Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The US mid term elections

I'm just glad I don't have to choose.... but it isn't simple.
Democrats = socialism, big government, moral relativist cultural relativist political correctness
Republicans = big government, theocracy
Libertarian Party (US) = isolationism and moral relativism
so I wont be cheering either way. The USA faces three major threats. These are:
1. Islamist terrorism;
2. New left environmental/socialist activism;
3. Evangelical fundamentalist theocracy.
The first has struck, several times and claimed lives. The second has been growing for the last couple of decades and has a new lease on life, but hasn't directly claimed lives. The third has also been growing in the last 20 years, and it has directly claimed (a handful of) lives.
In the next two years the USA will not become an outpost of environmental lunacy - remember the Senate voted 95-0 against the Kyoto treaty several years ago. In the next two years the USA will not become a theocracy - serious attempts to do so will split the Republicans in two. However, in the next two years the USA will remain the number one target for stone age Islamists.
Which party understands this the best? Which party offers any chance for philosophical redemption in the next two years?
It isn't the Democrats.

Greens fisk ignorant UK Labour MP

Stephen Byers is a UK Labour MP. It is his political advisor who sent out an email on September 11 2001 suggesting it was “a very good day to get out anything we want to bury”. She wasn't fired on the spot. So he is hardly in the club of the moral politicians. He is also in the club of the idiots for suggesting that there be a tax based on the distance food has travelled to get to the UK. Besides being WTO inconsistent (it is resoundingly a trade barrier) it has no bearing on environmental reality. A point made by none other than the NZ Green Party!
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Yes, they are spot on with this. The Greens are writing to the British Greens to make the point that imported dairy and lamb products from New Zealand are better for the environment than ones produced in the UK. I’ll be interested to see the reaction of the British Greens, because it will go against their adolescent girl like simple arguments – local good, foreign baaad. Good for Russel Norman for pointing this out. I’ve been commenting on UK forums about this since the Lincoln University report came out.
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The Greens will find themselves confronting the UK agricultural lobby, the European Commission and many others who wont want to listen – but it is time to make this point only too clear. In fact, economics isn’t a bad proxy for the environmental impacts. After all, if the UK was efficient at agricultural production, it wouldn’t need a combination of subsidies and protection from imports.
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UPDATE - Classically Liberal has an excellent post on how businesses use environmentalists to do their protectionist bidding.

Taxes don't clean the environment

If you simply watched BBC, ITV and Channel 4 news here in the UK you might be mistaken for thinking that the Stern report is a manifesto for the future. Most of the media have responded to the “jump” in the Stern report by asking “how high and when”. At best, the main questioning of the report’s conclusions has been whether it is wise for the UK to go first – given it is responsible for only 2% of greenhouse gases. Nevertheless, Blair and Cameron have both said that there needs to be action – who said that there isn’t choice is politics??!!
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PC has some excellent posts on this, one summarising some of the reactions and another being Tim Worstall’s fisking of the report, which is well worth a read. I doubt the journalists for the BBC or the Independent (Britain's leading doom and gloom rag as you can see) will read it.
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Fortunately there is some commonsense from the Daily Telegraph. In its editorial it makes an excellent point:
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“It is a pity that all three main parties have bought into the idea that state regulation is the answer. Market mechanisms have proved highly effective at delivering green goals. Extending property rights to cover air and water quality, and allowing citizens to sue polluters, is a surer way of securing a clean environment than relying on government inspectors. Privatising rainforests gives owners an immediate stake in their protection. Treating endangered species as the property of those on whose land they roam encourages locals to treat them as a renewable resource.”

Funnily enough this is exactly the sort of policies Libertarianz have been talking about for years.
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You see the problem with the Stern report is that its apocalyptic vision appeals to two political instincts.
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The left loves it because it “proves” how bad business is, how bad individualism is (reflected in the private car and tourism – ignoring that in London, for example, 70% of greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings). It means it can rally support around the need for “central action” by the state, and that the problem is because “nobody did anything” and that if people are left to their own devices the world will come to an end. Have no doubt about it – the central thesis behind this view is that individual choice is the problem. People make choices that are bad for other people, and they must be regulated, compelled, taxed or subsidised to make good choices. In short, the left thinks this proves that the free market doesn’t work.
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The element on the right which likes Armageddon comes from what can best be described as a protestant guilt ethic about “living” and how the government has a role in helping you be good. It is a similar moralistic bent as the left, but from a different angle. “You can’t possibly leave people to do as they wish, they don’t know what’s good for them”. It is the same ethic that likes restricting alcohol, drugs and censoring “naughty films”. It is almost a school prefect approach which says patronisingly that the masses don’t really know what is good for them, we do and why don’t we be good chaps and realise our businesses really need to go along with it – “take one for the team”.
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Both are insidious and wrong. The free market works but does not operate, in particular, to address pollution because property rights are limited. Assume for now that there is a climate change problem propagated by growth in greenhouse gas emissions (I’m sceptical but let’s err on the side of caution). The sectors which are the biggest contributors to this are energy, transport and agriculture. All of these are subject to enormous levels of government interference.
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The energy sector in most countries is government owned and/or regulated. On the one hand governments have assisted and subsidised the development and operation of electricity generation, oil exploration, coal mines, on the other government’s regulate energy prices so that power companies, oil companies and the like can’t charge too much. Yet, somehow, people are using too much energy!!! Take some measures that are no doubt economically efficient and environmentally positive (as a spinoff), like Thatcher closing the UK’s inefficient coal mines. The left opposed this vigorously, but subsidising a very dirty source of energy is hardly good for the environment is it? Another is subsidies for energy use by people on low incomes or capping electricity charges – this underprices energy use, and keeps consumption high, so why not get out of the way and let energy companies charge as they see fit. The price might go up (or down) and they would then have money they may invest in future technologies to produce energy more efficiently – and energy conservation would become more worthwhile as people seek ways to save on energy bills.
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That’s energy. Transport is worse, as roads are run with Soviet-style central planning with the idea of pricing road use being alien to all, except those wanting to do so to penalise driving. Governments subsidise some transport modes and tax others, with little regard for the effects. Agriculture is also particularly bad, partially because energy and transport to rural areas is subsidised, but mainly because the European Union, Japan and the USA prop up inefficient producers.
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Would removing government interference in those areas and instituting property rights in water and airspace be enough to "address the economic cost of climate change"? Maybe. Maybe not. However it is clear that such measures would help by removing enormous economic distortions that mean that economic choices are poor – and resources poorly allocated as a result. That is the main benefit, a secondary benefit is that by reducing waste, it reduces negative environmental impact.
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However, you wont hear that solution from Blair, Cameron, Clark, Al Gore or Nick Smith. You’ll hear about subsidies for “clean energy” and public transport, you’ll hear about taxes on driving, flying and “dirty energy”, in other words you’ll hear about the state taking more of your money and giving it to others. It wont be about you making better choices, it will be about central planners doing it. The image will be of a tax being a punishment for you being bad, and that you paying the tax “makes things all better”. It doesn’t – it just gives the government your money to play with – that tax doesn’t “plant a tree” or “suck up the pollution” you caused. It is money to pay a bureaucrat’s salary, to subsidise a business or individual.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

UK goes into armageddon mode

Hundreds of millions of refugees!
40% of species extinct!
1 in 6 people facing water shortages!
£3.68 trillion economic cost!
The end is nigh unless the state spends £184 billion to avoid it.
Yes, the UK is agrip of a madness - environmental madness, and it has a new report to fuel it. The big news here comes from an absurd report soon to be released by Sir Nicholas Stern (former chief economist of the World Bank) has been released in the UK saying if greenhouse gases are not reduced, the world will end.
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So what has been the reaction?
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- You’d hope there might be some informed debate about whether this prediction is realistic?
- You’d hope someone would ask whether £184 billion would be better spent on improving people’s lives in other ways (take the Bjorn Lomborg proposal that clean water would do more for the world's poor than tackling climate change)?
- You’d hope someone would say, even if this IS correct, there is little point the UK acting alone when it is responsible for under 2% of greenhouse gases (though shutting down completely would make a difference), so why cripple your economy until you’ve convinced China, India and the US to do the same?
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No – almost all of the media has presented one view, a sheepish following of the report.
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UK Environment Minister David Milliband has hopped on the bandwagon proposing new taxes such as:

- Annual rises in fuel tax;
- Taxes on incandescent light bulbs;
- Exhorbitant taxes on vehicle ownership;
- Taxes on inefficient washing machines;
- Taxes on flights to EU countries.
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The fuel tax proposal is particularly cheeky, saying that if oil prices drop then fuel tax should increase to make up the difference!! So if oil is plentiful and cheap, the UK will pay more and more in tax. None of the proposals have any assessment as to the net effect on the economy, on the environment and on demand for air travel, driving etc. It is, essentially, a left wing manifesto of ecological taxation.
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As Professor Philip Stott of University of London says "despite all the evidence that green policies make no difference, 'environmentalism' takes an ever stronger hold on our way of life" He says that "much 'environmental' policy is little more than discredited Left-wing thinking dressed up as pseudo science to look acceptable. Worse still, these green myths have become a back door for a new strand of authoritarianism."
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He's right - we are seeing this in the obsession with recycling, an obsession that isn't properly investigated (PC has a useful post about it here). People get fined in the UK for not recycling, regardless of the phenomenal cost to subsidise it, without even thinking twice about getting people to pay the actual cost of landfill use (so putting out the rubbish isn't subsidised as well!). Stupid policies (subsidised landfills) beget more stupid policies (subsidised recycling). Don't dare question recycling though -the EU says it is good so all bow down to to Brussels - almost none of the mainstream media here questions recycling.
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So what does Her Majesty's loyal opposition say? The BBC reports David Cameron AGREES and so do the Lib Dems. Wonderful! So no debate on such a radical issue. Not even questioning why the UK should tax itself silly in a way that makes no difference at all to climate change. It is like stopping one person pissing in the pool while the others continue unabated.
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and what would I do? Well, not a lot. Here are some ideas for the UK:
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1. Phase out all agricultural and industrial subsidies, why tax "bad behaviour" while propping up inefficient producers?
2. Spend fuel tax money on maintaining properly the road network and funding efficient road improvements before privatising the entire road network (allowing the new owners to toll it);
3. End subsidies to public transport;
4. End subsidies to energy use;
5. Privatise British Energy, letting the energy market operate unrestricted. Eliminate price control for energy.
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You see then people would use less energy and less transport because it wouldn't be subsidised by anyone else - but that wouldn't mean the central planners would have much to do then would it? The UK should, at the very least, pause for a second and realise it should not act to destroy wealth when it seeks to act unilaterally on the environment. It should simply remove government restrictions and subsidies that most blatantly are bad for the environment - and there are plenty of those.

Thieving bastards have conference

Ha! Once I voted Labour - the party that once had some honour, some dignity, now drips with the sort of power hungry arrogance National was once known for under Rob Muldoon.
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Having happily used your money, extracted from you by force, to fund a key part of its election campaign (and none of the other parties having the same funding to spread its manifesto the same way), the Labour Party has voted in its conference to support compulsory funding of political parties campaigns based on the previous party vote.
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How absolutely fucking convenient. The incumbent government – naturally – does best. The NZ Herald quotes Dr Cullen paraphrasing him saying:
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Labour sought a political system that was inclusive and open and could not be "simply bought and sold by the rich and powerful".

He added: "And that cannot be achieved without the state providing support to the process of democracy itself."

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Inclusive and open? So all parties get the same funding? No. Bought and sold by the rich and powerful? Oh so forcing people to pay for it, and using taxpayer’s money to pay for your campaign isn’t being powerful? The state providing support – as if it is some benign independent body, rather than something Labour controls.
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Andrew Little’s attempt for Labour to admit it had broken the law and move on failed to get support – the little piggies have their snouts in the trough so much they can’t see outside it for the muck that sticks to them. Red party good, blue party baaahdd.
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This is an absolute outrage for several very important reasons:
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1. It is blatant discrimination against small or new parties. In short, it is Labour’s way of using your money to give it an advantage over any future Alliance, Green Party, Maori Party, United Future, NZ First, ACT, Libertarianz, Destiny NZ etc etc. If you believe a liberal democracy means that the incumbents shouldn’t be subsidised over new entrants then this alone is a reason to be outraged. Imagine if in the private sector an incumbent company could use taxpayer’s money to subsidise its advertising campaign against a new competitor – that is what this is.
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2. It is morally unconscionable to force any New Zealanders to pay for political parties, which are voluntary associations with voluntary membership. Most New Zealanders have no interest in funding political parties, forcing them to fund everyone from the Greens to Destiny NZ to the thieving Labour Party to ACT to the Maori Party and NZ First is immoral. The argument that funds will be divided according to the vote at a previous election is ridiculous – that means that everyone is funding everyone. It means Asian immigrants fund NZ First, it means gay couples fund United Future, it means exclusive Brethren fund Labour, it means union leaders fund National. I don’t want to be forced to fund organisations I don’t believe in, I am sure neither do you (unless the one to benefit the most is the one you support).
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3. It is about replacing voluntary funding of political campaigns. Labour opposes any individuals or groups running their own campaigns to support political parties – this is because not enough people with enough money want to fund Labour. Like any organisation that can’t get enough money, it is unhappy. I know this only too well myself. However, Labour isn’t just unhappy that not enough people want to fund its campaign (ungrateful sods after all that money we have used in government to support lots of causes), it is that more people want to pay more money to Labour’s opponents. Like spoilt little brats who find themselves no longer the favoured child, Labour members are having a hissy fit – instead of trying harder to convince people and businesses why funding the Labour party is a good idea (don’t ask me why it might be), Labour has decided to promote force. Only this time it is force to STOP people spending their money campaigning. As David Farrar says this may be one of the most serious challenges to free speech in recent times. Not content with banning you from spending your own money on TV and radio advertising on a political campaign, Labour wants to stop you spending it at ALL. So that’s it – free speech gone – just go away, don’t you DARE think of opposing the government – your taxes have paid for bureaucrats to decide who gets what for campaigning.
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Labour's $1.4m debt, which is not just about the taxpayer's money it illegally used, clearly hurts and it wants you to bail it out. So after paying your taxes for government services, Labour wants you to pay for it. The cheek, and they go on and on about the exclusive Brethren spending their money to try to help National get elected (which failed), to divert attention from their own practices.
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So there you have it. If Labour introduces legislation to change electoral funding in advance of the election it will be an absolute travesty. Labour did not campaign with this policy and was not elected to implement such a radical change in our liberal democracy. Remembering it spent taxpayer’s money illegally to campaign, more than any other party by a long shot (and NOTHING they can throw about regarding National’s GST faux pas can take away from that), so it is fortunate to still be in power because Winston Peters and Peter Dunne have their snouts in the Labour trough keeping them there.
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Remember, if it happens it is because you did nothing to stop it.

Labour Christian


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Is man one of God's blunders? Or is God one of man's blunders? (so said Nietzsche) well I don’t really care, since I’m an atheist. So why does Labour care? Well according to Stuff David Cun*liffe seems to think Labour can reclaim a moral dimension that Christianity contains that he thinks belongs on the left.
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Well, I don’t think much of Christian morality – it is a religion largely dedicated to the worshipping of self sacrifice and the glorification of the god promoted stringing up of his son like a carcass, for everyone else.
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Nevertheless, given what a prick Cun*liffe is, the more he dedicates himself to self-sacrifice the happier I’ll be.
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and Labour searching for morality. Good luck, I've lost what respect I had for a party that HAS done good.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Conscience votes - should list MPs be able to vote?

As I was thinking about the Sale of Liquor (Youth Alcohol Harm Reduction) Amendment Bill, I started to wonder about how appropriate it is for list MPs to cast conscience votes. Why?

Well let’s consider the philosophy behind MMP. It is a system designed to provide a combination of fair local representation (electorates) with MPs who are meant to represent the views of their electorates, and provide fair national representation to enable governments to be formed based upon the notional support of (more often than not) around 50% or more of voters. The list MPs explicitly represent parties and the platform that parties present to the voting public for their list votes. List MPs cannot be voted out of Parliament explicitly – only by voters rejecting the party, which means it is an all or nothing vote for a policy platform. List MPs ought not to do more than represent the party manifesto. People did not vote for them, they voted for the party.

This works all very well when we are talking about legislation when parties have policies. Labour says yes, National says no, the others say yes or no etc etc. Conscience votes are another matter. If you were asking what party to support on a range of conscience matters you might be disappointed, especially in the two main parties where a spectrum of views tends to be represented on these matters. So is a tick for Labour that gets Ashraf Choudhary in Parliament or a tick for National to get Pansy Wong really meaning you want her to represent you on conscience votes? Maybe, maybe not.

More importantly, given that the electorate vote is so typically devalued in forming governments (it is most highly valued by the four minor parties dependent on winning certain electorates to get into Parliament), should it not be recognised as being the representation of the views of the local community on conscience votes? Marian Hobbs can legitimately claim to represent the views of Wellington Central voters on conscience matters and I am betting that, most of the time, she would be. Other electorate MPs may or may not be, but frankly those MPs are best placed to poll constituents. Many electorate MPs DO poll constituents on conscience issues - list MPs have no constituency to poll, and if they did it would double count the views of the electorate MPs. So if only electorate MPs could vote on conscience issues this could mean that the electorate vote would be seen by voters as a choice for the individual who best represented your views as a resident of an electorate, rather than choosing the party for government.

So, what I am proposing is that list MPs have no right to vote in Parliament on conscience matters, unless the party concerned has a unified position and will vote as such (which presumably includes the electorate MPs which not only represent their constituencies but also supplant list MPs in the first instance as a proportion of that party’s seats in Parliament). If it is not part of a party’s policy platform (in which case it is reasonable to expect all of the party’s MPs to vote identically and that the list vote DOES represent the views of voters who can endorse or reject the platform), then it should not be the party list MPs making a call – because they would be making a call on an issue they were not elected to represent and for which they cannot be held individually accountable.
Easy to police? Well the choice would be simple. If a party had a policy on a bill, it would not be a conscience matter and all of the party's MPs would be expected to vote consistently. If it had no policy, then list MPs must abstain and electorate MPs can vote on their conscience.

So what would this do? For starters, it would energise parties to develop policy responses to conscience votes because many of their MPs would want to participate. Green and NZ First MPs under the current parliament would have no votes on a conscience issue unless they had formulated a consistent policy (as they have no electorate MPs). The Greens typically do have views on these sorts of things, so they would be ok.

You can see it being seen as unfair that electorate MPs get to vote on conscience matters, and more often than not it is Labour and National list MPs that can’t (because neither major party is prepared to adopt policy one way or the other on the drinking age or smacking or prostitution or civil unions etc), but the Green and ACT list MPs can because both parties have a policy on the drinking age (presumably, though I never knew ACT did). For starters, most electorate MPs will be Labour or National anyway. However it also pressures all parties to start thinking philosophically about all issues in front of Parliament, and if they can’t it is left to those best able to represent the views of voters – electorate MPs. Does it mean that if I say voted Marian Hobbs as my electorate MP and Greens for the party list that I get two bites on a conscience issue in Parliament? It sure does (and you don’t need to ask to think I’d vote like a masochistic lunatic). It also means that the Greens, ACT and any other parties with policies on conscience matters actually get a higher profile, because voters who care about these issues may prefer to vote for them than National or Labour.

Which of course, is the primary reason it will go nowhere. National and Labour have everything to lose from this idea. Nevertheless, is it worth thinking about?

London's bus route from hell - C11

Warning - expletives follow!
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I fucking hate so many of the passengers and drivers on this route - as Oswald Bastable would say, oxygen thieves the lot of them.
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There... There may be worse bus routes, after all I’ve hardly rode on the 600 or so routes that collectively suck in £750 million a year in subsidies (which is utterly ridiculous for a city with low car ownership, exhorbitant and rare parking and horrendous congestion, especially since subsidies were nil in 1998), but that doesn’t matter. Of the two I use most, the C11 Archway to Brent Cross is dire. I only get it from Finchley Rd to Belsize Park with groceries - but no more.
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It was operated by a local company Thorpes, which you notice because half the buses haven’t been repainted in the colours of the new owner – Metroline – but there is no indication that Metroline has done anything to improve service. Besides the delays (which are somewhat not up to the operator, London is hell to drive around), there are many problems.
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It’s not just the pokey little buses that have few bell buttons (so if you are standing or not seated in the right spot you have to get up and walk through the other passengers to get at it). These buses are small single deck, cheap and uncomfortable.
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It is the rude scum of the earth who ride on it and the drivers. I mean it – the world would be a better place if around a quarter of the people who ride this bus were eradicated and about a quarter of the drivers (see I am nice!)
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I’ve had the driver who kept packing in people on the bus even though there was little room. Didn’t matter, after all we are human freight. The driver who wont tell kids to stop being loud and obnoxious while they don’t give up seats to the elderly. The driver who drives right past your stop, well after you pushed the bell and then says “you didn’t push it, I can’t pull over” when there is no traffic and then says “oh well get off at the next stop”, ignoring my elderly mother who then would have to walk a further 100 metres and a pensioner who also wanted the same stop. The driver whose driving caused a child to fall over and hit her head. and wouldn’t pull over to let the parent and child get out. In other words, the drivers show a level of service that I’d have expected in Tirana in the 1980s. There is not the slightest level of interest in the passengers being comfortable, safe or even valued – frankly, many drivers would happily drive empty buses back and forth (given the bus companies get paid a subsidy independent of the number of passenger that ride it, I wouldn’t be surprised). Driving fast and furious and braking suddenly, why should they give a fuck? Demand for bus drivers in London outstrips supply, clearly because there are plenty of useless fucks living in London and anyone who is any good is snapped up quick.
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There must be good drivers, I assume they work at the crack of dawn, when the passengers are few and better quality (sleeping off their booze, crack, pot and late night watching quiz tv).
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Most of the drivers have the personality of a rock – the buses may as well be remote controlled. Stagecoach Wellington drivers are truly people to be grateful for – I can see why drivers don’t ever get thanked by passengers leaving.
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Then the passengers. Besides the handful of brave pensioners and others who live in Belsize Park, Hampstead and the like using it because it is raining or to short cut a trip to Waitrose, this route goes from Brent Cross to Archway, through some of the direst estates in Camden Borough. From these estates yes you get people on low incomes, they in themselves are not a problem, it is the subset of space wasters that are the problem. The subset are:
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- Obnoxious chavvy kids and teenagers. They are travelling for nothing (thanks to red Ken Livingstone’s socialist mayoralty). Besides being stupid and rude, they are just oxygen thieves when they occupy seats while pensioners stand, take up lots of seats and don’t move when they are in people’s way. They all need boot camp and if that fails castration to stop them producing more space wasting scum. Britain’s first problem is putting up with these shits – other cultures would threaten them with violence and treat them with disdain, in the UK the kids have knives and everyone is scared (legitimately) of going to court for hurting the poor parasitical fuckers.
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- Unhygienic people. The ones who stink of urine, faeces, pick their noses and eat it and other practices that are too revolting to mention. I’m sorry, people who are that revolting need someone looking after them and they shouldn’t be out on their own. This is Britain’s second problem, people are too fucking polite to say “hey nose picker, fucking do it somewhere else you revolting creep”.
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- Thieves. Pickpockets, need I say more. Not enough prisons to lock them up, being tough on crime would help reduce traffic congestion.
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- Other rude scum. The ones who sit while pensioners stand, who sit in the aisle seat while the window is empty. The ones who stand in the aisle blocking people from getting on because they are talking to their mate and wont move out of the way.
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I do have a solution for this. The Metroline bus franchise should be terminated. The route should be open for a commercial operator who can charge commercially viable fares – which will mean no free fares for the young and the underclass of the filthy and rude will be less likely to afford to catch it. Disadvantages people? Does it bollocks! It means they might get off their arses and walk, the distances aren’t that far and the most obese country in Europe needs it.
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Meanwhile, I’m following my own advice. I have a large umbrella, I can walk the distance I use this bus in 20 minutes.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Big Sister Cindy "Stalin" Kiro supported by Stalinist Sue

Stalin's bureaucrat in Wellington Dr Cindy Kiro is persisting with her Orwellian proposal that the state monitor every child from birth religiously to make sure that parents are being good. She has given it a long vapid name (Te Ara Tukutuku Nga Whanaungatanga o Nga Tamariki: Weaving Pathways to Wellbeing) to make it sound so nice and inclusive, instead of "State monitoring of parents and children" which is what it bloody well is. What is even more disturbing is that Sue Bradford is reverting to her communist past in supporting it. Greens liberal? Hardly.
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Cindy Kiro brought this up before and now she is excited about what is an absolutely terrifying proposal:
"Individual plans, owned by the child and held by the family, will be developed in partnership with children and families and each child would have a named primary professional responsible for ensuring the child and family have access to services and advice as needed.”
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What if a parent doesn't want a taxpayer funded, state organised plan? How can it be "owned" by the child? What absolute nonsense, the child has no choice and is unable to make these sorts of decisions, which is why it is - a child. The "named primary professional" would for starters want taxpayer funding and hey what agency could monitor that? Dr Kiro's one or one she could help set up (more taxpayer funding). So the state would appoint a Big Brother or Big Sister for your family to "ensure it has access to services and advice as needed". Who decides what is needed? How often do you see this Big Sister? Does she come around uninvited? Does she check you pay your bills? Does she check what food you give the children, what books, TV, internet access is allowed? Does she check what religious/political/ethical beliefs you teach?
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How does she justify this? Well "weaved" within her weasel words:
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We need to plan and implement this in a systematic way to ensure that no child falls between the cracks. We need to ensure that the services we currently have can work together in a better way. We need to make this investment in resources, structures and systems and in people. We owe it to our children and to our communities.
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Is implying that because some kids getting neglected and abused, all kids need monitoring. She talks about "we" "investing" in "resources" which means YOU being forced to pay money to keep an eye on other people's kids because of poor parenting. It is, in other words, a way to increase state interference instead of cutting off benefits, law enforcement against abusive parents and teaching parents individual responsibility, instead of relying on the state tit to shield them from being stupid. We do not OWE it to our children Dr Kiro, it is up to parents - if they can't afford to have kids or don't want them, then don't damned well pay for them to do so.
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Now there is one good point in all this, besides showing up Dr Kiro for being the Stalinist that she is, and that is the need for state agencies that DO keep records of abuse, in the criminal justice, health and education systems to share information when there is a reason to be concerned. A hospital patching up a kid who has injuries that can only reasonably have been inflicted deliberately ought to be asking the Police to conduct an investigation. A teacher who sees the same on a pupil may also want to take steps - these are hard decisions and difficult processes to undertake - but the alternatives are do nothing or have extensive state interference in the lives of all children.
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So ask yourself, how do YOU feel about your child facing:
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Planned assessment at key life stages, including early childhood, primary and secondary school entry, and moving to tertiary education or employment and training opportunities, is a key component of the framework. The assessment will take into account the whole child; their physical, social, educational, emotional, and psychological development. Within these domains different factors will be more important depending on the age of the child.
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What if your kid is overweight, what if he answers questions jokingly saying he is abused because he is 14 and sick of being told to tidy his room and stop hanging out with bad kids, what if he is a loner (not social), what if he says he's seen porn on the internet? Do you trust the state knowing these things and deciding whether or not to intervene? Or do you think that 9 out of 10 times it is part of life? What about the Exclusive Brethren?
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Most children do not grow up being abused or neglected by their families, some do. There is a correlation between that abuse and the homes being run by dysfunctionally stupid, criminal or lazy people. If the government wants to act against abuse it can start by prohibiting anyone with a criminal record for a violent offence from being able to draw a benefit.
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Not worried? Think it will blow over? Well if Labour was not interested, Kiro would have been told to can the idea and go away rather swiftly. National is rather quiet on it. If you don't show your opposition now and the reasons why, you might find a bureaucrat knocking on your door in a couple of years asking why your child hasn't been registered with an approved professional to monitor his or her needs.
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So get to it - let her know. Let the Minister of Social Policy know as well, ask National whether it supports this.
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Don't say you haven't been warned. I've blogged twice about this before. The Christian fundamentalist Family First lobby even agrees and Bob McCoskrie National Director of Family First makes the quite correct point:
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Who gets to decide what is best for children? This report is clear; it’s Dr Kiro and the morass of bureaucracy that is going to surround this initiative. It is a licence for ‘professionals’ to interfere in families’ lives when there is no crime and no abuse,” “This would fundamentally alter the relationship between the family and the state
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It's a simple message, leave good parents alone and stop subsidising bad ones. As Family First lobby say (and hey, it takes something for me to quote that organisation). "The Government does not, and should not, pack your child’s lunchbox on the first day of school".

Nicaragua looks to ban all abortions

The Christian right will be thrilled – their poster child for abortion law will now be Nicaragua. No Right Turn rightfully points out that it will really only affect the poor (and probably middle class too - the average Nicaraguan can hardly afford international travel)
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Two weeks before the Nicaraguan presidential elections and the Nicaraguan Parliament has passed a Bill that will ban all abortions, including those in cases of rape or when a woman facing dying during birth. The Roman Catholic Church, ever the force for progress, transparency and secretly fucking the bejesus out of its congregation behind their back, promoted the bill, along with the (get this) liberal party.
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Many Sandinistas also supported it, allegedly out of fear that opposing it would mean they could lose the upcoming presidential elections. This indicates firstly how strong the anti-abortion view holds in Nicaragua, but secondly how inherently intellectually corrupt and power hungry the Sandinistas are. Helen Clark picked coffee beans to support them in their youth – I doubt that she’ll be proud of the Sandinistas now.
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I don’t doubt the Roman Catholic Church wont worry about one of the effects of this Bill, assuming it isn’t vetoed by the President (who supports it). The Daily Telegraph reports:
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Hundreds of demonstrators gathered outside the building during the week in Nicaragua’s capital Managua, warning that the measure would effectively mean a death sentence for as many as 400 women who have ectopic pregnancies every year.
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The value of a woman’s life in Nicaragua is low – and I value those lives over the potential lives of embryos anyday. The Roman Catholic Church, essentially an international gang (which covers up the crimes of its members) deserves condemnation over this. Oh and don't think that because Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas oppose this (they are the poster childs of the left) that they are any good. Given their forcible evacuation of 8500 indigenous people from their land including the murder of 34 of them in the early 1980s. More recently, journalist Carlos Guadamuz was murdered for his reporting critical of Ortega. The real conclusion is that there isn't a lot positive about Nicaraguan politics - on either side of the fence.

Madonna and child


All the hoo ha about this shows how fascinated so many people are with the ephemeral and the cult of celebrity.
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The important questions
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1. Has Madonna used or threatened force to adopt the child? No.
2. Has anyone used or threatened force against Madonna to compel her to adopt the child? No.
3. Is Madonna likely to abuse the child (physically, sexually, neglect)? No.
4. Is the child likely to be better off, overall, if he is adopted by Madonna or not? Almost certainly yes.
5. Has Madonna paid for the child? Unclear. If so, it raises issues about the ethics of parents selling children to all and sundry, including the unscrupulous.
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Interesting but not important questions
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1. Has Madonna bribed any of the Malawian authorities in order to get around laws regarding adoption of the child? Probably not.
2. Has Madonna sold the rights to the story around the child for considerable sums of money? Possibly.
3. Has the father lied about whether or not permission was given for the adoption? Possibly.
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Irrelevant questions

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1. Are there better ways for Madonna to support children living in poverty in Africa? Yes, how much time do you have? Though she appears to be doing more than adopt a child, she seems to have sponsored an charity for orphans to the tune of US$1 million.
2. Is Madonna simply publicity seeking? No, not just publicity seeking.
3. Is Madonna a rather vapid simple headed image conscious entertainer with childlike political views and a big concern for her own guilt about her own ample wealth, when she sees poverty? Absolutely.
4. Does she want to make the rest of the world feel guilty too? Yes.
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So there you have it. I don’t like Madonna, I don’t think she is extraordinarily talented, interesting, intelligent or attractive. She is a good entertainer, and good at shocking people (hardly a great talent, but many Americans seem easier to shock), but her politics are at best naïve, childlike and braindead, at worst counterproductive and quite despicable. She doesn’t believe terrorism is a big threat, but hey she doesn’t use the tube or buses, she is one pinup example of the stupid leftwing celebrity. The "I'm a rich celebrity aren't I good adopting a poor African child" nonsense has a bad smell around it of someone desperately seeking approval for more than singing, hip grinding and insulting George Bush.
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However, she does have a right to adopt the child, and it is most likely to be in the child’s interests – and nobody but the child’s parents have the right to say no. Non-governmental organisations should get out of the way and leave it well alone. There are good reasons to respond to Madonna's publicity by suggesting she could do more good doing other things, but that is not a reason to stop the adoption - it is frankly only the business of her, her husband and the child's family.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Yawning with the Tories


In the UK, with a first past the post electoral system, you really are, by and large, stuck with 2-3 options. There is New Labour (which at best has glimmers of intelligence in Blair, at worst is Nanny State par excellence), the Liberal Democrats (Old Labour with a younger face) and the Conservatives.
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Now the Conservatives for most of the post war period have been just that – conservative. Doing, by and large, very little to roll back the tide of socialism that swept Britain from 1945. The exception was the Thatcher era, when the state leviathan was being operated out, parts privatised, parts shut down, regulations removed and socialism was being wound back – and boy did they wail, scream and gnash teeth. However, it did mean that Labour had to become closer to Thatcher to win power. New Labour accepted the economic reforms and even has accepted the need for private investment in education and healthcare, and business like disciplines on publicly provided services – but it is also the representative of insipid petty fascism.
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The Conservatives have been hamstrung largely due to inept leadership, unwillingness to be bold on policy and unwillingness to engage philosophically on what they stand for. They have stood for tax cuts without saying why it is moral and why it is affordable. They have been anti-immigration almost to the point of obsession and have not looked like a government in waiting, until recently.
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Sadly that government in waiting looks a lot like the current one, with the political correctness about candidate selection, unwillingness to talk about tax cuts and talking about new taxes on aviation (ohhhh maybe not), road transport and encouraging recycling. The Conservative Party under David Cameron is far removed from the Institute of Economic Affairs and Adam Smith Institute in terms of policy – it is, at best, a more radical version of Tony Blair. It is not Thatcherism part two.
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Now the Conservatives DID need a makeover, a makeover that got rid of nonsense old-fashioned bigotry that saw the party being seen (with some truth) as treating women and ethnic minorities as good for baking cakes and doing the cleaning. The homophobia that was only matched by the regular disclosure that some Tory MP had been discovered in a dress and heels tied upside down while a woman in leather calls him a naughty girl, or the like. The Tories needed to be brought into the 21st century and be reminded that being liberal on individual freedom is important. At best this has been sidestepped, although it would appear they are less hung up about sex, drugs and censorship.
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So what have they done? Well, week after week it appears they have adopted style over substance, partly by surrendering to the arguments on the left on tax cuts and deciding to be the “green” party of the UK.
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Tory leader David Cameron is calling for a Climate Change Bill to be introduced to Parliament. Why? The proposed Bill would set up a bureaucracy to set a statutory binding target (on who you may ask? Blank out – never mind) which it will report on annually. So, in other words, more bureaucracy to report on the UK meeting carbon emission reduction targets. So setting aside whether man-made global warming is real, setting aside whether it is practicable to reduce the UK’s contribution to this when the developing world is doing virtually nothing, setting aside whether it is economically efficient and a good use of the property of UK citizens and companies to spend money on reducing their contribution to climate change (it may be better to improve education standards, lock away more louts or give people big tax cuts), (so there are at least three arguments to be made about how damned blind this idea is), this stupid bill assumes the only way man-made climate change can be eased is by reducing CO2 emissions. It ignores other emissions of “greenhouse gases” and ignores planting greenery to offset that. Stupid Conservatives, really really stupid. They talk about investing in high speed trains. Why? Is it better to subsidise how people move about than to give them back their money and face the full cost of transport? Why not stop running the roads like a Soviet style bureaucracy which is a cash cow and constantly begging for maintenance funds, while congestion gets steadily worse?
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The Conservatives have bitten the “saving energy is good” nonsense, when it is clear it makes such a small difference to people’s lives that they can’t be arsed doing it, and this assumes they pay the commercial cost of supplying energy (which, by and large, is true). Beyond that, saving energy is like some wartime conservation measure – austerity for the sake of it, or worse yet “Head Prefect David Cameron” telling you that you “ought to switch off the standby on your TV” for your own good. They even have their own website where you can check how environmentally friendly your car is and more on a Quality of Life Challenge website talking further about how the government “should be doing things” so you don’t hurt the environment more. Comments like this “The fundamental value of being able to produce our own food and other commodities, including bioenergy, has inexplicably been ignored by Government.” tell me a lot. Mr Cameron, your own food production is highly subsidised from Brussels, so people don’t actually pay this “fundamental value”. *vomit*
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The Tories are vapid about the NHS, with weasel words about cutbacks and funding going straight to GPs instead of “through bureaucrats”. Nothing about raising serious questions about a system that has unlimited demands put upon it while everything is free, or about the use of the private sector.
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So what about tax? Well last week a Tory thinktank, the Tax Reform Commission came out with a report (pdf) calling for major cuts in taxes, including increases the tax free income threshold to £7285 per annum (are you listening Dr Brash?), eliminating the bottom tax rate of 10% (as it would no longer be needed) and reducing the basic 22% rate of income tax to 20%, decent cuts in corporate tax (to 25%) , abolish inheritance tax, a load of tax credits (which give special privileges to some not others) and general simplify the tax system. Frankly, it looks like the National Party in NZ wouldn’t be frightened by it, ACT would think it was timid, I think it is, at best, a good first step. To show you how timid it is, the report even said that flat taxes could not be introduced in the UK yet because of the sheer size of its state sector – which tells you how bad it is here.
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So what was the Tory response? Shadow Chancellor George Osborne wasn't too interested:

"stressing again that economic stability come before promises of tax cuts. He made it clear that the report is not a blueprint for the Party's next election manifesto.”
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Essentially tax cuts can’t come at the cost of “cutting public services”, ignoring the dynamic effect of lower taxes on economic growth (and tax revenue) and that so much UK public spending is wasteful. They have surrendered the debate to the likes of the BBC, Guardian and the Independent.
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This is clear in his statement that:
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"We are not going to commit to £21 billion of unfunded tax cuts now or in the future."However, we will rebalance our tax system and shift the burden from taxing families and jobs to taxing pollution and carbon emissions. I want to tax the bad not the good."
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Apparently there is no waste in the system, but wait… now they support pollution taxes. Why? What evidence is there that this will deliver any benefits to the UK?
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So the Tories aren’t supporting tax cuts because of them being “unfunded” as if they have to take money off of someone to give you your money back – when in fact it is your money in the first place. The news is this, they are affordable now – they are more affordable when you cut state spending and subsidies, and represents 1.5% of GDP, when growth is expected to be at 3.5%. In other words this modest step can be afforded by not GROWING spending as much as in the past. The argument that they will hurt public services can be tackled easily by quoting this, but Cameron isn’t even interested in the debate. The cuts would largely benefit people on low to middle incomes, but he isn’t interested in that debate, he wont dare confront the media on this.
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The Tories are no longer the party of less government, but the party of more, but different government.
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The thing is though, it is working with the public. The British public love vapid youthful nothingness. The Conservatives are on 39% in the latest Guardian/ICM poll, Labour on 29% and the Illiberal Demagogues on 22%. However, I think the public would notice little difference with a Tory government – there may be a little less political correctness and little more fiscal prudence, but otherwise you could have woken up and thought New Labour had merely gone a bit further to the right than you expected.
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It is a long way till the next UK election (Blair won last year in case you forgot), and a lot can happen - but the question is whether it would be better to have a David Cameron led Tory government that tinkers a little (or may have a secret agenda to cut the size of the state - yay! but unlikely) or just let Labour rot with a coalition with the Lib Dems? I can't get enthused about Tories that swallow ecological bullshit as fact, turn their back on economic rationalism and are full of as many weasel words as New Labour - perhaps it says more about the UK public that they are so stupid as to be seduced every 9 or so years by this bullshit. Having said that, some leftwing friends of mine would warm to this, the Tories look more Green than Labour.
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So given that Cameron has inherited the Blair legacy, there isn't a lot to hope for in terms of political change in the UK. I'd rather have National anyday (and that's not easy to say!).

Tutu criticises South Africa

For some time now it has become apparent that South Africa under the ANC is creeping more and more along the path towards corruption, authoritarianism and a rampant abuse of power. This is because the "democracy" of South Africa has little to limit it when the black underclass repeatedly thanks the ANC by voting for it election after election. The ANC believes it has a right to power, it actively excludes the opposition parties from having equal coverage on state TV and radio, and simply accuses the Democratic Alliance of "racism" whenever it criticises them, which is simple nonsense. The New Zealand left who campaigned so hard for ANC led government (opposing apartheid) have now largely ignored the "new" South Africa now that their friends are in power.
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For those who forget, the Democratic Alliance has as its origins the Progressive Party - the main white opposition party under apartheid that campaigned to abolish apartheid, institute an independent judiciary and liberalise the economy. Its policies are perhaps best described as liberal centre-right, liberal on economic and social matters.
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So for Bishop Desmond Tutu to now criticise where things are in South Africa is notable. He refers to its rampant murder and rape rates, including rape of infants, the braindead legends that sex with virgin girls "cures HIV" and the government's sheer ignorance over HIV which has resulted in a death sentence for millions of South Africans. He talks of bureaucrats now acting as they did under apartheid, with little regard for citizens.
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He calls for people to hold themselves in high esteem and respect others - given that the ANC and South African government are Zimbabwe's biggest international defenders, I doubt that much will change for the better. Watch South Africa slide further and further towards being an authoritarian one-party state - which is, after all, the philosophical home of the ANC.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Drinking age nonsense


If ever you saw the craven populist driven unprincipled nannying of politicians in action it would be the bill on raising the drinking age.
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Only ACT and the Greens are consistently opposing this ridiculous kneejerk reaction – the sort of bill dreamt up by talkback listeners, but actually dreamt up by a failed MP – Castro loving Matt Robson, who lost his seat with the drop in votes for the so-called “Progressive” Party in 2005. The Progressive Party is about as Progressive as the dark ages – the dying remnants of conservative protestant socialism that redistributes to the poor and tells them not to be naughty – the Salvation Army must love the Progressive Party.
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Wowserism, on a grand scale. The petty narrow minded joyless protestant view of life seen through the eyes of politicians, all thinking they know what is best for young adults. These are the people who react simply to their electorate’s concerns about the minority of young people abusing alcohol by “passing a law”. You can almost hear their knuckles dragging as they vote for it.
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The Drug Foundation and ALAC, both state funded organisations, are naturally supporting this – since their whole raison d’etre is to support any reduction in supply of alcohol. The message they all want to promote is “alcohol is bad” and wow, that message works when the people voting for it have access to a subsidised bar within the building in which they work.
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The hypocrisy is incredible. You see socialist Nanny Statists, who don’t like people making money from alcohol (Martin Gallagher) and conservative Christian naysayers who don’t like people having too much fun (Gordon Copeland), deciding it is moral to arrest 18 year olds for attempting to purchase a drink they can consume at will.
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The same Parliament that wants to prohibit irresponsibility, subsidises it on a grand scale every year through welfare.
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Not PC and the Greens largely agree with me on this, as does SpanBlather, David Farrar and Tumeke. No Right Turn suggests you lobby a series of MPs, particularly National ones, which I fully endorse (but as he said don't waste your time with Anderton and Nick Smith isn't worth .... (he riles me up too much sanctimonious little prick)). One of those times when the liberal left and libertarians take a similar view on personal freedom.
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Worth noting that the UK easily has a similar "drinking problem" to NZ, but deals with the main issue (obnoxiousness) through Anti Social Behaviour Orders (which are a watered down form of criminal sanction). I think the answer is simply ensuring some police presence in major drinking areas on Friday and Saturday nights so that it deters violent behaviour and there can be intervention when such things happen. The other answer is for parents to take responsibility for those that ARE kids - but well, Labour hardly encourages that with its middle class welfare for families.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Niqab, Islam and civilisation


Now as a libertarian I hold that individuals have the absolute right to decide what clothes they were on their own property or in conditions where there are no prescribed limits by the relevant property owner. This means that Muslim women have the right to wear the niqab which completely covers their face. The state should not limit that, except when it interferes with the state undertaking its legitimate duty (e.g. law and order, in identifying suspects to a crime).
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However it does not mean that there is a right to wear it on any elses property, including at work, school or in a shop that is not yours. As a property owner I have every right to establish a dress code, and dress codes are common in workplaces, bars and aeroplanes among others.
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So the current debate in the UK about the niqab should not be about having that choice – and few would deny that. It should be about what that choice means, which is not a matter for the state but a matter for society and culture. In other words, it is about declaring that the niqab is, as the Ayn Rand Institute states, “a demeaning, barbaric article of clothing that inculcates shame in women, depriving them of individuality and femininity."
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Some feminists say it is wrong to tell women what they should or should not wear. Well it is wrong if you only tell women (not men) or advocate that the state should say. Freedom includes the choice to cover up, but the whole basis of the niqab is that women should be ashamed of their bodies and faces, and not only should they cover those parts of the body that men (remember lesbians and homosexuals are non persons in Islamic culture) typically find attractive, but faces – one of the key indicators of human identity.
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Does it mean that one should harass women who wear the niqab? No. People have the right to wear what they wish without feeling threatened, but others also have the right to prohibit people wearing them on their property or to express disquiet and their own discomfort with women who would rather remain anonymous in public.
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Let’s not forget what in Islam promotes the niqab. It is a misogynistic, homophobic, shame ridden view of humanity that depicts women as only having identity in relation to their husbands, sons and fathers. Women's success in Islam is only if they can hide their femininity, as if they will be judged as sex objects first and minds and hearts second. Feminists may sympathise with this, but it is more than that. It is the vapid notion that if a man sees a women's face, he will get an erection and be unable to control his "natural urges" and is distracted, and this is wrong. What utter nonsense. What an insult to women to say that the solution is for THEM to cover up, as if they are titillating prostitutes "asking for it" and what an insult to men to say they are judge knuckle dragging cavemen, who rape any women they find attractive. This is a culture that has seen over 4000 people executed in Iran for homosexual acts since the Islamic revolution. It is even allowed to beat women for sexual misconduct as long as no mark is left on them.
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How can feminists in the West even start to defend this barbarity, this stone age backwardness that sees violence towards women as acceptable? If it were being promoted by Destiny NZ or the Catholic Church it would be considered intolerable. So why is it not intolerable when promoted in Kabul, Tehran, Riyadh or London?
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Now there are scholars of Islam who reject the niqab and rightly so, and this may form the basis of a modernist critique of Islam in the same way as Christianity went through the Enlightenment. All I can say is speed the day! If Muslims were, by and large, modernists that accepted Islam on a personal level, but respected individual freedom, choice, personal and property rights of others then we would be light years ahead of where we are today – because there would be no Islamic governments.
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The only way to confront the barbarism of Islamists is to do as the Ayn Rand Institute states which is to point out the superiority of Western civilisation. Its advice to Britons is:
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They must understand that what made the West great is individualism, reason, the pursuit of happiness--and that this is objectively superior to the tribalism, superstition, and earthly deprivation that many Muslims seek to live out and bring to Europe. Britons must reject the insidious idea of multiculturalism, which holds that all cultures are of equal value. Cultures are not of equal value: prosperity is superior to poverty, happiness is superior to misery, freedom is superior to slavery, and a visible face is superior to a slit revealing two anonymous eyes."
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Islam can continue to survive under Western civilisation, if it is merely a set of religious beliefs to guide people's own private lives, not a diktat upon non-believers or an excuse for violence.

NZ left and the passion for power (part two)

Labour’s belief it was entitled to power had been shaken by National. A combination of major PR disasters had weakened Labour’s popularity. Clark’s arrogance as Prime Minister was seen in the “speeding convoy” incident, where many voters saw it was “ok” for the PM to be in a police convoy speeding to get to a rugby match, or that the PM “did not notice” the speeds she was going at. For voters who were only too aware of what speed cameras mean to them, it seemed the “popular and competent” PM thought she was above them and as someone who never drove and got speed camera ticket or needed to even care, it showed that she didn’t understand the point.

The belief in their inheritance to power was waivering. However, by far Labour’s biggest blunder was to underestimate the momentum of a number of messages about government waste, government surpluses and too much taxation. Every year, Dr Cullen got accolades for doing nothing and generating massive surpluses. Now every year he spent those on a combination of debt repayment, the super fund and capex on government owned infrastructure – and every year the demands of Ministers to pour more into their portfolios increased. However, as incomes rose so did people’s marginal tax rate. It became increasingly clear to the 35% plus of voters who were in the 33% tax rate that they were not rich, but paying a great deal for a system that had a lot of slack in it. Ongoing publicity about government waste, coupled with concern that core government activities, like police and roads were being neglected. Now the truth was that the police and roads were doing better than ever before in terms of funding, but what the public saw were blunders and ever growing traffic congestion.

With six years in government, Labour found it hard to respond to concerns about publicly funded services – blaming the past government doesn’t wash with a public that gave you two chances before. Moreso, saying tax cuts were for the rich didn’t wash with many either – especially when National, instead of weasel words, actually came out with a policy and a website, that enabled voters to check what they would get. Meanwhile, Dr Cullen’s budget, hyped up as being Labour’s chance to cut taxes did nothing of the sort. The “Working for Families” package which had already been announced was seen by many as a complicated bureaucrat system of getting tax refunds and an extension of welfare – whereas tax cuts meant government got less of your money. Labour added in abolishing interest on student loans while students study, to secure student votes from the Greens (and it largely worked), but now this smacked of electioneering. The budget did include tax cuts, a paltry increase in the thresholds for each income tax rate that would mean little in the pocket. The public were not impressed – and National’s poll ratings increased again.

Labour’s jibes about tax cuts being mainly for the rich only washed with beneficiaries and its core supporters, not the floating middle class who were evenly divided between those who supported Labour for pumping money into health and education, and those who saw Labour as wasteful and wanting some of the surplus back in their pockets.

So facing an electorate that believed in “one law for all” and tax cuts, it might have been all over had it not been for National’s own goals which Labour exploited extensively. For the slick campaigning billboards and clear messages, talking about “mainstream” New Zealanders made more voters uncomfortable than comfortable. It appealed to conservative country folk, but not sophisticated liberal urban New Zealand. However, Labour’s disgusting witchhunt of a minority religious group because of its political views would be the turning point.

The Exclusive Brethren informed the National Party that it sought its victory and while its members did not vote, they would fund a leaflet campaign slamming a government that included the Greens, with appropriate colours indicating a National victory was preferred.

While the CTU and its affiliated unions used extensive resources to distribute Labour electioneering propaganda, Labour smelt a rat and a target in the Exclusive Brethren. Ignoring any liberal tradition of defending the rights of religious minorities to do as they wish with their own money, it was time to declare war and the Exclusive Brethren were to be public enemy number one. Had it been Muslims or Hindus Labour might have felt less comfortable, but a very small religion that shuts itself off from the rest of the community was sufficiently “weird” for floating voters that Labour could get mileage raising doubts about National-Brethren links, although it was never clear what the effect on the public would be. Meanwhile, Labour had no hesitation in using the trade union movement to campaign on its behalf.

Nevertheless, Brash’s initial denial and confession about knowing of the Brethren’s interest in supporting National’s election cost National. It was a flip flop and sufficient voters were unimpressed and less willing to back a party supported by, as Labour put it, a weird group, that it probably cost National the election.

After essentially calling National voters racist, rich and greedy, now it had a perfect scapegoat “how much influence do the exclusive Brethren REALLY have?”, implying some dodgy weird group controlling the strings of the National Party. Labour knew how much this was nonsense, and at best the Brethren campaigning was seen as a positive additional contribution, but no more. A group that doesn’t vote or join the party has little sway. However, Labour milked it for its “weird” factor and succeeded.

Labour meanwhile worked hard, behind the scenes, to target votes of those who were its core. The message was clear – “you don’t want National do you?”. In South and West Auckland fear was spread, in Porirua, in Christchurch, Maori and Pacific Island voters were being told that National, the rich white man’s party, might win if they don’t vote.

The overall feeling on the side of the left was that, while non-Maori provincial New Zealand had abandoned Labour in large numbers, Labour would pull through with Maori (excluding the Maori seats themselves which were a tough race), Pacific Island and the low income beneficiacy/working class mobilised in the main centres, plus Wellington bureaucrats. Teachers, nurses, students and the unionised workforce could be taken for granted as largely not voting National, but the key was not how they voted but whether they voted – getting turnout up was what won Labour the election. National, on the other hand had rural and provincial non-Maori New Zealand, businesspeople and middle class families tired of the status quo.


To bolster its message, Labour used its pledge card – a key plank of its election campaign literature, promising what the next three years would bring. However this would be funded from the Prime Minister’s office. Whether this was simply accepted practice and nobody thought about it, or whether Labour thought that it was moral for taxpayers to fund Labour’s manifesto distribution is unclear, what is clear is that it was not seen as strange that the government should pay for its own electioneering.

So when the issue was raised in the Bernard Darnton court case and increasingly the media, Labour went through denial that there was a problem, to denial that it would pay it back to ultimately accepting that the whole affair had damaged it. There is little point going over that saga, because there are few better examples of the attitude and arrogance the left has towards democracy than seen by Chris Trotter and his patronising attitude towards those who voted National in the 1970s and early 1980s. In polar opposite to Labour, which assumes it is entitled to the votes of everyone who isn’t rich,

As with all conservative parties, National divides the community into those who "own" and those who "work". The "political nation" - people whose opinions and actions actually influence the National Party - is made up exclusively of "owners" or in McCormick's splendid shorthand, "farmers and businessmen".
Those who "work" - the rest of us, who must hire out our skills and muscle-power in order to pay the rent - simply don't count.“
Trotter, with his Das Kapital in one hand, thinks he knows how National Party members work. He thinks they divide the community like Marx, Lenin and, in fact, the Labour Party does. This is sheer nonsense. In fact, while from a libertarian view it would be desirable to consider producers separate from parasites (those who steal, defraud and seek the state to steal and defraud on their half), National doesn’t aspire to this.
However, remember that Trotter thinks that those who “work” are not farmers or businessmen (he uses the word “businessmen” deliberately, Trotter sees National as sexist) – farmers and businesspeople in his world sit on the chair with feet up on the desk smoking cigars while the “workers” grind away. There is no work in management, marketing, seeking investment, taking risks with your own property or establishing a new business – Trotter and his ilk despise the wealth creators with a vengeance, worshipping instead the institutions of state which are not tainted with “profit” – as if “workers” don’t receive wages that represent a profit over the time and effort they dedicate to their jobs.
Take it one step further. Remember that “workers” in the Labour Party sense are unionised – a non-unionised worker is, at best, someone to feel sorry for, at worst a “scab”. A “scab” is that repulsive term for a worker who values a job more than a unionised worker – someone who would rather work than strike, someone who is exercising his free will. The amount of unreported union based bullying is difficult to quantify, but the anecdotal reports of those who dared “rock the boat” is frightening.
Trotter’s view of those who have other opinions about the role of politics and sport is telling as well:

“The real scandal, of course, is so many New Zealanders keep forgetting to remember their rights and responsibilities as democratically empowered citizens. Like those hundreds of thousands of Kiwis who saw nothing wrong with welcoming apartheid to New Zealand in 1976 and 1981. “
You see Trotter and the left saw the Springbok tours as an official endorsement of apartheid – you know, like sports teams going to events in the communist bloc (oops remember that imprisoning and executing political prisoners in the eastern bloc wasn’t as bad as apartheid – you see, Chris turned a blind eye to the atrocities of Marxism-Leninism). So if you supported the state not intervening, then you were clearly a racist who happily supported apartheid. More disturbingly though, is that Trotter thinks so many of you “forget to remember your rights and responsibilities”. Your responsibilities!! You owe the left something – your vote.

Furthermore, you see, the right doesn’t like democracy. Ah this explains the times National wins elections:

“Conservatives detest democracy, because it establishes a new "political nation" based not on ownership, but citizenship; a nation which can, by acting through its sovereign parliament, impose restrictions on the rights of "farmers and businessmen".”
Ahh so you see, restrictions on the rights of farmers and businessmen are ok, but clearly not on the rights of “workers”.

Funny how the party of “farmers and businessmen” can command 39% of the vote in 2005 and over 40% in 1990 and before.

So you see, there is, deep down in the psyche of many on the left a dislike for democracy – when it goes against them. It is not because they actually represent a majority of citizens. They don’t. It is because they believe (with a smidgeon of good reason) that they are the “progressive” force for social change. The reason Maori, women, gay people and others have equal rights is because of the left. The left believes it is liberal, and inclusive of all views. However it is far from that, but neither is National. You see the problem with the National Party is that while Labour believes it is the majority, National believes it is born to rule.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The party of the people is losing the people

Labour - the party that believes it has the right to power in a democracy (because it represents the people) has dropped further in the latest poll, to 36%. This is now below where Labour was when it won in 1999, while National is on 49%.
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If that isn't a resounding lack of confidence in the government I don't know what is. With that, National could govern alone and probably also get ACT for a coalition partner.
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Don't worry though, it is still a long time till an election. United Future and NZ First don't want to half their number of seats either, so will continue to prop this government up - hopefully the people of Ohariu-Belmont will punish Dunne at the next election for his continued backing of a government that bought it way to power.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

End Post Office subsidies


The Tories and the Daily Telegraph have tiresomely embarked on a campaign opposing large scale rural post office closures. Of the 6000 rural post offices, apparently 800 have less than 16 customers a week with per transaction subsidies of £16 each! It costs £150 million a year to subsidise them. For the Tories and the Daily Telegraph, bastions of the free market, to argue for special subsidies to prop up these inefficient enterprises is a nonsense. By contrast, Simon Jenkins in the Sunday Times says "stop wailing for the post office".
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The answer is simple. The Royal Mail only just lost its statutory monopoly at the beginning of this year (NZ Post lost its monopoly in 1998), it should be privatised and the closed post offices sold to whoever wants to provide a service or use the building for something else more valuable. Postal services are not special, they can be offered by private stores which sell stamps and other means of paying bills are available to people - such as direct credit, cheques, internet payments and don't tell me the elderly will find it hard. After all, New Zealand survived with one-third of post offices closing in 1988. It survived and flourished, as society shifted from state run post offices being the front of the state - to a range of different outlets for postal services, banking, bill payment, motor vehicle licensing and the like.
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So I say to the whingers and moaners in rural UK - you have a denser postal network than NZ - you get your agricultural sector subsidised heavily by the EU - stop asking for others to be forced to pay for services you use. Calls for post offices being the hub of the local community are bollocks. In the UK, pubs, shops and churches have been, and none of them are subsidised. Why should YOUR community be subsidised?
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So sell off the Royal Mail - reduce UK government debt and by the way, it would be nice if National committed itself to selling off NZ Post too.

Secular state/secular society

One of the great advantages of the UK over the US is that is can discuss secularism far more easily, without the shrill voices of evangelical conservatism drowning it out. The Sunday Times in London has its editorial today merely raising the question "Time for a Secular State" calling for debate on whether the last vestiges of state involvement in religion should be scrapped, and I agree they should - as they have been in the US (although that has been under threat for a while). The editorial asks:
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Should we carry go on, hoping the curiosity of an established church — to which the majority is attached, but only very loosely — can continue to co-exist with other religions, whose followers are more committed? Or is it time to move to the American or French models with their formal separation of church and state?
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Indeed, I would say speed the day to separate church and state. The Sunday Times has a long feature on this matter. Religious freedom means the state is blind about what religion people believe in, or whether they do at all. In fact one of the healthiest discussion now is to consider whether religion has any validity at all. Minette Marin in the Sunday Times argues that there should be no religious schools. She says:
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"It should be possible to agree that for various reasons, many of which are politically embarrassing, the time of state-funded faith schools is past. Faith is no better a criterion for attending or running a state school than race. No new ones should be created; the old ones should gradually lose their religious identity as many have done already and as they probably will do naturally. Religious indoctrination and observance don’t belong in state schools, in a multifaith society, not any more"
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Absolutely, it is outrageous that the state should have anything to do with education whatsoever, certainly not religious based education. However, in a free society parents should have the right to send their children to a religious school, if one exists - and pay for it themselves. Any more than that, and you have the state engaging in parenting. Although Richard Dawkins argues that giving children religious education is as bad as political education - that saying a child is Catholic or Muslim is as bad as saying they are socialist, conservative or indeed libertarian before they are old and mature enough to decide for themselves. Imagine how much religion would exist if children were kept from religion until their teens? Then if given lessons on each religion and atheism, were allowed to choose which one made the most sense for them.
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I would argue that it is wrong to indoctrinate children about religion, but that it isn't a state matter. Parents indoctrinate children about all sorts of things, and as long as there isn't neglect and physical/sexual abuse, the state should err on the side of non-intervention. The state is not a better parent, it is a protector of last resort.
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Nevertheless it is encouraging that Dawkins latest book The God Delusion is a best seller in the UK. If only our friends from the Middle East got a chance to read such a book or even be allowed to debate the non-existence of ghosts!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

We have our meeting in the trailer park kids!

I find this so funny. The party that isn't (it isn't registered with the Electoral Commission because its membership falls far short of the 500 minimum needed) shows itself to be pathetic beyond words.
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Stuff reports that "The National Front gathering coincided with its annual meeting, which is being held this weekend at a Hutt Valley motor camp. "
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Sure helps to have a meeting where many of you live! Hope afterwards they had a good night with sister-mommy and brother-daddy while reading their combat comics.
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By the way, the NZ Herald confirms that the motor camp is the Hutt Park Holiday Camp (there aren't any others) and reports that the motor camp staff have received abusive phone calls for hosting it. It is unclear whether the owners knew the National Front was coming, but it doesn't matter - the Human Rights Act would likely prevent the Hutt Park Holiday Camp from banning the National Front, as it is discrimination on the basis of political belief.
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This is just another reason why the Human Rights Commission and Human Rights Act should go.

50 years ago – brave people of Budapest



This Monday the 23rd of October will be the 50th anniversary of a key moment in the Hungarian revolution of 1956. In Budapest 20,000 protestors convened and sang the forbidden former national anthem including the line "We vow, we vow, we will no longer remain slaves.".
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You see Hungary was on the wrong side as the war ended. Instead of receiving US aid under the Marshal Plan, it was forced by the USSR to grant reparations equal to around 20% of its GDP in 1946. Instead of developing as a free liberal democracy, political dissent was crushed as Stalin installed one of the most oppressive post-war communist leaders in Europe Mátyás Rákosi. Rákosi arrested, imprisoned, tortured and executed political dissidents at will. He nationalised industries and private property, and by 1952 average disposable incomes had dropped to two-thirds of the pre-war level, 50% of that decline had been in the previous three years. The communists impoverished Hungary more than the war did, and imprisoned the country.
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However, there was some hope, which came with the death of Stalin in 1953 and three years later Khrushchev’s famous “secret speech” denouncing Stalin, resulting in Rákosi being removed. This encouraged students and the Writers’ Union to hold forums in Budapest discussing politics many calling for reforms and liberalisation. Disgraced Hungarian communist politician László Rajk, who had been executed six years before was reburied in an elaborate ceremony, as the party rehabilited purged officials.
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On 16 October the banned Union of Hungarian University and Academy Students was re-established by students (ignoring the official pro-communist student union) and within days had a list of national demands for reform. The “sixteen demands” included:

- Immediate evacuation of Soviet troops, in conformation with the Peace Treaty;
- Secret ballot of all communist party members to elect new officials, a new central committee;
- Immediate institution of a new government under deposed reformer Imre Nagy and dismissal of all leaders from the Rákosi regime;
- Free universal elections by secret ballot allowing all political parties to participate (liberal democracy);
- Complete recognition of freedom of the press, radio and freedom of speech.
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On 23 October, 200000 peaceful protestors had gathered outside the Parliament in Budapest. Communist Party First Secretary Ernő Gerő denounced the protestors on radio, after which the protestors moved to topple a statue of Stalin. Flags started appearing with the communist insignia in the centre cut out. The protestors went to the studios of Radio Budapest, where tear gas was thrown at them and shots were fired into the crowd. Gero requested Soviet military intervention and the next day Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest. Violence grew as increasingly the Hungarian State Security Police were willing to open fire on protestors, but some protestors were armed, some had defected from the army. The shooting of many protestors outside the Parliament cost the regime dearly. Gero resigned and fled to the USSR. Reformist Imre Nagy became First Secretary and protestors starting directing their ire at Soviet troops and remnants of the security police. Local revolutionary groups emerged in other towns. Eventually a ceasefire was negotiated, with Soviet troops withdrawing from Budapest by 30 October.
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Nagy announced a “broad democratic mass movement” had called for reform. He disbanded the security police and created a government including non-communist Ministers, and he called for the abolition of the one-party state. Hungary was, for now, moving to be a multiparty democracy. Hungary also declared it would leave the Warsaw Pact, seeking the neutrality of its neighbour – Austria. Subsequently, the USSR decided to intervene on the pretext that a "Provisional Revolutionary Government" under János Kádár had called for Soviet support.
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Premier Imre Nagy received assurances from ambassador and later to be Soviet Premier, Yuri Andropov, that there would be no Soviet intervention. A Hungarian delegation to negotiations in Budapest on the Soviet withdrawal was arrested by the NKVD (KGB’s predecessor). By 3 November, Soviet troops had surrounded Budapest and the next day, Imre Nagy begged for international assistance to protect his new reformist government. It was not forthcoming. The USSR vetoed a proposed UN Security Council resolution on the matter, and tens of thousands of Hungarians would be arrested and imprisoned, and hundreds executed, for supporting this liberal revolution.
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Of course today Hungary can look back at this and remember with open minds. Hungary is a member of the European Union and NATO, never again threatened with foreign occupation without support. There is a House of Terror which is a museum for the totalitarian horrors committed under communism and the fascist regime that briefly ruled in the early 1940s.
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Communists and socialists around the world became divided. Many communists, sycophantic of the USSR and communist China accepted the propaganda of the new regime and the USSR – tolerating Soviet imperialism. However, others were shaken – seeing the truth of the USSR and Marxism-Leninism, as a force that doesn’t tolerate dissent, and has little interest in what its subjects want. It was the first widespread challenge by people in a communist country that was seen and heard around the world – and it was crushed with little mercy. Those who died 50 years ago were vindicated in 1989, when the communist run Parliament agreed to freedom of association, freedom of the press and a multiparty electoral system. Hungarians today can see what Marxism-Leninism cost them – the just have to look next door at western Europe to see they are a generation behind in standard of living. They endured an experiment of 55 years, one that should be a lesson to us all.
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A Victims of Communism Memorial is being built in Washington D.C. Dr Paula Dobriansky of the US State Department spoke at the groundbreaking of the memorial. She spoke eloquently of what this memorial means, and how important it is to recognise the murderous legacy of communism as a movement and philosophy.
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Communism corroded the human experience of the 20th century. The sheer number of victims staggers and chastens us. Over a hundred million people died as a direct, and often intended, consequence of decisions made by Communist rulers. The innocent lost their lives in Katyn Forest; in the frozen gulag; on the streets of Budapest; in the fields of Cambodia. Those who did not die at the hands of Communist rulers suffered terribly under totalitarian regimes. They could not speak their minds; they could not travel freely; they could not realize their inherent potential; they had no say in the direction of their nation. "