Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Road sanity then madness

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Stuff reports that Treasury has backed up the costings commissioned by Transit New Zealand on the comparative costs of the coastal expressway upgrade between Paremata and Mackays Crossing, compared to Transmission Gully. The real dispute is "which projects are included in each option", because Porirua City Council claims a whole series of projects don't need to proceed if Transmission Gully is built, which is wrong as Transmission Gully - untolled - will still see around 40% of current traffic remaining on the current highway. A tolled Transmission Gully would probably see around 70% of traffic on the current highway. So hopefully the debate will cease to continue to be silly.
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However, it will be - because politicians know sweet bugger all about roads - just as they wouldn't know what clothes to order for the nation or the amount of vegetable soup that people would consume. They are not professionals in producing ANYTHING, and they are not trying to convince you to pay for something out of your own choice - they are trying to convince you to elect them every three years to spend your money and tell you what to do and what not to do.
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Just to prove it, naive new National MP for Wairarapa, John Hayes wants a road tunnel under the Rimutakas. He could have gone to the Wellington public library, or asked the Transit regional office or even the Regional Council for some background, but no. A road tunnel was investigated thoroughly about 15-20 years ago, along with other options and was ruled out as ridiculously uneconomic. John Hayes has no idea about the cost, but the reported $1 billion would be conservative, as modern standards for tunnel safety would mean a wide tunnel, with shoulders, about the width of the Terrace Tunnel. Even if traffic doubled to 8000 vehicles a day, it would still be a toll of around $20 a trip to pay the capital cost and interest to fund it - and the private sector is free to have a go - but I doubt if it will, unless there is a keen interest in a property developer wanting to open up Wairarapa for commuters.
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No - Mr Hayes doesn't know much about roads - he should probably go back to his earlier work as an economist and do some thinking before he talks. If he thinks it is a good idea, find some private investors to put a proposal together - if they wont, and people aren't prepared to pay a toll for it, then give it up - don't just ask for some taxpayer pork for your electorate! Roads aren't special.
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As Mayor of Masterton Bob Francis (and former MP Wyatt Creech) know well, after the study undertaken many years ago, the focus shifted to the Kaitoke hill realignment now nearly completed, and easing some of the worst bends on the hill road, with some longer passing lanes. There is a longer term proposal to gradually upgrade the whole hill road to a 60-70km/h standard with continuous uphill passing lanes - but frankly, at easily $200 million, that would be a dog of a project too, in terms of net economics.

Today in history

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1854 The Republican Party is founded in Wisconsin – the party was founded on the principles of opposing the growth of slavery (good), strong national defense (good), but also highly regulated and protectionist business (bad). Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican President.
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1972 The Shanghai Communique was issued jointly by Mao Tse Tung and Richard Nixon on the conclusion of Nixon’s groundbreaking visit to communist China. At that point, the US continued to not recognise the People’s Republic of China, but maintained diplomatic relations and military bases on the Republic of China in Taiwan.
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The key breakthrough was the following portion of the Communique
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“There are essential differences between China and the United States in their social systems and foreign policies. However, the two sides agreed that countries, regardless of their social systems, should conduct their relations on the principles of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states, non-aggression against other states, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence. International disputes should be settled on this basis, without resorting to the use or threat of force. The United States and the People's Republic of China are prepared to apply these principles to their mutual relations. “
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..and more shocking for Chiang Kai Shek, precipitating the Republic of China (Taiwan)’s withdrawal from the United Nations, was the announcement by the US that:
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“The United States acknowledges that all Chinese on either side of the Taiwan Strait maintain there is but one China and that Taiwan is a part of China. The United States Government does not challenge that position. It reaffirms its interest in a peaceful settlement of the Taiwan question by the Chinese themselves. With this prospect in mind, it affirms the ultimate objective of the withdrawal of all U.S. forces and military installations from Taiwan. In the meantime, it will progressively reduce its forces and military installations on Taiwan as the tension in the area diminishes.”
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In short, the US announced it was abandoning its direct defence of Taiwan against Chinese attack – Chiang Kai Shek felt betrayed by the USA. Peace between the USA and the murderous tyrants that butchered and starved tens of millions of Chinese seemed like madness. However, Nixon was not concerned with anything other than isolating the Soviet Union – he knew that peace with China would help protect US interests in Asia, and see China turn its effort towards the USSR. It was realpolitik – your enemy’s enemy is your friend. After the 1972 New Zealand election, one of the first foreign policy moves of the Kirk Labour government was to recognise the People's Republic of China, which meant concurrently terminating diplomatic relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan).
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And in 1983, the last episode of MASH was broadcast to a US audience of over 100 million viewers.

Abolish the crime of blasphemy!

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No Right Turn has drafted a bill to abolish the crime of blasphemy. I blogged a while ago about how Richard Worth MP for – not Epsom - had noted this crime remains in the Crimes Act, but hadn't shown any appetite for repealing it. It can only be prosecuted by agreement of the Attorney General, but it is still there - and no free and open society should retain it. Duncan Bayne has also supported it on his blog.
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I fully the repeal of this odious crime and I am certain Libertarianz will as well. I challenge Rodney Hide or Heather Roy to make it a private member’s bill, and help prove ACT can be a liberal party. I doubt Labour will support it, with mealy-mouthed words about protecting our trade with Islamic countries, I doubt National will either - too many Christian conservatives riled up with the South Park cartoon no doubt!
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Ghost of Goldwater, has blogged delightfully, but in a blasphemous way. Should doing this remain a crime - subject only to the Attorney General being a religious zealot?

David Benson Pope

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I have only one comment about DBP – I appeared in front of a select committee that he sat on, to present a submission on a Bill. He was rude and obnoxious, and wasn’t unafraid to express his contempt that “we” had even bothered to put in a submission. He asked questions about why a libertarian would be in an organisation, because aren’t we all individuals, he asked whether Libertarianz as a party really existed. He wouldn’t discuss the Bill concerned, wasn't interested in debating why he supported it, he just wanted to be abusive. Of course, as much as I wanted to tell him to stop being an uglier version of David McPhail’s Muldoon, I had to be polite – you don’t get allowed into select committees any other way.
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What a prick.
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I don’t really give a damn how much of a bully or pervert he was as a teacher – if there are people who are victims, then let them press charges or stand up in public to do their finger pointing. However, he is a bully, and he props up a government that used taxpayer’s money to campaign – the people of Dunedin South have a lot to answer for, and I hope the bastard’s political career is over as soon as possible.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Why freedom?

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AJ Chesswas challenged me a couple of weeks ago to give a "philosophical and moral justification of libertarianism" after I blogged about his views on sex, morality and the state (he has since decided to stop blogging and the vigorous debates on his blog have been removed by him).
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So here it is, after some attempt at writing a summary, I decided to be as succinct as I could be, while still walking through it step by step. The briefest version is:
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- existence exists - human beings have consciousness to perceive reality - human beings are living creatures and the sustenance of life is fundamental to anything else they do - in order to sustain life human beings must apply reason - in order to apply reason they must be protected from the initiation of force against their body and property, and have the freedom to think and act according to reason - and the highest reflection of life is the pursuit of happiness - as such, government should exist to protect people's bodies, property and freedom from the use of force by others, so they can sustain life and enjoy it. *phew*
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The longer version is:
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The libertarian position on government, is that government must exist in order to ensure that the four fundamental rights of humans are protected. These rights are:
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- life;
- liberty;
- property; and
- the pursuit of happiness.
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Government has a monopoly of legitimate violence to protect those rights, because individuals have those rights and have created government to serve them. The only action that can erode those rights is the use of force or fraud, force can end life, can restrain your freedom by prohibiting or compelling you, can take or destroy your property and can, as a result of losing the other rights, interfere with your happiness. Government exists to defend you against other human beings interfering with those rights. Your personal sphere is where all your rights exist, and your interaction with others is done on a voluntary basis, where rights are only important when the principle of voluntarism is abridged, because they PROTECT it.
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Why those rights? Why are there not other rights and why are these “rights” at all? The answer is simple – because they are absolutely necessary preconditions for life itself and arise from the facts of life.
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You may think that the “right to life” is all you need. However, the right to life per se, is quite fundamental and basic. It is your right not to be killed – but your right to not have force inflicted upon you although absolutely necessary, is insufficient in itself. Without this right, human beings live in anarchy and in need to be constantly vigilant against attack, which limits their potential to do anything beyond mere survival. This is, fundamentally, the right to deny others to violate your body, except by your choice (in which case it is not violation).
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You also need a right to “property” (I’ll come to liberty in a moment). Property is the fruit of what you produce, by applying your mind to the world around you. Whether you invent, discover or undertake actions that trade value for value, you gain property – such as food, tools, clothing, shelter. Without such property, you are unable to sustain life, because you need food, shelter and warmth – if you had no such right, others could steal and occupy your property, denying you the basics of survival. Having a right to property enables you to not only survive, but produce a surplus, and trade – enhancing your life. This is control over what you produce or earn (whether by work or as a gift, from a relationship). It is the right to deny others the possession or control of your property, except by your choice.
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You need “liberty” because in order to live, act and pursue property, you need the freedom to make your own decisions and act on them. This means not being compelled to act in ways that are contrary to your mind, or being prohibited from doing so. Liberty is freedom to be creative, to experiment, to explore and to make decisions surrounding your life. Without this, someone else is making your decisions and that person may not be motivated to protect your life or property. More importantly, it cannot be assumed, except in the transitional period of childhood (when reasoning matures) or severe cases of mental injury or disease, that one adult knows best how to respond to the environment for another. Why? If you assume a right to life and property, that means control over that life and property – the control over another’s life and property is the relationship of a master and slave. Regardless of whether or not the person wishing to inhibit liberty has good intentions regarding the life of the other person, denying that person the liberty to choose is abandoning the brain of that person. What may to one person be a destructive and negative action by another towards himself, may, to that other, be the pursuit of a rational value – for example, a person may wish to protect someone inventing a flying machine, because it could be damaging, but the person risking their life with such an invention is pursuing life, through valuing discovery and science. Similarly, it would be inappropriate for the person inventing to compel others to help, because others are pursuing different values - that are life affirming.
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So what about a man doing something “so clearly harmful” to himself. Is there not an obligation to act to protect him? No, there is no obligation. There is the freedom to advise, and attempt to convince – but to use force against his body or property assumes that, given all of the available facts, you know better in the pursuit of that man’s goals. Perhaps your goals for him are better. So why not? Firstly, you may not have all of the available facts, in which case you would be violating him. Note that you will never always be in a better position than someone else to make those decisions, and if you are in error, you have not only violated his body and/or property, but have made or prohibited him acting in a way that is consistent with his values – something you yourself would personally resist. Secondly, if you do, it is presumably because you have better values or better pursue his values .
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In order to determine if those values are legitimate, then you must define the purpose of your existence and the purpose of the existence of others. The answer to that is simple – life.
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Living creatures have one distinct difference from objects, in that they must act to sustain themselves to exist and reproduce. If they do not act, they will die. Life as a value is fundamental to everything else that a living organism may do – without it, everything else is utterly irrelevant. So the first value of every human being must be life. The process of sustaining life sees organisms sensing responses from their environment according to their actions – in general, actions which sustain life are pleasurable, such as food, satisfaction from completing a productive task and positive relationships. Those which are contrary to life produce pain, such as starvation, injury, frustration and sacrifice for no personal goal. As the sustenance of life is the fundamental goal of human beings, then the pursuit of happiness is the highest achievement of that goal. Human beings strive to experience pleasure, which is why the fourth right is the “pursuit of happiness”. The pursuit of happiness is fundamental to the sustenance of life, because nothing else motivates the continued sustenance of life other than happiness.
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This does not mean pursuing happiness in ways that are contrary to life – the short term pleasure from ingesting harmful drugs can result in subsequent pain. Hedonistic pleasures that ignore the need to sustain existence and pursue longer term happiness may not be in support of life. However, this then raises the issue as to whether there is any justification for one man to use force to stop another man from making choices in pursuing happiness that are destructive to his life. There cannot be. This is why you cannot force others to not undertake actions or to undertake actions that you believe are best for them - because you cannot experience the happiness of another or understand it. If you use force contrary to that person's happiness, then it is a direct violation of that person's life.
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The fundamental tool all human beings have to sustain their existence and pursue happiness is reason. Reason is a tool that cannot be used when force is inflicted, as force is a direct attack on reason. Force is the tool of the savage who seeks not to produce, trade or convince others of the merits of his ideas, but to make them – to enslave them. The rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness demand that no one initiate force against others. Indeed, liberty cannot exist when someone has the right to stop you from using reason in your pursuit of life, property and happiness.
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Can you argue that some people are not using reason in their pursuit of happiness so you have the right to do so, to stop them from acting contrary to their lives? No. If this were the case, then government could extend its powers into every action of a person’s life to protect them, to the point where it would micromanage what you eat, wear, where you live, your job and your relationships – because you did not make “rational decisions” in relation to them. Liberty to act in the pursuit of your own happiness, limited only by the rights of others to have the same liberty, is essential because there is no “other” way for happiness to be pursued. Happiness does not exist when life is governed by others using compulsion to short-circuit your mind.
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Now this is not all encompassing and does not answer all of the questions that will be raised, but I considered it better to write this and publish it, than to write a long explanation covering all eventualities. It also goes beyond libertarianism, because it is more than just about government, but about life and existence. It is Ayn Rand's philosophy of objectivism. It is also explained by Harry Binswanger on this posting by PC.
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Another post worth reading on this are on harmony of interests by PC, and Joseph Rowlands on the Meaning of Life. Even more from the Objectivist Centre on Objectivist morality. That article explains why honesty, integrity, independence, pride and benevolence are all virtues.
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So there you have it - prove to me that my life is yours!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Sue has no clue on business

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Sue Bradford has shown the Green Party ignorance about business by calling for Air New Zealand to “pull out of its job-shedding tail spin”.
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You see, despite it being your money that rescued the airline after your government refused to allow Singapore Airlines to give it the capital injection it badly needed to survive, the Greens don’t really mind if you don’t get a return on that investment. Earth to Sue, the airline industry is enormously risky and generally a bad investment (largely because many of those in it do it out of love not money), Air NZ is trying to save itself by being more efficient.
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She is concerned there hasn’t been consultation with the unions, which is slightly hilarious because, let’s face it, the unions aren’t going to say “well you’re right, all these departments really don’t do much good, so get rid of them and you can cut 20% of these departments because their practices aren’t up to world best in the airline industry”. Of course, if you read Air NZ's press releases, I doubt if too many of the jobs to be lost in the recent announcements are unionised - you see Sue, some of us don't want to join commie collectives with political agendas to represent our employment. I certainly never did - I had better things to do with my money that help get the Labour Party re-elected.
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However she gets two things wrong in her funniest statement:
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“We bailed out Air New Zealand because of the disastrous decisions of the former owners and management. We did not do this to see Air NZ become a mean, anti-worker company making more bad decisions.”
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Well, no Sue. Air New Zealand was bailed out because for months on end Cabinet refused to agree to the recommendations of the Air NZ board, and officials, that Singapore Airlines be allowed to make a major capital injection into the airline which would have raised its shareholding from 25% to 49%. That would have enabled Air New Zealand to carry out the massive restructuring that Ansett Australia badly needed (which only could be carried out after Air New Zealand acquired 100% of Ansett), largely resisted by the Aussie unions and conditions put on the sale of Ansett (so they lost the lot) and to survive the downturn of post 9/11 aviation. The government stopped the private sector from operating because it sat on its hands, and Qantas and Richard Branson did very well out of that.
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Secondly, besides the silly “mean anti-worker” comment – after all, if the employees didn’t like it, they wouldn’t stay, why is it a bad decision to become more efficient? Especially since whether Air NZ remains taxpayer owned or is privatised at some future date, this will indirectly benefit all taxpayers?

Compulsory pay digital TV?

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Well it is what Steve Maharey reportedly means. This is about how TVNZ moves from analogue to digital broadcasting, as is happening in the UK and Australia. The UK is successful because the BBC and umpteen commercial broadcasters are using digital to launch a whole host of channels, many of which were not originally available on Sky - and the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 etc have got the programmes to do this! I bought this digital freeview box a few months ago for £70, and get around 30 channels, can pay for another 10 more if I wanted to, and get around 20 radio stations as well. Of course in the UK, being high density and relatively flat, it is pretty cheap to provide digital terrestrial TV.
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The NZ Herald says the NZ government is keen on a BBC approach – which, of course, is utter bollocks, because it is not going to set up a commercial free TV broadcaster with a mammoth TV licensing fee. What it means is that two commercial free digital TV channels could be set up, with the intention that they be free to air and broadcast. The Herald suggests that:
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“A factual channel could show high-end international documentaries, re-runs of One News and minority programmes with a high local content. A second channel primarily for children could screen serious drama and arts at night.”
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Now setting aside the merits of the programming, much of which you can get on various Sky channels (although TVNZ has an enormous library of local programmes, of mixed quality), you have to ask a number of questions:
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1. Is TVNZ digital TV just about supplementing the existing channels or is it also about broadcasting the existing channels in a digital format (which allows a degree of interactivity)? Elsewhere (UK, Australia) this is about phasing out analogue television, which ultimately makes sense, but for which there is no real hurry in New Zealand.
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2. What is the platform? Is TVNZ seriously going to set up its own network of terrestrial digital TV transmitters across the countryside parallel to the current analogue network, just for two minority interest channels? Or is it going to piggyback off of Sky, or at least the Optus (or other?) satellites? Terrestrial digital TV isn’t cheap.
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3. When it chooses its platform and standards, what will Canwest and other terrestrial broadcasters do? Is it appropriate for the state broadcaster to do this unilaterally?
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4. Why should we be forced to pay for it? We’re not! I hear you cry – well you are. TVNZ is owned by you and pays dividends to the government that reduce its need to take so much tax. If these TV channels are going to be wholly subsidised by the commercial TVNZ channels, you’re propping them up by the loss of dividend. If they were commercial channels, then it would be different.
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Of course NZ already has two digital TV platforms in commercial operation now - Sky digital nationwide and the Telstra Clear recently converted to digital, cable TV system in Kapiti, Wellington and Christchurch. You didn't have to pay for either of those. If TVNZ was privatised you wouldn't have to pay for this either.

Red Ken suspended

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No not the shampoo, but the leftie Mayor of London who only ever redeemed himself partially in my eyes by introducing congestion charging.
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He has been found guilty by the Adjudication Panel for England of bringing the office of Mayor into disrepute by his comments comparing a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard. The reporter is Oliver Finegold of the Evening Standard – the London paper that has waged an anti-Ken war since he got elected, and was re-elected.
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Ken has been suspended from office for four weeks.
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The Guardian reports the incident itself as follows:
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Mr Livingstone had asked the reporter if he was a German war criminal and then, after learning that he was Jewish and had been offended by the question, compared him to a concentration camp guard.
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The reason he did was he was “expressing his long and honestly held political view of Associated Newspapers, publishers of the Daily Mail and Evening Standard.” according to the Independent (see I dont only read pro-Tory papers). The Daily Mail in the 1930s had written editorials criticising Jewish immigrants, being supportive of the British Union of Fascists and more recently has taken a conservative stance on asylum seekers.
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Oh well, good – the man is into tax and spend, and is responsible for giving all children free bus travel, children being those under 16 – which means buses can be packed with obnoxious brats who are too lazy to walk. He got upset because Westminster City Council didn't want a statue of Nelson Mandela put up in its borough - rightfully so - why Nelson Mandela? The man who left South Africa with Thabo Mbeki, a man who denied that AIDS could be caught from HIV, that props up Mugabe's thugocracy and a corrupt ANC government that ever so gradually is slipping the way of Zimbabwe.

Labour's biggest asset - dependency

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Bill Deedes, Daily Telegraph columnist, once editor (1974-1986) and Cabinet Minister under Harold Macmillan has written in the Telegraph this morning quite succinctly putting down the problem the Tories have, which, I believe, National also faces in New Zealand:
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“When people talk to me optimistically about Conservative prospects under David Cameron, as many now do, I gently remind them of the huge dependency factor that Labour enjoys. Never before in our history have so many voters depended on a government for their jobs or their benefits.
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Why should they vote Tory, any more than we would expect turkeys to vote for Christmas? The private sector in this country, which retains Conservative instincts, has waned. The public service element has waxed exceedingly. Labour today has a far bigger dependency vote than when it took office."
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Indeed, think about how the Working for Families package does the same for Labour in New Zealand, as does the growth in public service "jobs" sucks up university students when they graduate.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Snow, foxes and where is Brian Tamaki?

It snowed!! For the first time during the day this year, in London.
I have seen foxes twice in the small park in the middle of my street too, and I'm only in Camden borough!
and where is Brian Tamaki? No, really, he maintained a very high profile running up to the election and for at least a year and a half beforehand - and now, with the party having got less than 1% of the vote (and no press release from it since September) - is it over, or is he making hay (=$$$$$$$) while he still can, or is something else going on? Even the pisstake site is down but is available cached on my mislocated lower sidebar!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Telecommunications and Russell Brown

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I have refrained from writing on telecommunications, although I have a background in telecommunications policy until now – and it is partly in response to the inaccuracies in Russell Brown’s column cited by David Farrar. Russell wrote a lot, and this post is in response to some of what he said which is clearly wrong.
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Paul Hewlitt’s article he cites is largely quite good although out of date (Vodafone does make a profit in New Zealand), fails to criticise major reports that are full of errors, such as the Todd report commissioned by Clear Communications and the Australian Productivity Commission report (both using out of date data, besides why would Clear produce an objective report?) and makes claims about Ministry of Commerce analysis which are false such as "The Ministry has no real view about these critical issues, despite 'presiding over' ten years of a deregulated marketplace, because it has no objective information, having done no work on behalf of the Crown or taxpayer to understand what has been taking place in the market. " He might want to do an OIA request on this.
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Russell criticises the regulatory regime, which relied on the Commerce Act and threat of regulatory intervention by saying “It is difficult now to credit the stupidity of those who devised the policy.” Really Russell? New Zealand was the first country in the world to fully open up its telecommunications market to competitive entry – the US still had protected infrastructure monopolies for local calls, and the UK had a regulated duopoly. Those were better models? At the time, it made perfect sense to treat telecommunications like every other industry, and use the agreement with Telecom to provide fair and reasonable interconnection as the benchmark, and the Kiwishare obligations to protect a certain level of local service. The Internet, as far as New Zealand was concerned, did not exist.
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"After Telecom was sold to Ameritech and Bell Atlantic (themselves, ironically the product of the greatest regulatory intervention in telecommunications history - the forcible break-up of AT&T in 1982) for $4.25 billion (the money was prudently used to retire external debt) in 1990". First, the break up of AT&T was by court order, not an action by a regulator (although it is in response to anti-trust law which was generic), secondly Telecom’s sale money was only partly used to retire external debt, the remainder was used to finance Labour government social spending in the ill-fated 1990 budget.
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“It wasn't all bad: Clear Communications entered the market, negotiated an interconnection agreement for distance calling and set toll rates on a steep slide.” Well when Clear’s entered the market, its toll rates were the same as Telecom’s for residential customers. Clear made it "Clear" it entered the NZ market to compete on service NOT price. It wasn’t until 1995/1996 when Telstra, Worldxchange and Sprint entered the market that Telecom was the first to dramatically reduce national toll calls with $5 weekends- Clear followed. It took the extra players to encourage competition, and Telecom was the price leader. Note also that on international routes Telecom faced competitors with significant overseas partners able to undercut it on key routes, BT and MCI owned Clear in those days, but Telecom introduced capped international calls to Australia, UK and the US - not Clear!
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Meanwhile, other nations began to embark on a different path. When they broke up their public monopolies, they either completely separated the wholesale and retail elements of those networks, or foreshadowed local loop unbundling, Nobody broke up their public monopolies, they tended to be corporatised, privatised and opened up to competition. Most foreshadowed local loop unbundling, but it was a new concept in 1996. Nobody completely separated wholesale and retail! Australia had a regulated duopoly until 1996 and most of the European Union did not open its markets until 1999, and the incumbents were not split.
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The various permutations of Saturn, Clear and Telstra installed cable in parts of Wellington and Christchurch but ran out of money. Telstra ran out of money? The majority Australian federal government owned behemoth? Give me a break Russell – it simply changed its business model and when government policy changed in 1990, the incentives changed. It also faced enormous RMA issues in Auckland as NIMBYism meant people didn’t want overhead wires for a competing network. Once Auckland became too hard it abandoned Hamilton, Tauranga and Dunedin.
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Russell also talks about how great the British unbundling experience is. Well this needs some closer examination. I used to live in Chelsea, hardly remote and somewhere you’d think you could get high speed broadband via BT unbundled line, but no – 512kb/s was what was available from my exchange. I could have gone to NTL, which has a competing network and got 2Mb/s of course, but ended up moving anyway. Not that this is much evidence, but it is as valid as ones of people Russell DOES know.
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The current price range for broadband in the UK is between £13 and £25 a month, costing more if you don’t want to be hooked into a 12 month contract – so this is about NZ$35 to NZ$60, cheaper than NZ when you consider that plans tend to have no download cap. Yes, the UK has cheaper, faster broadband, but in main cities there is infrastructure competition from cable operators too. The main cable TV providers NTL and Telewest are about to merge making them a more formidable force in broadband.
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"The British regulator's report had another line of considerable interest: "There are no Disputes in progress at the present time." In a market where there is "a dispute in progress" most of the time that sounds pretty damn good. " Not the regulator Russell, the Adjudicator. The regulator is Ofcom, and its report is here, there are plenty of disputes.
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“Woosh Wireless may have sorted out its technical issues by now, but its residential service offerings are abysmal. BCL shows no sign of moving into the residential market and, even with WiMax looming, I'm still waiting for someone to show me that wireless will be anything more than a niche” Well, BCL wont, but people thought DSL was a niche in the mid 90s, because Hybrid Fibre Coax was the way of the future – and were proven wrong. Unbundling will help to kill off wireless as a competitive option, and the uncertainty around the regulatory regime wont be helping wireless.
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Yes, the number of New Zealand broadband connections grew nearly 70% between Q3 2004 and Q4 2005, but that's still less than Thailand, India, China, Pakistan and Australia, in the Asia-Pacific region alone. Oh please Russell, if National quoted all the developing countries and said how appalling our GDP growth rates are compared to them you know what you would say. Australia IS legitimate, but it is also working off of a similarly low base, with unbundling.
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"Full LLU would also, of course, immediately introduce something that the nearly 20 years since corporatisation has conspicuously failed to deliver: nationwide competition on residential voice calling services. " What nonsense, there has been nationwide competition on national and international calls for over ten years. For local calls there is Telstra Clear reselling Telecom services, and Vodafone provides a competing voice network (not as cheap, but it can be used without line rental).
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McLeod's column hails the progress of Vodafone in our "competitive" mobile calling sector, without acknowledging that the benefits of that competition have failed to flow through to the consumer: our mobile termination rates (especially when calling from fixed lines) are the highest in the OECD. Oh the consumers have not benefited from a second cellphone operator? Would we have prepaid phones and text messaging if it were not for Vodafone? There is plenty of opportunity to have a third network – the spectrum is held now, and if Bellsouth/Vodafone can do it, so can Telstra Clear or Orange or another major international operator – might help if the RMA wasn’t such a barrier though. Other countries have additional networks, and that is reflected in price.
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Finally specious phrases like “Let's put it another way: would we want our roads run like our telecommunications? You won't get many backers for that motion, Rob.” Why is this a bad idea? Do you find it hard to get a phone call through at peak times Russell? Why is it that new technologies get implemented roughly according to demand, but that money for roads is always short?
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So things are not as clear as he makes out. I will blog later on what I think should be done about New Zealand telecommunications, after reading the report from InternetNZ. It comes down to being more creative than simply the government taking away property rights, but about those who want a better deal negotiating it and using the power they have. After all, Telstra is hardly a minnow in the lake.
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Mugabe's last birthday (please)


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Following on from Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe has turned 82. May he never reach 83.
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The government owned Zimbabwe Herald published a 16 page supplement congratulating him. A four day party is being held to celebrate it. You can read about it on the paper’s very slow website (you see there is no hard currency to pay for hosting it outside Zimbabwe).
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The Zimbabwe Herald said:
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“the whole nation joins the First Family in celebrating the life of the greatest hero ever to grace Zimbabwe and Africa.”
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However, as reported by the Daily Telegraph:
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“The National Oil Company of Zimbabwe, unable to import fuel for a year, said in its quarter-page birthday advertisement that it valued his "wisdom". The Zimbabwe National Water Authority, unable to supply clean drinking water to the capital Harare, congratulated his "legendary existence".”
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The forced takeover of farms, destruction of homes, rigging of elections and jail and torture of dissidents in Zimbabwe is well known and does not need repeating here, simply read the report The starvation in a country that once exports food is another legacy of Mugabe.
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However, one small reflection should be about those who supported him through the 80s and 90s – the ones who ignored the murderous record of ZANU, and who saw in Zimbabwe an optimistic “African democracy” – former ambassador Chris Laidlaw once wrote of this optimism, about a one-party state that was destroying property rights.
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Meanwhile, may Mugabe be captured, tortured and killed sometime in the near future - he deserves nothing less, and may his flunkies run like the vile rats that they are. However, if you want a taste of day to day life in Zimbabwe, try the blog of journalist Peta Thornycroft, reporting for the Daily Telegraph.

Khrushchev and Stalin


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Today is the day that Khrushchev made his famous “secret speech” on the last day of the 20th Party Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1956, denouncing Stalin. The day that the human excrement called Stalinists were stunned, and either followed Khrushchev or refused and continued to follow their blood thirsty hero. Think about those who deny the crimes of Stalin's regime in the context of Holocaust denial today!
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The speech rejected Stalin’s personality cult as being contrary to Marxism-Leninism (Mao, Hoxha, Kim Il Sung and Ceausescu all ignored this), it spoke of Stalin’s oppression and murder of Communist party members and innocent civilians, and the forcible deportation of nationalities or any groups Stalin feared.
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Around 2.9 million were deported under the rule of Stalin, as he shifted populations around from borders or regions that he thought might just be disloyal. However, this is nothing compared to the culture of fear and mass murder, directly through executions and sending dissidents to Siberia to die in gulags, and indirectly through ruinous policies that starved millions. He ignored warnings of the coming Nazi Germany invasion, costing millions of military and civilians lives in the siege of Leningrad. He had policies such as summarily executing soldiers if they retreated without orders and terrorising the families of those who did. The hero status he gained from World War 2 was unearned – the cost of Stalin’s regime is estimated at around 20-30 million people.
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Stalin was responsible for the invasion and occupation of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, the forced communisation of Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, and east Germany. He was responsible for the blockade of Berlin after the war, and for instituting communist rule in the northern half of Korea, putting Kim Il Sung into power and encouraging him to start the Korean War in 1950. He refused US offers of help to rebuild eastern Europe through the Marshal Plan, and because of the implementation of Stalinist economics, is responsible for eastern Europe today being a generation behind in GDP terms from western Europe.
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He was one of the most avid warmongerers of the 20th century.
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Stalin put enormous effort into making Soviet scientists develop nuclear weapons, as he was convinced of the inevitability of armed conflict with the west, Berlin and Korea were his two attempts. He strongly supported Mao Tse Tung, and rejected Tito of Yugoslavia, for taking a softer line by allowing small business and private property to exist.
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Khrushchev repudiated the inevitability of armed conflict as he believed that the “superiority” of the Soviet system would win out over capitalism by example, and revolution would happen abroad because people would want it.
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Khrushchev’s speech had two impacts:
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- It destroyed the personality cult of Stalin in the USSR and most of its eastern European allies. Czechoslovakia even destroyed an enormous monument to Stalin in 1962 after pouring a fortune of national GDP into it. The level of repression eased, summary executions became less common, but the apparatus of Soviet terror remained; and
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- It precipitated the Sino-Soviet split. Mao was close to Stalin and did not believe in peaceful co-existence and believe it was important to support revolution abroad, and to remain in conflict with the capitalist world. This split continued through till Gorbachev led the final years of the USSR. It saw border skirmishes between the USSR and China in the 1960s, China developing nuclear weapons on its own, aimed at the USSR and much endless rhetoric from China about the Soviet “revisionists”, and from the USSR about the Chinese “ultra-leftists”.
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Of course, there was a time when Stalin was much loved in the West - Time magazine made Stalin man of the year twice (1939 and 1942)! The repudiation of Stalin also had one very convenient effect for communists – they blamed the extremes and repression on Stalin, not Lenin. This ignores the apparatus of terror and culture of murder and deportation that Lenin instigated. Lenin was no angel, he expanded labour camps and engaged in deportation and mass executions – but he is still the pinup boy of the left. The difference between Lenin and Stalin is one of scale, and it was natural that Stalin follow from Lenin.
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Of course, Khrushchev did not mark the end of Soviet totalitarianism. The USSR suppressed the popular uprising against the Stalinist regime in Hungary in November 1956. Dissidents were still arrested, imprisoned and sometimes executed – simply the hysterical mass expulsions and extermination of groups had ended. He precipitated the Cuban Missile Crisis, and because he withdrew, was deposed, replaced by Brezhnev and placed under house arrest. The USSR until Gorbachev reformed it in the late 1980s was still a state of terror, where you dare not challenge the power or decisions of the Party, and where you didn’t complain or talk about things you shouldn’t.
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Today is a day to remember how lucky we all are that the USSR is gone. Stalin was the 20th century's second most murderous tyrant (after Mao), Khrushchev was not averse to spilling blood, just less thoroughly and more selectively, we can be glad that Khrushchev took one bold step to pull the USSR out of the sheer hell of Stalinism, and place it one step better than that, but that is all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Highway hoo ha


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Today Transit will release its draft 10 year State Highway plan for 2006/07-2015/16 – and the media will make it an enormous deal, the one-time ACT supporting Kim Ruscoe already has (I know this because I overheard her saying so a few years ago), even though it really isn’t meant to be.
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The plan is a forecast, based only on the revenues and anticipated allocations of Land Transport New Zealand over the next ten years. It does not mean any project will or will not proceed – at all. Funding is NOT decided by Transit New Zealand, it is decided by Land Transport New Zealand (formerly Transfund), which most reporters in New Zealand can't grasp, even though every frigging year the process is the same, and has been since 1996 when it was changed by National!
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The process goes like this:
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- Transit every year prepares a draft State Highway Programme, a bidding document which outlines the projects and outputs it will seek funding for from Land Transport NZ in the following financial year. This is based on the priorities for the current year and indications of available funding provided by Land Transport NZ based on the latest forecasts of revenue from fuel tax, road user charges, motor vehicle registration/licensing fees and Crown account allocations. The draft is for consultation with the public and local authorities, largely on the priorities Transit has set and also because local authorities produce their own bidding documents for funding their local road networks (and for subsidising public transport).
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- The draft Programme consists of detail of the projects and outputs for the following financial year as the focus. However, to give context and to encourage Transit to plan and prepare for the ongoing maintenance and development of its network, it also prepares a plan for the following nine years as a forecast, to indicate what might be done under current policy and revenue settings.
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- Following consultation, Transit’s board takes this into account and agrees on a final State Highway Programme which is submitted to the board of Land Transport New Zealand. Land Transport NZ, along with the programmes of 86 local authorities, considers the latest revenue forecasts (this is May by now) and prioritises the expenditure across all those entities, and releases the National Land Transport Programme for 2006/2007. That programme determines the allocations by activity class (e.g. State Highway Construction) and the amounts for maintenance, public transport subsidies and bulk funding for projects (and the list of approved projects) that are worth less than $3.5 million each.
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- Transit simultaneously releases the final agreed State Highway Programme for 2006/2007, which INCLUDES a forecast for following years.
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- However, final approval for funding for any single project over $3.5 million still requires signoff by the Land Transport NZ Board following evaluation of the costs and benefits of the project.
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So what does this mean? Once it is released, it is a draft and when it is finalised it is still only an indicative programme.
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Ruscoe's interviewing her typewriter with claims like "The worst-hit site in the Wellington region is believed to be the planned Paekakariki interchange, a flyover to move traffic safely on and off State Highway 1. It was set down in a proposed western corridor plan for 2007, but Transit's forecast stated that the earliest start date would be 2015, a source said."
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Well Kim, read the CURRENT year's final plan and there was no year for the Paekakariki Interchange. The proposed western corridor plan is a consultation plan, and has not been approved, and was prepared based on forecasts that are now over 6 months old.
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Yes, there is probably a funding gap, although Transit theoretically should not develop a programme which is unfundable – that is the whole point of this sort of forward planning. The big issue is whether the amount of road construction underway now, which is at levels unprecedented for over 30 years, is entirely efficient. In many cases it is, but you have to ask yourself questions about why the new motorway north of Orewa is in a tunnel now, instead of the original design for a cutting, in order to reduce environmental impact - for a good $35 million?
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There are two big issues:
- Inflation of project costs (caused by increases in oil prices, increased construction margins because of the huge rampup in road spending in the last two years and greenplating/goldplating by Transit engineers blaming the Land Transport Management Act for requiring high standards of environmental and social mitigation);
- Decreasing petrol tax revenue (caused by reducing traffic growth and increasing efficiency of the petrol vehicle fleet - this doesn't effect road user charges revenue of course).
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The appropriate answer is for Transit to become a company and to run at a profit, and to shift funding from being bureaucratic to being Transit charging customers directly - like National once proposed. Then it could borrow to build roads, paid back from road user charging.
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You see, Telecom, Contact Energy and Air New Zealand don't decide the amount of money they spend on capital every year based on annual surplus cash flow, and just spend that - they borrow, to spread the cost of the new asset across its depreciated life. Road users, on the other hand, pay taxes now, which are spend to build roads, that future road users use (albeit most of them are current ones, but since the depreciated life of a highway cutting is over 50 years) and don't pay anything towards the capital of. The Auckland motorway network was paid for by past generations, and only maintained by current ones - but phone lines, power lines and aircraft are not funded that way. If they were, you'd get congested lines, old planes as Air NZ saves up for new ones and slow progress. Imagine if you could never borrow for a home, you'd have to save up for decades until you could buy it - cash - while chasing the price of property.
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- then Transit would be engaging in cost control, but also delivering what its customers wanted and charging them appropriately for it. In the absence of that, the funding system should be revamped to have a tighter focus on economic efficiency and to ensure that projects don't proceed if they have benefit/cost ratios that are very low - and there needs to be a bigger shift to user pays, which means, for now, moving more petrol tax revenue into roads - and looking more to direct user pays to replace petrol tax.
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By the way, if the SH20 Avondale extension was not built, all the other roads could be easily funded, because it is estimated to cost around $1.2 billion, which over five years sucks out $240 million a year - but if you borrow over 35 years, it would spread it out, even taking into account the cost of borrowing.

David Irving

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Not PC, No Right Turn and DPF have blogged on David Irving being imprisoned for denying the historical fact of the Holocaust. It is very simple, anyone denying the Holocaust is engaging in an exercise of intellectual fraud and almost certainly has an anti-Jewish, pro-Nazi agenda (although it astounds me that people who are anti-Jewish and pro-Nazi can’t explicitly defend something that their philosophy endorses). As No Right Turn has pointed out, there is little doubt that many in the Middle East will find his conviction hypocritical, though hypocrisy lies on both sides as we know from the vile antisemitic cartoons that appear in Arab papers.
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It notable that the Daily Telegraph reports that “Dr Romain, rabbi of Maidenhead Synagogue, said: "I welcome yet another public rebuff for David Irving's pseudo-historical views, although personally I prefer to treat him with disdain than with imprisonment."”
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Exactly. None of us have anything to fear of the likes of Irving or anyone who engages in absurd historical revisionism. If we apply this law universally, Noam Chomsky should have been jailed for denying the mass murder and starvation that occurred in Cambodia under Pol Pot.
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The challenge to free speech is to defend those that most offend you, most distress and whose views or publications you find the most vile – because you must.
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On one side of the spectrum lies Galileo Galilei in the 17th century, as the Roman Catholic Church found it offensive that he dare challenge Ecclesiastes 1:5 by declaring the Earth orbits around the Sun, not vice versa. He fought for the right to free speech because of science. On the other is Larry Flynt, a far from delightful man, who fought for the right to publish photos of naked women in explicit sexual positions – he fought for the right to free speech because these were adults wanting their images taken and adults wanting to see them. Both men at different times had many wanting to shut them down – both had the right to say as they said, David Irving as vile as his writings are, is in the same boat.
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The only way to respond to free speech you don’t like, is to use free speech itself to challenge it.
UPDATE: Removed reference to Japanese government attitude to Japanese colonial atrocities, see comments.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Kim Jong Il what a guy!

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Happy 65th birthday Kim Jong Il (last Thursday) - General Secretary of the Worker's Party of Korea and Leader (not "dear" anymore) of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Not that he needs it, with his legions of teenage girls specially selected to provide him with carnal relief, and his obscene kleptocratic wealth.
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Yes 65, not 64 as CNN claims. He is one of Vyatskoye's most successful sons - not Korea's. You see he was actually born in 1941 in the Soviet Union, and his birth year was altered in the mid 1970s so that it would coincide with his father Kim Il Sung’s birth year of 1912 so son would turn 40 and 50 and dad 70 and 80 in the same year.
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CNN reports on his feats, such as having a photographic memory that he can recall everything everyone in a cemetery did (possibly because he put them there). Although there are stories galore in his biographies about him literally walking on water and other such feats
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You can read more of the official North Korean version of Kim Jong Il’s exploits on the websites of the Korean Central News Agency and the DPRK publications. However it is far more fun to go to NK News, a searchable database of North Korean propaganda that includes a random insult generator and some fun searches of terms like “human scum” (which is used to describe anyone who fled North Korean from the gulags. You can see how vociferously nasty and funny North Korean propagandists are. My insult was:
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"You anti-socialist beast, your accusation against the DPRK is no more than barking at the moon!" ahhh memories.
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You can also look up New Zealand and see our own sycophantic scum licking the arse of this vile regime – although it could well only be Don Borrie (a man who has praised Kim Il Sung much as George Galloway has Saddam Hussein, and who thinks that there is a need to deal with historic hurt caused by our involvement in the Korean War!). Don't be surprised that Keith Locke cites Don here as a reliable source of news about North Korea, if it were 1938 I am sure Keith would be saying that it would be better to be nice to Mr Hitler.
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The UK has its own nearly illiterate sycophants of scum at this blog and site. Human scum THEY are, but fortunately their blogs and message boards are so quiet you can see the tumbleweeds.
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Did you know Whale Rider has been shown in North Korea?
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North Korea congratulated Helen Clark on her election and Winston Peters on becoming Foreign Minister (as is the normal diplomatic protocol).
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What I am waiting for is whatever gift that the New Zealand ambassador sends on Kim Jong Il's birthday, as is expected in Pyongyang.
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Kim Jong Il recently visited China and said in his speech:
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"Touring on this occasion various special economic zones making a great contribution to the socialist modernization drive with Chinese characteristics, we were more deeply moved by the Chinese people’s enterprising and persevering efforts and fruit borne by them.
In a word, our visit to the southern part convinced us once again that China has a rosier future thanks to the correct line and policies advanced by the Communist Party of China.
The astonishing changes that have taken place in the vast land of China have been possible because the CPC laid down a new line and policies that suit the specific conditions of the country"

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Yes comrade it is called capitalism - it suits your country too, look south of the DMZ - it's not too late to try it yourself, make it your birthday goal next year Kim Jong Il - if you do, you might even deserve a birthday present.
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By the way if you want one book to read about North Korea, it is Under The Loving Care Of The Fatherly Leader: North Korea And The Kim Dynasty by Bradley Martin (St. Martins (October, 2004)). Truly well researched and eye-opening insight, and I have read more books on North Korea than most.

Muslims in the UK

An ICM poll published in the Daily Telegraph found that 40% of British Muslims want Sharia law instituted in the UK, though 41% oppose it. 20% have sympathy with the “feelings and motives” of the July 7 bombers, although 99% thought it shouldn’t have been carried out (1% did) and 75% don’t have sympathy. Hmmmm.
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It is encouraging that Muslims in the UK are split on Sharia law, although 40% is a high figure. Why go to a free country and want to put it under the slavery of religious law? It is more encouraging that 75% don’t have sympathy with the suicide bombers. How about the rest?
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This poll can be seen in two ways depending on whether you want to worry about Muslims or not - there is a clear majority not interested in Britain becoming Iran, but a sizeable minority who are against British laws and values - in which case they might wonder why they chose to live here.

South Park and its opponents

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As PC has said, you’ll already know what I thinks and will know what Libertarianz thinks – in short, Canwest owns C4 and has the right to choose, and this is freedom of speech. Those offended have the right to turn off, or boycott advertisers - that is their freedom too. I doubt if any of those calling for it to be off air have seen it, though the description is pretty clear. DPF is also the nominated representative SouthPark fan for Newstalk ZB, I am sure he gave a good defence.
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The boycott campaign by NZ Christians, trying to mirror the same pressure brought upon US networks, will do one thing above all – ensure a record audience for the programme, and for the advertisers around it. The PM has already said that "Those who publish in these circumstances of course have their right to free speech in New Zealand, but that doesn't take away from others the right to say what they think about it. " which is rather enlightened, a line she should have taken on the Danish cartoons. Although she added the "As a woman I find it offensive." remark. One of those vapid assertions that begs the question "What are you when you don't say "as a woman" and how do you know any different?
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I look forward to seeing who advertises in the slot – hopefully Inland Revenue! I wonder if the Christians looking to boycott Canwest also boycott The Breeze, More FM and the umpteen other radio stations owned by Canwest - probably not.
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Anyway, what is notable is the response of politicians – Helen Clark seems less upset about SouthPark than the Danish cartoon that offends Muslims. I guess she couldn’t pretend to have a sense of humour about it – that would be politically unwise.
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The campaign against it has a website with some tortured English as below (website quotes in italics)...
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“Why take action against this offensive program?
a) Simple; because we respect love women and we value and respect a New Zealander's right to hold a religious faith without condemnation.
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(shudder "respect love") Well nobody is condemning anyone’s right to hold a faith – don’t watch the programme
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However, the true agenda of this group is shown here:
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Our opposition to Bloody Mary is about more than just this one episode of South Park, it is about opposition to a growing tide of anti-religious ridicule and obscenity that has become ingrained in the NZ media.

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Tough! Humanity for centuries tortured and murdered people for ridiculing religion, some countries still do. Religion deserves ridicule, as it is a whole field of philosophy based on worshipping ghosts – entities that cannot be objectively proved to exist. I don’t believe in ghosts – the enlightenment came some centuries ago.
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The usual straw men are placed up that those opposing it aren’t “anti free speech”.
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“Freedom of speech exists to allow the free debate, discussion, and expression of ideas, philosophies and religious beliefs. This program does not even come close to meeting these criteria.”
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Yes and it allows the right to humour. This is like saying you can discuss politics but you can’t poke fun at our politicians – just because you don’t like the humour or don’t find it funny, does not mean it isn’t a right. As George Carlin said, anything can be funny.
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There is nothing positive or redeeming about this episode of South Park, it is merely intended to shock and outrage and it will hurt many people in the process.
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There is one thing positive and redeeming about this episode – one is that thousands of people will laugh because of it. Laughter is important - the scariest societies are those without it.
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There is no benefit in this show, unless you consider it beneficial to provide grossly offensive programming that caters only to the lowest common denominator and is a heinous abuse of women.
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There is no benefit in spending time and money worshipping ghosts – if that is the test, then religion wont stand up to it. This pomposity is akin to saying that the filthy masses shouldn’t be catered for – well women watch SouthPark too. YOU don’t have a monopoly on them. Free speech means accepting that which is offensive.
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Is it opposing free speech to prohibit the broadcasting of child-pornography? Well, if we accept the logic of CanWest then it is.

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No crime was committed in the production of the cartoon. Child pornography involves the recording of sexual offences against children – a real crime with real victims. That isn’t about freedom of speech, it is about being an accessory to an offence that magnifies the original offence, by invading privacy and using the image of the victim without his or her consent. Banning child pornography is about publications produced in the commission of an actual crime - not offending people.
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Why don't you just change the channel if you don't like it?
That’s like a bully getting on a bus and punching a child in the head, taking his lunch, stealing his seat and then telling him that if he doesn’t like it he shouldn’t ride the bus.
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No it ISN’T. Being offended is NOT violence. There is NO equivalency between seeing and hearing something you don’t like and having your body violated. If there was, you’d have the right to punch anyone who offends you.
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If CanWest is going to broadcast a program that is so obscene and cause so much offence then they need a legitimate reason for doing so.
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Canwest is singular so not “they” – I find it obscene that so many New Zealanders butcher the English language like a carcass, so I want to see a legitimate reason for doing so or I will ask the government to shut this website down. Got the picture? Freedom of speech does NOT require a justification – I can say “flibble de gibble nip nep nob neckt pah” and have no legitimate reason. This is NOT a police state and you have NO damned right to ask that legitimacy be proven before expression is made.
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It is not good enough to broadcast something so derisive and offensive and then tell a huge majority of Kiwis that it's too bad if they don't like it - they should just change the channel.

There comes a time when we have to take objection to this kind of offence, if we don't then where does it stop and we just end up surrendering the power to decide what is acceptable and what is objectionable content to big media corporations who act like bullies.

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Yes it is good enough - and those who are offended are not “surrendering power”. Canwest is hardly a bully - it doesn't make you pay for it, or watch it or have anything to do with it. It is entirely peaceful.
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Let’s look at what this is:

1. A privately owned TV channel: The state isn’t involved, so nobody who is offended has a stake in this and can claim that it is “my channel”;
2. Broadcasting free of charge: So those offended don’t have to pay for it, it is free to air;
3. To televisions: Which you don’t need to own and don’t need to watch.
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No initiation of force!
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However, I will agree with one thing. Boycotting advertisers is a legitimate form of protest and if those campaigning are NOT calling for the government to intervene or a change in the law, but merely expressing their disgust – then so be it. It is their right.
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Just as it is my right to disagree and support Canwest broadcasting the episode. Ultimately Canwest must have that choice - if I owned a TV channel I would want that choice.

Sue out to spend your money again

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Sue Kedgley is the mistress of hyperbole claiming demanding that other people’s money be used to pay for an exhorbitant upgrade of the Johnsonville rail line because :
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“it is clear there is a need to transform the Johnsonville line from a run-down, dilapidated suburban rail service into a modern rapid transit system, preferably using light rail.”
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No it isn’t Sue, keep your knickers on, the Northern Wellington Public Transport study isn’t over yet! Why is light rail preferable, because it costs even more and the units can’t run on other lines in the region? You’re just making it all up following a Green fetish that light rail is inherently “good”. $3-4 million is the cost of one average light rail vehicle, so we are talking about $40 or so million!! A new bus is around $250,000. Don’t forget light rail needs new platforms as well and is not compatible with heavy rail services.
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The money you’re already committing from rates and petrol tax to upgrading the existing trains is nothing to the Greens:
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“At present a mere $5.4 million has been allocated to refurbishing 50-year-old carriages on the Johnsonville line. What this survey shows is that we need to invest in new train carriages, not just patching up old stock, and increasing the frequency of services during the morning peak.”
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Well Sue, the reason that the current trains are being refurbished is to provide three to five years of service until either new trains or replacement buses can be introduced. If it didn’t happen, the trains would literally stop running. What is this “we need to invest”? Invest? In a line that costs millions of dollars a year in subsidies? Ever been on these trains outside the morning peak Sue? No, of course not, you drive most places. I took one a couple of years ago at 5pm from Johnsonville and there were 3 people on it and nobody was standing on the evening peak one. You don’t invest in something that loses money. That is why no government has done anything other than refurbish the current lot of trains, this is their third refurbishment.
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"In the 21st century, standards for rail have improved and people expect modern, accessible, reliable trains, not ancient carriages and unreliable services,"
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Yes and we’d all like new things. However Sue, unfortunately people using the line are unwilling to pay for new trains – you see you’d have to double the fares to even start to break even, and a lot of people wouldn’t want to do that.
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Don’t give me nonsense about they would all use cars if the trains were not there either – most would use the buses, especially if you had bus lanes from Kaiwharawhara through Thorndon and in Ngauranga Gorge. The Johnsonville line is quaint and scenic, but unless you can dramatically increase patronage and pump up the fares, it isn’t a goer.
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If it were me, I’d let the study run its course and accept its recommendations, which, in the absence of politics, are probably to close the line when the trains are unserviceable and replace with commercially viable buses following a similar route (and express buses down Ngauranga Gorge). It is cheaper to put in bus lanes in Ngauranga Gorge than to convert the Johnsonville line to light rail.
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However, I have a pretty good idea what WILL happen. Whatever the result of the study, the line will remain open, paid for by your taxes and rates. The region will be getting brand new electric units to replace the old ones within five years, but they will NOT run on the Johnsonville line. Instead, the floors of the tunnels of the line will be lowered, and the passing loops extending (for around $12 million) and the existing, not so old, Ganz Mavag units, running on others line, will operate on the line as well. It’s not what Sue wants, but should keep the pundits happy – all with a bit more of your money, for at least 10 years until those trains need a major refurbishment!
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Half the time the Greens just want to piss your money up a tree!

Friday, February 17, 2006

Islamofascists indeed... still


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Some objectivists have used the term Islamofascist to describe Muslim activists who want a theocracy based on Islam - I wholeheartedly agree with that term.
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Hat tip to Robert Winefield’s blog on SOLO Passion, who got this from a German blog and German TV news site.
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See if any New Zealand media will have the courage to print this. The Islamofascists join the National Front - evil twisted scum the lot of them. Defend this you simpering leftwing totalitarian arse licking bastards on the left!
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UPDATE: Well Ruth may be right, it could be fake, although apparently CNN reported it too.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Where is the love?

Hat tip to Tony Milne.
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Charming stuff - where does this come from? Love for people you disagree with?
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I thought it was topical given my exchanges with AJ Chesswas - since this is the logical conclusion of a philosophy which effectively calls gay people depraved and perverted.

The reason for freedom - to come

Allan has asked (see his response to my earlier post) for a justification, objectively, of my philosophical position. This will come in the next few days (I don't have much blog time for the next two).
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It appears his position is that there are behaviours he asserts are destructive and that it is the duty of other people to not only inform you that they are, but to stop you. He extends that to the state. Instead of making your own judgment, the matter is not even up for debate. This justifies censorship of material that supports, for example, homosexuality and certainly depictions of sexuality. It also justifies charging, convicting and incarcerating adults for what they do in their personal relationships - out of love - to protect them - because some people need to lead and others to follow.
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There is a fundamental similarity between this, Marxism-Leninism, National Socialism and fundamentalist Islam - it is authoritarian and is a "we know best" attitude, about moulding people (and imprisoning or killing those who resist or who are inferior) into "perfect citizens" experiencing the ideal life. Allan may not be advocating killing people, but that is only a matter of degree - he is advocating using force to punish people for what they do to their own bodies.
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Of course we already do this for illegal drugs - so he has a point, if you want to be consistent you need to lock people away for doing other things that are "bad for them", although the evidence about sex outside marriage being bad is not quite like drugs. Drugs also are not always bad.
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If this is what he is advocating, then he should be honest about it. It means that adults do not own their bodies, their bodies are owned by everyone - and the state, as the expression of "society" enforces the rules that are "agreed" and punishes transgressors and does not even allow debate or expressions of contrary perspectives.
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Why does it matter? Because nothing is more personal than one's own body and the intimate relationships that are formed with it. The idea that your neighbour, or group of neighbours or bureaucrats and politicians know better what to do with it than you do, is treating you like a child, imbecile or slave.
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The question comes down to - who owns your life? You? Society? The State? or "God"?
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I believe I do, and it is your business when something I do interferes with your ownership of your life.
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UPDATE: Too much work to do, so it will come out in the weekend!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Lego Bible - a little like South Park

Hat tip to Maia for the link to the Brick Testament - which has the Bible in Lego. It isn't complete yet but...

it's frigging hilarious!!!

See naked Adam and Eve and then not.

Noah found naked and drunk, and how seeing this was avoided and other weird goings on.

When you can murder your family, the ban on bestiality, women dressing like men, men dressing like women

It's addictive!

Smoking in England


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If there ever was an issue that conflicted me personally it is smoking in bars. The House of Commons has voted to ban smoking in all workplaces, bars, restaurants and even private clubs in England.
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I loathe tobacco smoke, I am asthmatic and lived in households full of smokers for years. I doesn’t induce my asthma (I think I became immune), but I do find it revolting and bars/restaurants which are free of smoke are wonderful for me personally. It is easier to breathe and my clothes don’t absolutely reek at the end of a night out.
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However, I disagree with the banning of smoking in bars and restaurants. Why? Because it is, fundamentally, not up to me. A bar or restaurant is not a public place – it is private property that the owner has let open to people to access on the owner’s terms. This includes employees and customers. This is why bouncers exist at some bars, to remove people the owner does not want. This is why the owner should decide whether or not smoking is allowed.
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The employees of bars and restaurants can decide whether they prefer to work in a smokefree environment or not – many will find they can’t negotiate that or find few like that, some will. However, the employees do not own that space and should not dictate to the owner what is allowed or not allowed, unless it conflicts with their employment contract.
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The patrons can decide to enter the bar or restaurant or not. There are increasing number of restaurants in the UK with large smokefree zones, indicating customer demand for such an environment. That is the way it should be. You have no more right to demand a restaurant be smokefree than to demand its waiting staff be topless or that it have a vegetarian option. If you don’t like it, you wont be giving the owner your money – the owner misses out as much as you do. The owner takes the risk.
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Part of the problem is a mentality that somehow the government must direct you on this – some bars claim they have to allow people to smoke. No they don’t. It is your choice – choice for the owner, assessing how to meet the demands of the greatest number of patrons. Choice of the worker, deciding whether a smoky environment is worth the pay. Choice of the patron, whether they want to go somewhere where smoking is allowed or not.
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One final argument is that this will produce enormous health benefits. I actually believe this is true – as it will, no doubt, reduce exposure to tobacco smoke. It will also encourage people to stop smoking when they go out drinking and I think the English prefer to drink over smoking anyday!
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However, the ends do not justify the means. Just because people make bad choices does not mean the state should make them for them. Some are prepared to trade their health for the pleasure of smoking – it is their life after all. It is disturbing that no decision had been made yet on banning smoking in cars - you can see where it is heading can't you?
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Note also that many airlines that had allowed smoking stopped it out of passenger choice - the last time I was on a flight with smoking was in the late 90s with the now defunct Swissair, and there were only two seats in one corner of business class with it. Swissair banned smoking in 2000, although it had nothing to do with its bankruptcy in 2002!
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Only private homes, care homes, hospitals (!), prisons and hotel bedrooms are exempt from this ban in England, effective in just over a year. Have to wonder why someone owning a bar has less rights than a prisoner, and why the state, which owns the majority of hospitals in the UK, doesn’t ban it in hospitals in its capacity as owner. Interesting the House of Commons are exempt from the ban, as a Royal Palace its precincts are exempt from statutory health and safety provisions - Hells' Bells and they aren't all dead yet or injured without the protection of the state?

TV2 funding TV1 doesn't stack up

I see the party keeping Labour in government – NZ First (who voted for Pita Paraone?) – is supporting a commercial free TV 1 funded by TV2 profits – which of course, doesn’t stack up.
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Even if TV1 ran on half the budget of ABC TV in Australia ($250 million, lets be generous and convert A$ into NZ$), there would hardly be enough money.
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TVNZ as a whole ran a surplus of around $57 million last year. Now TVNZ without ads on TV1 would make a smaller surplus, not 50% (as TV2 generates most of the revenue) but maybe around 20% - it also depends on whether you allow TV1 to advertise TV2 programmes or not - these are not legally commercials, but highly valuable in retaining audience share.
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So, anyone for a $40 million a year public service channel? Maori television gets $26 million a year of your taxes for programmes and to cover operating costs, AND it has advertising revenue, and it broadcasts only in the evenings, is that what TV1 is to become? The BBC World feed for overnight isn't cheap either, that would have to go.
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Now I note Sue Kedgley supports this too, but then she’s always been a fan of forcing people to pay for things she likes and banning things she hates, as PC so wonderfully has demonstrated.
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Compulsory pay TV should be resisted. NZ On Air should be wound up with its funding for TV programmes to cease, and TVNZ should be sold – having access and potential control over a means of disseminating information is something governments should stay far away from.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Transmission Gully still not worth it

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yes Transit still wants to build the coastal expressway instead of Transmission Gully. (the image is the profile of Transmission Gully compared to the existing route)
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Good.
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There isn’t the money for Transmission Gully – it is an uneconomic project and the media have been hoodwinked by Porirua City and the shockingly poor policy advice that sits within it. Porirua City Council does not know better than Transit, Greater Wellington Regional Council and peer reviewed consultants about roading costs – it just has a blinkered agenda. It wont raise rates to pay for Transmission Gully, even though its citizens would be some of the major beneficiaries. Porirua doesn't have the money - all the road user taxes from Wellington are committed for the next ten years (including the money that goes into the Crown account) - so it would have to be money taken from other government spending/tax cuts/borrowing to build a project with an economic return of 50c for every dollar spent on it. Wellington City Council has been trying to point much of this out - and it has a more credible policy department than any other Wellington territorial authority.
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The coastal expressway does not need building now – the median barrier along the coast does, and that has funding from Land Transport NZ (see your petrol tax sometimes is spent well). The barrier costs around $16 million, 4-laning costs around 30 times that, Transmission Gully costs around 70 times that.
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The focus for the corridor between Mackays Crossing and Paremata should be on a bypass for Pukerua Bay and a flyover at Paekakariki, which will make access in both communities safer and quicker. Congestion at Paremata has been ameliorated by the recently opened upgrade. Transit can pursue options for four-laning along the coast after that, and when congestion gets bad enough. Notice the road hasn’t been closed for a while – because it mainly gets closed due to accidents. When the barrier is up, there will be even fewer accidents and it will rarely be closed. With four lanes it is extremely unlikely all lanes will be closed at once – hardly worth an extra $500 million at that point, when you can use that money for something else – like remaining in your pocket!
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The argument that Transit promised Transmission Gully and residents planned on that basis has some validity – but by no means was funding ever promised – the study that preceded the current round of consultation demonstrated that Transmission Gully was over three times what previous estimates had been.
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Besides that the other components of the Western Corridor plan are difficult to argue against, the Kapiti Western Link Road (as a 70km/h arterial please!), extension of the rail service and higher frequency services, the Petone-Grenada link road and some other improvements are all worth proceeding with.
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The next step is to see what the conclusion of the hearings panel are, and then the final recommended corridor plan adopted by the GW regional council and Transit. By the way, a good question and answer summary is on the GW website here and the whole proposed Western Corridor plan on a pdf document here.

Fund your OWN public TV



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Stuff reports a call by a bunch of high profile New Zealanders for a compulsory pay TV channel – sold as a public non-commercial channel. It would be compulsory pay TV because you would be forced to pay for it regardless of whether or not you watch it.
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As such channels exist overseas, they think you should be made to pay for one here, as you are made to pay for National Radio and Concert FM
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Of course, there is little stopping this parade of rather wealthy New Zealanders setting it up themselves, buying frequencies and running such a channel with donations. TVNZ, after all, holds frequencies for a nationwide UHF TV channel, and the Maori reserved UHF frequencies still exist (Maori Television uses a frequency owned by Sky).
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Unfortunately I doubt the people concerned are willing to put their hands in their pockets for a non-commercial TV channel. You see, when you want something expensive, most people would rather spend their money on other things, like holidays or Sky TV.
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Public funded TV is expensive. ABC TV in Australia costs A$526 million a year , and the BBC sucks £123 (around $300) a year from British households to fund 2 analogue and 4 digital tv channels, and half a dozen radio stations for the whole country. Of course there are about 15x the households in Britain. Around a third of New Zealand households pay around 50% more than that for dozens of channels that they presumably want.
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The big problem is that those advocating public TV complain about a lack of decent local programmes and too much advertising. Well ask those who produce the programmes. If people who worked in the industry charged less for their services there could be more programmes. If people wanted them they would pay for them – ahhh but they cost far more than imported programmes you say. It is a bit like complaining that too many fly economy class, it would be better to have decent seats with decent food, like those people who fly business class – someone else ought to pay!
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Ah but it is about our culture. This is the argument I heard from the local content lobbyists for years - why make the conversation about money! Whose culture? So public TV reflects culture does it? Is that why 80% of Australian TV viewing is NOT done in front of the half billion dollar compulsory pay TV channel? Is that why public TV is almost invariably rather leftwing in outlook? (though TV3 news can give them a run for their money).
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Well if it is about culture then stop trying to put your hand into other people’s pockets and work for free or a lot less. If the culture vultures care so much about culture they wont charge what they do for their services because it will be done out of love – after all socialists often say how much they wish so much was not about money.
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They claim most people are ready to throw their tvs out the of their windows. Who is stopping them? Do something else, listen to the radio, play your own music, read a book, talk to people, go outside!
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Television is not a right – it is a service and it can be funded in three ways:
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Advertising: Where you, the viewer, get a free service in exchange for businesses (and the state!) promoting products and services to you. However to keep you watching, the channel must give you shows you want to watch, so that the audience is at its greatest.
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The people advocating public TV don’t like commercial television though. There is an undercurrent of thinking that what the great unwashed like the most is poor quality – the proletariat only like rugby, imported comedies and reality TV shows. This is not good enough for our esteemed New Zealanders who despise this as drivel. Commercial TV targets particular audiences that may be interested in particular products, so beyond that we have…
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Subscription TV: To convince people to pay for extra channels has been quite a feat, mostly by putting sports on it. However it does mean that people get what they pay for, and the choice is growing year by year. Again the public TV lobby see this as crass “why should you have to pay for it”, as if Dame Malvina would do all her concerts for free. Well pay TV is like buying magazines, people increasingly buy the channels they want and at any time, can give it up.
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Voluntarily funded TV: US PBS is largely this, as are the handful of non-commercial (but not commercial free) channels around the country. People donate money and the station operates. You make a decision whether public TV is something you want to support, or you would rather save up for something else. Triangle TV in Auckland is a hybrid of this and commercial broadcasting, and there are similar channels in Dunedin and Nelson.
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None of this washes with the public TV lobby, but fortunately the government wont give them what they want. This is because Treasury looked into this some years ago and the cost is astronomical – those public TV people don’t come cheap you know!
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So I suggest the coalition of the (willing?) raise cash, buy some frequencies and transmitters and have a go themselves. They will soon see that most New Zealanders couldn’t give a damn or are not willing to put their money where their mouths are.
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I've found in the UK that the most challenging programmes are not on the BBC, but on Channel 4 - which is prepared to show documentaries such as "religion the root of all evil". Commercial TV can be different - the BBC wont even call terrorists terrorists as it is too scared of offending anyone!