all options and wrote a short damning sentence about the lot - to hell with the anti-capitalist consensus.   London doesn't need a Mayor, it doesn't need a politician to develop a housing strategy of where to spend public money and how to fiddle with a broken planning system that is causing the problem.  It doesn't need a politician to decide how large transport networks are developed, it needs one who knows that he (or she) doesn't know what's best, but if decisions on these are left to suppliers and consumers, then they together might provide much more robust solutions.

So don't vote for Khan or Goldsmith, and ignore the protectionist  halfwit Peter Whittle from UKIP, who thinks that London's traffic can be solved by limiting the numbers of minicabs (because pricing people out of catching cabs is good for them), and focuses his campaign on immigration and leaving the EU.  Khan will probably win, in spite of his laxness towards Islamist lowlives.  However, Goldsmith does not deserve the vote of any supporter of free-market capitalism, small government and most of all, rational evidence based public policy (including science).  Far better for him to resign as an MP in a fit of pique because the UK Government has decided to approve Heathrow's third runway, and for him to depart politics for the life of leisure he has inherited.   He's fully entitled to be an annoying Greenie prat, but let's keep him away from power and punish the Conservatives for picking a candidate who is far removed from the party's values.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Je Suis Parisien de nouveau

You all know what happened on Friday the 13th, for the second time this year, Islamofascists (a bit more descriptive than the "neutral" term Islamist) murdered their way across Paris.  This time instead of "just" being offended by cartoons or people being Jewish, they were "offended" by people at a concert, at a football match, at a restaurant. 

France has responded by bombing Raqqa, capital of "Islamic State", because as the Socialist President of France, Francois Hollande pointed out, France is at war.  The attacks were claimed by ISIS, and for now it appears they were at least incited by, if not funded and armed (and partly manned) by ISIS.   It is war, against Western civilisation, against the modern, tolerant, diverse society of people who simply LOVE LIFE.  For that is what Islamofascists (and indeed all totalitarians) despise for the people they enslave.

However, the West is fundamentally weakened in response.  Because the dominant philosophical influence in the West is one of self-hatred, guilt and identity politics driven cowardice of the left, and the opposition to this is dominated by "conservatives" who are so tied-up in philosophical contradictions and embrace of the guilt and self-loathing expounded by the left, that they are impotent, and the only other discourse that occasionally emerges is kneejerk racism - i.e. those who just want to deport all Muslims.

Brendan O'Neill in Spiked has written about the hand-wringing apologists.  The whole article is worth a read, he are excerpts:

It’s in the already emerging handwringing about a possible Islamophobic response to the attacks, with observers fretting that ‘there could be a backlash, largely driven by confusion and anxiety’. This has become routine after every terror attack: the first response of concerned observers is not with the actual victims of actual terrorism but with possible victims of a moronic mob uprising that exists entirely in their imaginations. This, too, speaks to a profound self-loathing in the West, where the media and political elite’s fear is always how their own societies, and what they see as their inscrutable fellow citizens, a ‘confused and anxious’ mass, will behave. They condemn the terrorism, yes — but they fundamentally fear and loathe the societies they live in, the people they live among.

it is precisely this response, this moral disarray in the modern West, which acts as a green light to terrorist groups or individuals to punish us. It’s an invitation to assault. The interplay between the self-loathing of the modern West and the nihilism of Islamist outfits is striking. They are a brutal, violent expression of a disgust for the modern world that has its origins in the universities, political circles and media elites of the West itself as much as in volatile, unstable territories in the Islamic world. Indeed, many of the attacks in the West over the past 15 years have been carried out by people either born in or educated in the West.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Remember Cultural Safety in nursing education?

This widely viewed Australian spoof about education isn't far from the mark:

This Ph.D thesis from Massey called "A Maori model of Primary Health Care Nursing" exemplifies this nonsense.  Take this gem:

Unfortunately, much of the present literature on which we rely to develop nursing curriculum, practice and health policies is presented, not only from a pakeha perspective but also with a strong
biomedical focus. This has proved to be of little use to Maori.

Post-modernist identity politics denies that modern medicine is of" little use" to people from a pre-modern culture.  Now I agree that being sensitive to the customs and beliefs of patients is entirely a sensible part of nursing, but this is simply treating people as individuals and customising providing services in ways that optimises their experience.  However, to treat medical science as being secondary or even almost dismiss it altogether is complete nonsense.

The insanity of not judging people's actions and capabilities as individuals, but as categorised groups, and the insanity of the denial of reality and objectivity are exactly what this little video identifies.  It's about time it was laughed at and challenged, because the philosophy and values behind it are not only irrational, but fundamentally corrosive to individual rights and freedoms to the point where, as in my previous post, those applying it become not only appeasers of fascism, but apply fascist techniques to their approach to any form of challenge.

The single biggest philosophical threat to our freedoms is not Islamism itself, nor a new generation of Marxism-Statism, but the entire edifice of post-modernist relativism and structuralism - for it is that which is hindering the policies and practices needed to confront the fascists from all sides.

So how far away from how things are is this?

Friday, November 06, 2015

Student Unions in the UK explicitly appeasing fascism

It's entirely logical.  The natural conclusion of the philosophy of post-modernist moral relativism, that refuses to apply moral judgment to those who engage in genocide, slavery and rape of women and children, incinerates prisoners of war, beheads those it simply dislikes (including children who do not submit to its religion) and kills men for being gay.  

For that is what University College London (student) Union has done, following on from the National Union of Students last year.  Brendan O'Neill in The Spectator writes more on what happened.  Basically, the Activities and Events Officer of UCLU (Asad Khan) said that a former student, who has fought with the Kurds in Syria to repel ISIS, could not talk about his experiences because "there are two sides and UCLU wants to avoid taking sides".

Moral relativism has hit its epitome in this act by Asad Khan.  I wonder if Mr Khan takes the same approach when confronted with any crimes.  Would he stop women talking about rape because "there are two sides"? Would someone talking about racist abuse be told that she couldn't talk without the alleged abuser being there because "there are two sides"?  I doubt it.  Asad Khan is a selective moral relativist, he only wants to appease mass murdering fascist religious fundamentalists who are explicitly sexist, racist, homophobic and touters of violence as the solution to any infringement.

NUS last year refused to approve a motion condemning ISIS because that would be "Islamophobic" and offensive.   As if this doesn't feed the belief of some that all Muslims are deep down supporters of the ideology and tactics of ISIS.

What this tells you is that student unions in the UK, which long have had remarkably selective morality about foreign affairs.  It goes without saying that for decades it rightly condemned apartheid, but never had anything to say about the slaughters of opponents by African dictatorships such as Robert Mugabe.  It's always been a friend of the Palestinians and opponent of Israel, but not so much the friend of the Iranian opposition to the regime.   In short, it has always been vehement against dictatorships and perceived oppression caused by the UK Government, the US, NATO member states or other Western regimes, but curiously quiet over any regimes that take on any of the above.   Standard far-left moral relativism which fits in perfectly with the current leader of the UK Labour Party.

Yet now, it should be abundantly clear to any students with a conscience, libertarian or even those who identify themselves as left-liberal (with the beliefs in secularism, free speech, feminism, LGBT rights), that the student union movement in the UK has now aligned itself with a far-left movement that is, at its core, fascist.

It's not that the student unions are completely amoral and relativist, demanding equal weight and time be given to all opinions on everything.   Like I said above, they would never take a stance on anything at that point, as all opinions are equally valid and it would be "disempowering" to take a stand which explicitly repudiates the views of others.  

No, they have views, it's just that the perspective that wins out, over everything, is fundamentally illiberal, intolerant and appeasing of fascism.  

A man who fought to protect civilians from violence, including murder, enslavement and women and children from rape, was not allowed to speak because those who would murder, enslave and rape deserve a hearing too.  What's that if not appeasement of fascism?

For that's what ISIS is, it is what the more "moderate" forms of Islamism (as seen in Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States) are.  Islamofascism.  This is what the mainstream of the British left now tolerates because it is what the Labour Party leader (and his acolytes) now express as their standard view

It is what journalist and former Labour Party member Nick Cohen described in The New Statesman:

the fact remains that the Labour party has just endorsed an apologist for Putin’s imperial aggression; a man who did not just appear on the propaganda channel of Russia, which invades its neighbours and persecutes gays, but also of Iran, whose hangmen actually execute gays. Labour’s new leader sees a moral equivalence between 9/11 and the assassination of bin Laden, and associates with every variety of women-hating, queer-bashing, Jew-baiting jihadi, holocaust denier and 9/11 truther. His supporters know it, but they don’t care.

For those of us who are libertarians, we are used to the far-left appeasing soft communist regimes like Venezuela, which harasses the opposition media, stacks the courts, wrecks the economy and blames it all on US imperialism.  We are used to the far-left demanding civil liberties, but seeking to take the majority of some people's income, and some of their assets, to control their entrepreneurial activities and even more lately, curtail their freedom of speech because it might cause "offence".

However, now the mainstream left appeases the very people who would impose a tyranny that would take all that it claims to care for back to the dark ages.

Even when some of them oppose ISIS, they are willing to appease a lesser tyranny (Bashar Assad) that drops chemical weapons and barrel bombs civilians, presumably because Assad is ideologically aligned to the left.  After all, the Assad hereditary dictatorship has long been aligned to the USSR (and now Russia), been anti-Western, has repeatedly occupied Lebanon, waged war against Israel and backed Hezbollah, and is now backed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.  

This video from the BBC programme Daily Politics below reveals how Syrian opposition activists claim the self-styled (far left) "Stop The War Coalition" (which Jeremy Corbyn has long belonged to) has rallies against war in Syria to back the Assad dictatorship.  With a meeting chaired by Shadow International Aid Secretary Diane Abbott (a long standing hard-left Labour MP), "Stop the War"  refused to let any Syrians talk at a public meeting about "opposing war in Syria".

In essence, "Stop the War" coalition isn't opposed to war in Syria at all, simply opposed to Western intervention in the war.  As far as it is concerned, it doesn't want to know about the Assad regime bombing civilians and using chemical weapons, killing over 100,000, for it backs that side against both the small liberal opposition, and the wide swathe of Islamist opposition groups, including ISIS (but it doesn't support Western bombing of ISIS because the West can't do any good anywhere).

Hardly surprising, since mourner for the USSR and sycophant of multiple dictatorships, George Galloway, praised Bashar Assad:

I wouldn't be surprised if Galloway didn't seek to rejoin the Labour Party and become a candidate, presuming he loses his bid to be Mayor of London next year under his Islamofascist appeasing/Marxist RESPECT Party banner.

You'll find the same appeasement of Islamofascism in universities and increasingly the mainstream left all over the Western world, including the USA, Australia and New Zealand.  It is the banal end-result of combining identity politics (which deems all Muslims as "victims" deserving of special kid gloves treatment and tolerance, regardless of their own views) with the vacuous moral relativism of post-modernists philosophy (there being no such thing as objective reality or morality rooted in reason and values, just different cultural/identity perspectives).

In this environment, actual Islamofascists can shield themselves as being protected by those whose other values they despise.  Meanwhile, Muslims who seek to move towards more liberal values or apostate Muslims (who have converted to other religions or rejected religion) are largely ignored.  After all if you reject Islam, you're no longer a member of the oppressed identity.

In the 1930s, the far-left ignored and appeased Stalin, in the 1960s and 1970s it appeased Mao, today it appeases Islamofascism.  However today, the far-left IS the mainstream left.  In between patrolling language it considers racist, sexist and homophobic, it is providing succour for the most racist, sexist, homophobic band of terrorists seen in modern history.

It's time to call them out for what they are - appeasers and facilitators of fascism.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Wellington Airport Runway Extension: Definition of a Cargo Cult: Part One

For those unfamiliar with the term "cargo cult" it is a description of what might best be called as a naive practice of some cultures with low levels of scientific understanding and a high belief in animist religions that certain rituals will result in untold riches arriving from the skies.  Nowadays it is often shortened into "built it and they will come".

Such is the hype around the planned extension to the runway of Wellington Airport - a proposal that completely lacks pure commercial merit and has no net wider economic benefit - but is being promoted by the opportunistic, encouraged by the naive and to be paid for, largely, by those will get no benefit from it at all.

I say this as someone who grew up 1.5kms from the airport and knows a bit about the aviation sector, having recently been part of the team that reviewed over 50 proposals for expanding airport capacity in London.  I know Wellington Airport very well, and the likelihood that there will be long haul flights into that airport that will generate net benefits to Wellington ratepayers to recover the costs of subsidising the runway extension is very low indeed.

Let's remember the airport is a commercial concern, two-thirds owned by Infratil, which itself is not willing to contribute two-thirds of the capital costs of the project.  It's the owner of the other third - Wellington City Council - that is the problem, because it is willing to force ratepayers (along with other Wellington councils) to cough up half of the liability to boost the value of Infratil's investment. This in itself should cause both believers in the free market and socialists to baulk at public subsidy for a predominantly private entity, but no - they have cargo cult syndrome.

They believe that magically if an airport extension is built, there will be long haul flights from Wellington to Asia and the Middle East, making the city more attractive for business.  However, it is far from clear exactly:

- Why airlines will fly long haul to Wellington;
- Are the assumptions about the the benefits claimed valid?