Sunday, August 31, 2008

McCain panders to the religious right

Yes well picking Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin may be wise, on the surface, by putting a woman as the vice presidential running mate. Not the first time of course, as Geraldine Ferraro had her own shrill leftwing tilt at it in 1984, with Walter Mondale - a ticket doomed to fail against Ronald Reagan.

However she IS a Christian Conservative. A wise move again for a Republican who many on the religious right see as not being one of their own, but it isn't a wise move for freedom.

The Republican Party is a broad church of social conservatives and small government liberals. McCain has a bit of both, but he is no Bush - he isn't from the religious right. However his platform sounds an awful lot like he is. Now the Vice President isn't important, at all. Let's face it, who was voting for Bush when they voted for Reagan, who was voting for Quayle when they were voting for Bush, who was voting for Gore when they were voting for Clinton. It is really a stand in position, and little more.

So it is time to shine a light upon John McCain's policies. Obama is an unabashed big government statist, who (until recently) would rather Iraq fall to Islamists than let the US support the democratically elected government that is now in power there. He's not fit to be President, but is McCain?

ETS benefits?

Go on, give me one.

I don't mean "makes environmentalists feel good". I want something quantified, preferably one that will offset the increased costs to consumers and producers.

Bjorn Lomborg's book "The Skeptical Environmentalist" has as its primary thesis that even if anthropomorphic global warming is occurring, it may be more beneficial to humanity to NOT intervene to change this, but to rather target other issues, such as trade, clean water supplies, sanitation and inoculations in developing countries.

In other words, when you take a cold economic appraisal of the problem, it may not be worth addressing it. Certainly, New Zealand going alone whilst the likes of China, Russia, India and the entire Middle East do nothing is madness.

Yet it is mainstream politics to go along with it. What is the imperative for New Zealand to lead on this? What are the costs? More importantly, why do almost all political parties in Parliament sign up to it?

Bloggers vs journalists

Not PC mentioned about David Cohen's amusing dig at bloggers in the NBR. David Cohen is one of the few NZ journalists I rate, because he can write well, and he thinks. Indeed, as I have said before there is a difference between journalists and reporters, and sadly far too many in the mainstream media (and TV is significantly worse) are reporters. Their idea of a story is:

- The government announced it would do X today. It said that doing X would solve a long standing problem of Y and Z. The cost of doing X is $A, which Minister B said would be great value. Lobby group C supported the move cautiously saying while a step forward, it wasn't enough. National spokesperson D said it was too little too late.

Cohen put forward a 20 point test that is meant to mean you've moved from being a "mere blogger" to being a journalist. How destroyed is my ego that I haven't passed, (well I got 10) though I'll live as I am lot happier actually doing stuff than just writing about it, and my bank balance is happier too.

After all I am paid for my writing, I think my formal qualifications in law and public policy don't make me cry about having not done journalism, my writing is typically peer reviewed, I know the difference between practice and practise, I've used the OIA (and see how poorly a few journalists use it as they don't know enough to ask the right questions), I've often met deadlines, I've had my work read by Cabinet Ministers and Chief Executives of public and private sector organisations. So on and so on.

Keith Ng has a good set of questions too in response. My favourites from his are:

Do you ever write stories where more than half the content comes from one press release?

Do you ever write a story about a report solely from the press release accompanying the report, without having read the report itself?

Both are far too common, and infantile. Why should people pay to read such drivel when they can go to Scoop and read the press releases as they are?

I have a better set of questions for journalists, to see how smart and honest they are:

Do you make your political and religious affiliations transparent to your readers? Do you declare any political parties you have been a member of or donated to?Do you questions assumptions made in government reports and press releases, as well as opposition ones?

Have you ever asked a politician whether the answer to a problem is for the government to do nothing? Have you ever written an article where you analyse what might happen if the government did less not more in a particular policy area?


Do you ever make an Official Information Act (or LGOIMA) request knowing exactly what it is you need to know to determine what has gone on?


Have you ever written about H2's control on the areas of government policy she has the greatest interest in and which the PM trusts her in? Do you even know what she does?


Could you get a similar level job writing for The Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, The Guardian or The Independent (UK not NZ!)? (or even the Economist?)

Do you understand that the value of money declines over time so quoting financial statistics without adjusting for this is not comparing like with like?

Can you accurately name under which Prime Ministers and Finance Ministers the NZ government privatised NZ Rail, privatised Telecom NZ, corporatised the Railways Department and privatised NZ Post? (trick question)

Do you know what onanism is (without going and Googling it now) and have you never had anyone describe your work as such?

Oh and while I'm at it here are some examples of journalism missing a point:

1. This article doesn't mention that Telstra Clear didn't install its own network, it is using Telecom's, so it is competition on unequal terms.

2. This article, didn't include any interviews with any school principals, even though it is about schools.

3. This article, quotes Chris Turver, ignoring that he was once a Wellington Regional Councillor until last year. It also doesn't even note that funding has been approved to extend the electrification of the rail network to Waikanae, so it looks like another problem ignored.

and that's just today.

Labour's list could see some joblessness

Well one can hope, but with Judith Tizard at number 38, and Nikki Kaye fighting hard in Auckland Central, it might be the end for the Tizard dynasty - a dynasty that has long been a triumph of mediocre obscenities and grumpiness over talent, temperance and taste.

Mark Burton, Mahara Okeroa, Martin Gallagher, Dave Hereora (who?) and Louisa Wall all look like they might have to look for real jobs as well. Grant Robertson has to win Wellington Central to get in, against Stephen Franks for National - so unlike previous elections it truly is a battle between the two main parties.

Also notable is Raj Prasad, former Families Commissioner - so a man used to undertaking useless jobs (although I'm aware he is quite a thoughtful gentleman, I'd have thought he'd have better judgment than to be spoilt by Parliament).

A few others are new, who appear to be 20 something wannabe control freaks (I mean seriously, why would anyone want to be a Labour MP today unless you wanted to boss people around and use their money?).

Notable is that Jordan Carter isn't on the list (sorry 70 is like being 17th on the ACT list). He isn't that keen on being an MP, or is it that the Labour Party isn't that keen on HIM being one?

Key rules out Winston: good!

According to Stuff, John Key has emphatically ruled out any deal with NZ First after the election. That means coalition, confidence and supply and as a result any chance Winston Peters could ever be a Minister. Good.

Unsurprisingly, Deputy PM Dr. Michael Cullen has now said that this is unfair saying "John Key's stance shows that he has no respect for basic New Zealand values of fair play".

I see - so the party of multiculturalism thought it was fair to make a man who has built part of his political career opposing Asian immigration the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

At least now it is clear - if you vote NZ First, you are going to be supporting a Helen Clark led Labour government, because that is exactly what has happened since 2005, and it is the only option for NZ First in 2008.

So Mr Key, what might you compromise on if you turn to the Maori Party or the Greens then?


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bravery from gay pupils

The Dominion Post has reported how some gay high school pupils are being prohibited from attending school balls, unless they "unless they sign contracts confirming they are homosexual" according to an organisation called Rainbow Youth.

Frankly the mere fact that there are some gay high school pupils willing to be "out" in the media is itself an act of bravery, and a significant step forward from a generation ago. That should be a reason for all lovers of freedom to celebrate - young people should not be scared to be who they are.

Now the article itself is lazy journalism (and some journalists think bloggers are "light") as it interviews not one school principal about its policies, so there hasn't been a chance to determine what school policies actually are - simply what a lobby group says (it may be right or wrong, but it is wrong to not check with some schools as to what their views are). However it is wrong for the Human Rights Commission to be involved. This should be a matter between pupils, schools, parents and others who wish to make their points of view heard.

My view is schools should be open, and frankly let pupils bring whoever they wish as long as they do not pose a risk to others. The sex of a partner should be irrelevant. Independent schools have the choice to make their own decisions on this - as any private institutions should. That doesn't mean that they would be right in being bigoted on this, but it should be their choice. State schools should not have that choice at all - the state should not be bigoted.

So I offer my support to pupils who seek to end such bigotry, good for you. I'm not gay, but I remember chillingly the bigotry in the mid 1980s when the Homosexual Law Reform Bill was being put through Parliament. Those who opposed that were nasty vile filthy bigots. Teenage years are difficult ones as it is, without people threatening or judging you for what are harmless feelings.

Promiscuous Girlz lucky?

Has any brothel had so much publicity before its opening? Well the appropriately white trash sounding "Promiscuous Girlz" brothel in Dannevirke can hardly say it hasn't had enough publicity. According to the Dominion Post it is now open for those who care to pay for carnal stimulation.

My view on this is fairly straightforward. It isn't up to the state to judge those who choose to sell services using their bodies and those who choose to purchase such services. It is up to the state to protect those forced into providing such services - less of a problem in NZ than in Europe, where trafficking in women is serious and tragic. The film Lilya 4-ever is a tragic story of a girl trafficked from Russia to Sweden and forced to be a prostitute. This is where the criminal justice system and those concerned about prostitution should focus their top priority - underage girls being forced into this trade, which of course remains illegal.

However, one cannot help but wonder what brings women (and men) to enter into this business. For many of us it seems inconceivable to be paid to have sex with strangers that, otherwise, you wouldn't go near. For many it is undoubtedly the attraction of being relatively well paid, that becomes the focus. For some this is seen to be necessary to support a drug habit, which itself is perhaps more expensive and risky that it may otherwise be if it were not illegal, but I digress. A few may well enjoy it, Xavier Hollander has written extensively about how she enjoyed being a prostitute - she's not the only one. There are genuine concerns that it is a business that seriously affects ones own esteem and sense of life. The truth is that it varies - I can't say, nor can you, nor the Police, nor the state, nor a church. That is why this profession will always be a choice for some.

It is perhaps better instead of judging all prostitutes, to not judge, but to consider those who DO ask for help, who are in need. The best way those who despise prostitution can help is to be active in helping women (and men) who are prostitutes out of desperation and abuse. Sadly I see precious little of that from the noisy opponents who would prefer them to be incarcerated.

The flipside is the demand. Why do people (predominantly men) buy sex? Again, the reasons will vary. Many undoubtedly do so out of sheer convenience and because they value that over the two obvious options - seduction of the unpaid and masturbation. The former they may not choose because of time (it takes time to find someone willing), poor self-esteem (which may be based on imagined or a fair perception of their own attractiveness) or their own preferences (may be difficult to find someone to meet their kinks). The latter because it is typically an inferior experience to actually being with someone. It may also be simple loneliness.

Yes many who procure sex are married, or with partners. That's their lie to their partner, it's something they risk, and it is between them. The state doesn't patrol marital fidelity - well outside Saudi Arabia and Iran.

"Promiscuous Girlz" will rise or fall on its customers (yes yes I know!). Those who wish to protest it, boycott it or oppose it can do so. However, if you want to know what workers and clients are motivated by, ask them -you might be told where to stick your nose, but that's the only way you're going to ever know. As long as peaceful people choose to buy and sell sex then it will remain a curiosity, and for some involved it is sad and unfortunate, for others a delight. I haven't ever bought or sold sex, but I'm not so hasty to judge all those who have.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A historic speech

Don't let the leftwing vapid minnow standing for the US Presidency erode the tru value of this day

Tolls and PPPs

Given Maurice Williamson's minor faux pas while I was in Ireland, I thought I should put in my rather short (you'll be relieved) free and rank on what I think of what the Nats have said on this:

1. I'd welcome opening up investment in roads to the private sector, but the more the private sector can carry the risk (and any profits) the better. Think, for example, if the Auckland Harbour Bridge was privatised, even by lease to avoid Treaty of Waitangi/Public Works Act issues, including SH1 from Spaghetti Junction north and from Constellation Drive south (both being where other state highways intersect). The new owner could toll it, could investigate, design, build, finance, operate the second crossing. If very clever it could even work with the state to refund road user charges and fuel taxes paid for using the motorway (or the state could pay the equivalent to offset the tolls to the company). Let it be the example to New Zealand of how the private sector can build, operate, own and manage a highway - see how the tolls will go up at peak times which is exactly when the second crossing is needed, so exactly the users who should pay for it. See how the tolls will be marginal at off peak periods, see how private bus companies can take advantage of a less congested crossing to provide more services for those who wont pay the toll. Oh and while we're at it, see how the Victoria Park Viaduct widening/tunnelling can be financed the same way.

2. Tolling for new road capacity is good, but the scope to do this in New Zealand is limited due to the nature of its road network, the volumes of traffic involved and the ready availability of other routes. However, it could be considered as a means of moving away from fuel tax.

What I DO want to ask Maurice Williamson is:

Will National abolish the regional fuel taxes?
Will National abolish automatic inflation based indexation of fuel excise duty and road user charges?
Will National consider shifting from taxing motorists and property owners to pay for roads, to motorists paying to use the roads?

The first would be consistent with how National voted in Parliament, as would the second. The third would be consistent with National's policy when it was voted out of office. It's technically and economically feasible to go down this path, and a sensible way forward would be to commercialise road management, and then consider how to privatise it.

Social report makes assumed value judgments

The NZ Herald reports on the Ministry of Social Development's 2008 Social report which produces statistics of "social indicators" to determine if things are getting "better or worse". The headline was that the "rich poor pay gap is shrinking". This is measured by a simple ratio of the earnings of the top 20% of income earners over the bottom 20%. It doesn't measure whether the bottom 20% are in abject poverty or quite comfortably fed, clothed and housed, what it does measure is the envy ratio.

Apparently the "rich" (a word Idiot Savant and others on the left are addicted to using as a term of implied abuse) are earning 2.6 times that of those in the "poor" category, a drop from 2.7 the year before. That is apparently "good". Why? I'm not sure. After all it could mean the bottom 20% have bettered themselves, but it could also mean the top 20% have suffered a decline in living standards. Both are quite different. However you need to believe that this matters. If the top 20% earned 10 times the bottom 20% it could indicate their success, and indeed in London I am sure the ratio is bigger because of the relative success of the financial sector in attracting people who earn very high incomes. It only matters if you believe that wealth is distributed not earned. If you believe that wealth is something dished out by someone powerful, not something received for producing or trading value. However, I wouldn't expect someone in the Ministry of Social Development to understand this as none of them do this.

Let's see some other "improvements". Qualifications at bachelors degree level or above have increased. This of course could be meaningless. Germany is overflowing with graduates, but many have few business skills, and it hasn't helped Germany increase its net wealth - how useful are these degrees, how good are they? How literate and intelligent are the graduates? Who knows??

How about things that have gotten worse? "Housing affordability" has a flipside, which is capital assets of those owning their homes. However, the property market is now correcting itself somewhat, improving affordability but damaging the capital people have tied up in their homes. Winners and losers whichever way the market goes, which raises the issue as to why affordability is better than asset valuation.

Then something that hasn't changed - "potentially hazardous driving", which of course can be anytime you actually drive above 20 km/h, since driving is by its very nature "potentially hazardous". Perhaps it means speeding, but then again how does anyone really know this? There isn't real time monitoring of every driver all of the time.

Then "obesity" hasn't changed. Which of course isn't true, as it has changed for thousands, as many have seen it increase others decrease - but if you're a collectivist thinking bureaucrat you find that impossible to manage so you average it out (presuming you know the facts around people's weights).

So I ask the question, what does the report usefully do? It's useful if you're a statist and want to know how to intervene in a wide range of areas, but beyond that it is just a snapshot. Ruth Dyson will use it to show "Labour is good" by saying "it showed New Zealanders overall wellbeing was improving".

Funnily enough most people focus on improving their own wellbeing as a matter of course - and it's the government that likes to take away a third of your income while you do that. Imagine how much wellbeing would improve if the government took less.

Farewell Winston but...

Whilst the Serious Fraud Office investigation into NZ First finances should certainly see Winston removed from his Ministerial positions (if not then Helen Clark will have made a serious misjudgment), the question becomes whether NZ First will withdraw confidence and supply. If so, it might provoke the announcement of the election date, but it would also be likely that NZ First MPs would be looking for a new job. If not, then Labour has to ask itself whether it is comfortable governing reliant on a party that has proven itself to be at best slippery with the truth around its finances.

NZ First has never been popular with the mass media of course, partly because it has always couched itself as the party of the people who don't have a voice. NZ First is the party of talkback land, of the Waynes and Sharlenes who don't like the Chans who moved in next door with their nice car and children who are far more articulate than they are, who are suspicious of big business and think that "old" New Zealand was "taken away". The barely shrouded racism expressed (but probably not believed) by Winston Peters meant NZ First did worst in the likes of Wellington - NZ First is in effect the National Party of Rob Muldoon. It may be facing its swan song. Rarely does the media give the impression that NZ First is a party like others, but then again rarely does Winston Peters want this.

So let's move on. Does the degree of scrutiny that the media place upon NZ First ever get applied to the Green Party or the Maori Party? Who delves in the control-freakery of both? The anti-American hypocrisy of both parties, the strong emphasis on increasing the size of the welfare state, the unabashed racist agenda not to oppress a race, but to advantage one, their xenophobia about foreign investment.

Labour undoubtedly would do deals with both parties to stay in power, but where is the media scrutiny? National would almost certainly do a deal with the Maori Party, and wouldn't dismiss the Greens if it needed Green support to govern.

I acknowledge that NZ First's behaviour in recent months has raised serious issues, but fundamentally it is MORE important to consider what policies and who will be seeking to govern NZ in the next three years. The mainstream media loves a scandal, and is appropriately sinking its teeth into Winston Peters - but the same teeth could be sunk into all of the parties in Parliament - and with vigorous serious journalism, it would happen. Will it?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Why would the Democrats excite anyone?

I've long been perplexed as to what drives those who get excited and engaged with the two major US political parties. The Demopublicans and the Republicrats are different only in the areas they don't overlap. However both are predominantly concerned with power, power over businesses, individuals, to spend other people's money and take that money, to give other people's money to businesses they prefer, taking more from those they don't. It's an absolute abomination against reason, and is little short of braindead.

Barack Obama is a lightweight style focused rather leftwing vaccilating Presidential candidate who is riding substantially on his race and youth to differentiate himself, and present himself as an agent of "change". Yet his "change" is little more than more taxes, more spending couched in words of "support" and an ever changing approach to foreign policy. He has proven he is no friend of free trade, having voted to substantially increase agricultural subsidies, including subsidies to produce nothing at a time of high food prices. He has had substantial links with rather nasty men.

However the difference between Obama and John McCain is not huge. Hillary Clinton's bizarre statement that "Nothing less than the fate of our nation and the future of our children hang in the balance," is enormous hyperbole. I prefer McCain for reasons outlined before and I don't doubt McCain is better for New Zealand and indeed the world.

Yet stand back from it all and ask what is it really about? A man who talks of change, but with little substance riding on the back of image and his historic nomination from a racial point of view. A party painting the USA as being in despair, ignoring that it controls Congress and controlled both Houses far more often in post war history than the Republicans. It is truly the triumph of hyperbolic disinformation distributed with vapid alacrity.

Oh and don't believe I'll think the Republicans will be much better. However look for the hook, look for what the Democrats think they'll seriously change, and ask yourself why anyone would want to spend any time campaigning for this pablum - unless, of course, you expected to get some substantial benefit from more statism, which isn't what the USA was meant to be about.

A dream to follow

Today is a day to remember one of the great men of history and his dream, a dream that is a great one of liberty, a message of hope and aspiration that, unalloyed by the statist motivations of many who quote it - should be the universal declaration of hope of individualism. I need not say anymore than this, and urge that THIS be remembered today, despite the ambition of a gang of control freaks, liars and corrupt mediocrities currently having a conference in Denver to take control of the United States and further erode what this dream really means.

You can read the speech to remember in full here, but for me the highlights are below. I am aware of the politics of many surrounding Martin Luther King, Jr, but neither they nor his religious beliefs take away for a moment about what this speech does. I defy those who passionately love freedom and despise the mindlessness of collectivism to not be moved.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification - one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers."

The day before he was assassinated he talked of being at the mountaintop:

"All we say to America is, "Be true to what you said on paper." If I lived in China or even Russia, or any totalitarian country, maybe I could understand some of these illegal injunctions. Maybe I could understand the denial of certain basic First Amendment privileges, because they hadn't committed themselves to that over there. But somewhere I read of the freedom of assembly. Somewhere I read of the freedom of speech. Somewhere I read of the freedom of press. Somewhere I read that the greatness of America is the right to protest for right. And so just as I say, we aren't going to let dogs or water hoses turn us around, we aren't going to let any injunction turn us around. We are going on.

Never stop and forget that collectively -- that means all of us together -- collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That's power right there, if we know how to pool it."

May we all for a moment consider his ambition for a world free of racist bigotry - consider also his call for the use of voluntary protest and economic choice by those supporting him to influence change in behaviour. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not perfect, but he was a truly great man who changed the course of history and advanced freedom - oh to have a politician today who is 1% of what he was.

John Key shows principle

Yes!! Remarkable really. Good for him though. It looks like a coalition or confidence and supply agreement between National and NZ First is ruled out. The NZ Herald quotes him saying;

"I am ruling out Mr Peters. He simply doesn't have the integrity in my view unless he can somehow change that".

It is more than what Jim Bolger said or did, but then the same Jim Bolger who voted to privatise NZ Rail Ltd is now on the board of the renationalised railway. The same Jim Bolger who sits on the board of Kiwibank. However I digress.

I do wonder though, that if National did need NZ First, whether it would surrender power to a Labour mongrel coalition. However, it is worth noting a rare appearance of backbone.

NZ First has always been a party of blatant brainless populist opportunism, it seeks to tap the mindlessness of talkback radio, the very worst of much of New Zealand culture. The envy dripping suspicion of foreigners, the envy dripping suspicion of successful businesses, the belief that state owned enterprises are good when they are state owned, regardless of how poorly they perform and the resentment and anger of their privatised equivalents. The kneejerk belief that the "guvmint should do something".

However it has not done this in a vacuum. It has tapped a series of trends that have a grain of truth in the concern that NZ First voters carry.

NZ First would not have succeeded had National not lied to the electorate in 1990. Some of National's supporters today try to reassure the likes of me, and other libertarians that "wait till the Nats get in office then they can do some of the things you like", even though the Nats are saying little different from Labour. It is THAT kind of politics that NZ First rejected. One thing you can't say about Winston Peters is that he isn't clear about his policies. Jim Bolger promised to remove the hated superannuation surtax, but continued it after 1990. That single move decimated National's support among senior citizens. National created Winston Peters, he was one of them and it delivered an enormous deception to voters - greater than anyone could claim Labour generated in 1984 and certainly in 1987.

NZ First was also an early carrier of disenchantment at the Treaty claims process. A resentment from some taxpayers that some Maori were benefiting enormously from their taxes, and that the benefits were enriching a small number very well, was a genuine concern Winston tapped. However, he then went on to focus on the Maori seats and taking them all in 1996. Having moved across the spectrum on this issue, NZ First retains a not insubstantial level of support among Maori voters.

NZ First's big issue has been immigration, but sadly although there are serious issues about whether new migrants should be able to claim anything from the welfare state including health and education, Winston focused on race and bigotry. He played the race card, and stirred up a vile level of anti-Asian sentiment that appeared focused on successful East Asian migrants - you know the ones not filling the jails, welfare lines and talkback call lines. It was possibly the most poisonous recent part of modern politics, one that didn't stop National signing up to govern with NZ First, and didn't stop Labour.

NZ First also tapped the ongoing popular outrage at crime and the poor performance of the criminal justice system in addressing this, although it was little more than a repositary for rage. It still showed that Labour and National had not got to grips with a core concern of the general public.

However it is telling that while the superannuation surtax issue provided a huge catalyst to Winston's political career, his supporters did not reward him for removing it. Policies don't matter to voters as much as impressions and feelings, and NZ First was decimated at the 1999 election for its appalling performance as a team - even though it delivered on several promised policies, including abolishing the super surtax.

NZ First attracts protest votes, votes from people who don't like the status quo. It is hurting because Winston keeps Helen Clark and Michael Cullen in power - he can't evade or dodge that, as he is desperately trying to evade the allegations around donations. His politics were built on National lying, and tapping populist resentment that National has since partly tapped (although has also since backtracked on). Winston has built a career on being upfront and honest, and not having a secret agenda - his political career may be finished if National keeps its word and offers a government of bland "me too" policies that the public appears to be endorsing.

The problem is National looks like it has a secret agenda - given that it has virtually no policy differences from Labour, it is the only hook others have to attack National. It is the hook Winston has, and if it proves to be true even though I may agree with some of the policies it is still deceit and contemptible. Winston's political career will be reinvigorated if National has a secret agenda.

However, if National does not seek to govern with Winston's support, and enters government doing what it has said, then Winston's poison will have expired. It is clear that Labour is happy to govern with his support, and it is that which should be the focus. Labour is no more principled than National, it's just more deft at hiding how it sells out.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Light blogging till Tuesday but

Since I've been working my arse off for the last couple of months I am fleeing for a break as it is Bank Holiday weekend in the UK - so you'll hear little to nothing from me until Tuesday 26 August.

Rural Ireland should be a good break from looking at this screen, meetings and answering phone calls.

Meanwhile may I recommend to some of you who are regular to use a blog reading aggregator. Bloglines is the one I use, it tells me if any of the 20 or so blogs I regularly read have anything new and allows me to skim the articles and figure if I want to read more or not.

While I'm at it, let me note two of the books I have recently read:

"No One Left to Lie To" by Christopher Hitchens. The Clinton family and how awfully evil they are. Now Hitchens was certainly more leftwing then than now, and some of his criticisms are for Clinton supporting welfare reform, but it is the personal behaviour that is most telling. The fact Hitchens effectively calls Bill Clinton a rapist and hasn't been sued for it speaks volumes, and it is also damning how the Clintons got away with their lies and behaviour by a complicit mainstream media uninterested in giving ammunition to the Republicans. The critics of G.W. Bush would do well to read this to see how Clinton's foreign policy was, in some cases, an absolute disaster and i one case particularly cynical and evil.

"The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice" by Christopher Hitchens. Mother Teresa, friend of dictators, no friend of the poor, running her home for the dying whilst celebrating in the suffering of the poor as it brought them and her "closer to Jesus". Read how this angel of death raised millions of dollars, yet her homes for the dying were spartan affairs without medical staff, which in one case refused to send a 15yo boy to hospital because "if we sent him, they'd all want to go". Determine for yourself whether this celebrity raised vast sums of money for the Vatican's aggrandisement and global crusade, and if not where did the money go?

Have a good weekend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

ACT stabs one of its own, favours a (former?) socialist

Just when I was thinking that ACT was looking like a seriously viable option it goes and puts out a list, and stabs blogger, former Hutt South candidate Lindsay Mitchell in the back by offering her a list place that effectively says "no thanks". Which was indeed her response.

Whilst the placings of Rodney Hide and Heather Roy are appropriate, and putting Roger Douglas in third place is a wise move, stabbing Mitchell in the back, when she has long been the voice of reform on welfare reform shows at best that politics is a nasty game, and at worst that loyalty and hard work aren't what ACT wants to be known by.

The rest of the top 10 I have mixed views on. John Boscawen has emerged after not being on the list for years, but is at least a core part of the campaign against the Electoral Finance Act and an accomplished businessman. Number 5 is a secret. Number 6 Hilary Calvert is an unknown, but a woman and a lawyer. Number 7 is Peter Tashkoff, standing in Te Tai Tokerau, showing where ACT stands on the Maori seats! He has a blog and I guess it is good for ACT to have a Maori candidate, and will be interesting to see what views he has. Number 8 is John Ormond who's been around for ages, long been on the ACT list somewhere. Number 9 is Colin du Plessis, another unknown, South African born scientist, ex National Party.

Now it gets interesting - Number 10 is Shawn Tan, Chinese ex. Green Party - which gives plenty of cause to wonder what sort of "Road to Damascus" experience he hopefully has had, although since he has spent the last few years working in unions and supporting "Students for Justice in Palestine" (which isn't quite as it seems).

Tan opposed the war on Iraq and put his name to a statement that was clearly bog-standard leftwing anti-Americanism. Hmmm great!

Now will ACT get more votes with a (former?) leftwing unionist than with a libertarian welfare campaigner? Well we'll see.

John Key's H2

A simple question.

Heather Simpson's role in the government is well known, she is the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff, is regularly referred to by bureaucrats as the "Associate Prime Minister" and is undoubtedly the most powerful bureaucrat in the country - and more powerful than most Cabinet Ministers (perhaps only Cullen rivals her in power). She pulls Cabinet papers from the agenda, she vets Cabinet papers and amends them - that's an incredibly powerful role, albeit fully supported by Helen Clark.

However, does John Key intend to appoint a person to take this role? If he does it is a poor vote of confidence in the abilities of his colleagues and the public sector, if he doesn't it shows he can command a loyal crew, and he is willing to let himself and Cabinet manage difficulties, conflicts and handle strategic oversight.

What it would show is a very different form of government, and given nobody elected H2, given the mainstream media has been quite negligent in failing to discussing or debate her role in our Westminster style liberal democracy, as it openly challenges the autonomy of Cabinet Ministers to present papers to Cabinet, and centralising power in the hands of the PM, it would be refreshing to hear if John Key has a view on it.

If he DOES want such a person, it may be justifiable on the basis that many government departments will have spent nine years implementing Labour policies, and new naive Cabinet Ministers may not have the knowledge, confidence or awareness to know when they are being steered in directions that are not government policy.

Having said that though, given National policy announcements to date, I wonder to what extent that is a problem.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Transport Agency focused on state highways

Yes, a cursory visit to the website of the Labour led government's latest bureaucratic creation - the NZ Transport Agency, shows that the merger between Land Transport NZ and Transit New Zealand has created an agency that primarily puts out press releases about - state highways.

This is the agency that manages driver licencing, is contracted to collect Road User Charges, manage the National Land Transport Account (where all motoring taxes go), and allocate funding to itself (!) to manage state highways, and to local authorities to build and maintain local roads, and subsidise public transport.

When National was last in power it took away responsibility for looking after funding decisions on roads from Transit by creating Transfund - largely so that a bureaucracy wasn't funding itself over the roads of local authorities. The intention was also to make Transfund responsible for managing motoring taxes so that it could be "buying road services" on behalf of motorists, a precursor to allowing tolling and other direct ways for the public to buy road services from road providers.

Labour rejected all that in favour of central planning and now there is one behemoth of a bureaucracy contracted to collect much of the motoring taxes, allocate money from those motoring taxes and build things with it, oh and in the meantime do it really really efficiently, and spend money on roads its not responsible for.

Oh and Christine Caughey, who wants Wikipedia and blogs state regulated, is on its board.

Now this is surely something that the Nats can reverse and get back to moving road management towards users paying for services, rather than Ministers directing decisions?

Ian Wishart - really that popular?

Now Ian Wishart's blog "Briefing Room" claims that his online publication "TGIF edition" is a huge hit, with 20,000 downloads and counting. Who knows, maybe it is true and it hasn't got through to Alexa, because Alexa doesn't rank his site highly at all.

You see Briefing Room gets a ranking of 3,542 in New Zealand.
Investigate Magazine gets a ranking of 8,594
By contrast I get a ranking of 2,002.
Tumeke ranked his blog at 29th in June, and it will be interesting to see where it was in July.

I know I get on average 241 hits a day at present. Weekends dip below 200 and weekdays can regularly get over 300. To get 20,000 downloads would take around 10-11 weeks.

However this all pales into comparison with the likes of Kiwiblog, Public Address, Whale Oil and Not PC. Naturally I don't want to deny Wishart any genuine success he has, I may not like some of what he writes, but that isn't the point. The point is that either Alexa is badly wrong, Wishart is claiming success over a longer period than some may think or it's hyperbole.

What politician will take on the IRD?

Not PC blogs about the appalling case of the IRD turning its back on a written agreement regarding GST.

"In 2001, members of the Inbound Tour Operators Council (ITOC) signed formal, written agreements with the IRD about the GST tax treatment of the fees they charge to overseas wholesalers for arranging tours.

The IRD advised in the formal, written agreements that the fees should be zero-rated, and the industry has followed this advice.

Now, however, seven years later, the IRD has advised the industry that it has changed its mind, apparently because it believes it made an error.

In a meeting with the industry last week, top IRD officials said they would not honour the formal, written agreements signed with the industry in 2001 and would now seek back taxes."

So the word of the state means nothing.

What do I expect the politicians of the main political parties to say AND do about this?

Labour and Anderton- nothing.
Greens - nothing.
Maori Party - maybe say something, but not the philosophical conviction to care
United Future - nothing, remember Peter Dunne chaired the last enquiry into the IRD's practices. He is now Minister of Revenue, especially nothing to see here.
NZ First - nothing. Winston did nothing as Treasurer after all.
National - say lots, hold an inquiry, do nothing. Although Whaleoil seems to have confidence in Bill English, I hope it is well placed.
ACT - say lots and support a more strongly worded inquiry, do little.

I hope I am wrong, but I have heard words before about IRD - it's time for action. Retrospective changing of minds should not cost the public, but should cost the IRD - I'd suggest the officials who drafted and signed the letter be made liable, and pay up the taxes. It was their job to be fair after all.

British lobby group upset by sign


UK lobby group Age Concern is calling for street signs used to warn of the elderly to be changed because they are "out of date, condescending and in need of replacement" according to the Daily Telegraph. "Very few older people are hunched over, with a walking stick. They are assuming everyone who is old looks like that, and they don't" said a woman working for the organisation.

I simply want to know what the woman silhouette is doing with her hand.

Wellington boobs on bike? nah

Now I don't care much for Steve Crow's view of taste but I do think the Hive's opposition to a bare breasted Helen Clark lookalike because "it could be used by opponents to ridicule the PM" is misplaced. This is in response to Dominion Post reports that Crow wants to put Boobs on Bikes in Wellington.

However, so what if the PM is ridiculed? Is the PM to be immune from ridicule? Why would this encourage anyone to vote for Helen Clark? Wouldn't those offended be voting for her anyway (or more likely conservative enough to be voting National anyway)? Isn't making fun of politicians just part of a free society?

Leftwing Wellington City Councillor Celia Wade-Brown said she "believed the parade was offensive to women and the capital's diverse ethnic groups". Well clearly not women who choose to participate, but more importantly how does SHE speak on behalf of all ethnic groups? What nonsense! I think the idea will go down badly in Wellington because so many will just find it tiresome and uninteresting, and those who do like it will be far too emasculated by the overwhelming culture of "offence" to show it!

Now if he paraded it around the Hutt Valley, he'd get a far friendlier response I am sure.

UPDATE: Picture from the Waikato Times of a cop stopping three young women trying to bring bare breasts to Hamilton. Now here's a thought - is it more sexual if they can dress in hotpants and over the knee boots in public with breasts covered, than wearing jeans and jandals with bare breasts? More importantly, what did the Police warn the women about? If it is legal in Auckland, what right does a cop have to warn people to not do something legal?

40 years ago - Prague crushed by Soviet imperialism

On August 20 1968 under direction from Moscow, the armies of the USSR, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, the "German Democratic Republic" and Bulgaria invaded Czechoslovakia to crush the liberal reform minded government led by Alexander Dubcek - first Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. It is a day that shall live in infamy as one of the darkest moments of freedom in the Cold War.

Dubcek simply wanted to open up the one-party Marxist-Leninist state of Czechoslovakia to some fundamental freedoms - the right to free speech, to criticise the government, a free press and freedom of travel. In short, he wanted to remove the totalitarian control the Czechoslovak state had imposed upon the minds and bodies of its citizens. Moscow's aging autocrats were frightened by such notions as free speech, so went forth to overthrow his administration and impose a client regime. They were days that shook the world.

It started with what is famously known as the "Prague Spring". Dubcek launched bravely his "Action Programme" . It included:
- Complete freedom of speech and the right to criticise the government;
- Freedom of movement within Czechoslovakia and to leave Czechoslovakia;
- Freedom of association, allowing the creation of non-state authorised organisations;
- The end to arbitrary arrests, outside the rule of law;
- Liberalising government enterprises to respond to market conditions;
- Adjusting economic policy to reflect the needs of consumers as well as producers;
- Federalisation of Czechoslovakia into two states (Czech and Slovakia);
- More decision making within the Communist Party at the local level.

Now it didn't include surrendering the Communist Party monopoly on power, but it was one giant leap forward - moreso than now exists in China, and indeed Russia today.

The result was a flourishing of civil society, a new political party sprung up, and criticism appeared not only of past policies, but also the Soviet Union. The people of Czechoslovakia could express twenty years of dissent and dissatisfaction, and debate what to do next. To Leonid Brezhnev it was - how dare they! Negotiations started between Moscow and Prague about how to handle all of this, the chief concern was not to undermine the authority of the communist party. These negotiations ultimately failed, despite commitments by Dubcek to support the Warsaw Pact, it was clear he was no longer a client of Moscow. 200,000 troops entered Czechoslovakia on 20-21 August 1968 with 2,000 tanks.

72 Czechs and Slovaks were killed in the invasion and occupation. The USSR distributed an alleged "invitation to intervene" from the Czechoslovak Communist Party, since confirmed to be have been partly true in that five leading members asked Moscow to intervene. Tens of thousands fled Czechoslovakia, and the standoff with Moscow began. Dubcek was arrested and taken to Moscow, he was returned, forced to concede Soviet control and ultimately resigned the following year.

The invasion was raised at the UN Security Council, and naturally vetoed by the USSR. It caused ripples amongst communist parties worldwide. China opposed the invasion, because it was the USSR (it supported the Hungarian crackdown in 1956), but others were split. Meanwhile, after Dubcek resigned, criticism of the government became illegal once more, and passports were withheld - liberal members of the Communist Party were purged, and Czechoslovakia reverted to totalitarian Marxism Leninism, with the state controlling all, and tolerating no dissent.

The Prague Spring was a brave attempt to advance political freedom in a state that had been denied all by Soviet imperialism after World War 2. It failed, but inspired the liberalisation of the 1980s, with Mikhail Gorbachev citing it as a great example that influenced Glasnost and Perestroika.

Today of course Czechoslovakia is no more, and split into two independent states. Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia are free members of the EU and NATO, and in Prague today you can visit the Museum of Communism and learn much of the bleak life under Marxism-Leninism and the events of the Prague Spring. I visited it a few years ago, and it is a great reminder to the young of why one should be eternally vigilant for freedom. Dubcek was vindicated and became Speaker of a freely elected Czechoslovak Parliament in 1989, a role he held until he became leader of the Social Democratic Party of Slovakia and sat in the Czechoslovak Parliament in that role until he died tragically in a car accident on 7 November 1992.

Forty years ago today the flickering light of hope and freedom was crushed by Soviet tanks - it is only fitting that the people of Prague today can not only talk about it, but have that freedom and much much more. Russia perhaps should pause for a moment and reflect why Prague and Bratislava prefer to be with NATO, and note its role in this dark moment in history.

UPDATE- In the Daily Telegraph today, BBC journalist, Czechoslovakian born John Tusa recalls the events forty years ago, he was 32 then.

"On August 21, 1968, Prague Radio warned: "When you hear the national anthem, you'll know it's over." As the recording played the anthem, the sound smothered by gunfire, I wept."

Offensive but legal boobs

So the breasts will be bared. It has provoked a number of responses across the blogosphere.

Pacific Empire has understandably taken the view that it is not for the state to regulate women baring themselves. Nobody has a right to be protected from being offended. It’s a view I largely sympathise with, although I don’t see Steve Crow as a hero. He produces material that I don’t like. I’ve seen it – I once bought one of his films on pay per view with Saturn TV when I lived in Wellington – it was money spent poorly indeed. Kiwi accents, the sound of a car alarm going off in the background, off the set and clearly unplanned and distracting – it was amateur, but not in the good sense of the word.

Having said that, each to their own, but it isn’t to my taste. He has every right to produce the literature he does, and indeed it should be legal to produce literature that depicts any legal act. It isn’t at present, which makes it legal to participate in a wide range of extreme sexual activities, but not to write about it or take a photo. This is absurd. Steve Crow offends many, and his business thrives on this sort of controversy, it also thrives on those wanting to see womens’ breasts. If breasts were not seen as dirty, offensive or naughty, his business may not be as brisk.

Idiot Savant of No Right Turn on the left sees it as putting men and women on a similar footing, and a victory for freedom of speech.

As he says “ if people want to parade around topless, that's their business, and I don't see any reason why the government should give a damn

He also supports countering the event with protests, which of course is again each to their own. He says “this is a far more appropriate response than the Auckland City Council's hamfisted attempt at censorship”, and I agree. I wouldn't protest, I'd simply rather not watch.

I’m personally intrigued as to why men can bare breasts (they do have them) and enormous hairy bellies, which are far more offensive to many (not all), but women cannot bare breasts. Can someone explain that?

NZ Conservative not unexpectedly takes a difference course, seeing this is a matter of standards. A standard which treats the display of womens’ breasts as offensive – in a particular context. Lucyna says that “it draws large crowds of men to leer at topless women and because it is linked to the erotica expo, it is linked to pornography. Pornography is legal of course, although that doesn't mean you need to like it. I have mixed views about it, but I would never ban it.

Now lots of things are linked to pornography. There is a whole genre dedicated to seeing women wearing socks, not showing genitalia at all. To those fetishists women wearing socks causes them to “leer”.

She also says “Leering at topless women is using those women for your own gratification”. Leering at clothed women, or men, or animals is doing the same – and the gratification is what, smiling at something you like looking at?

So what is the problem? Is it that the women have chosen to bare their breasts? Why? Why should you care if someone wants to be leered at? People dress to be seen all the time, to be leered at and noticed. Exposing breasts is likely to provoke the natural reaction of looking, unless breasts are of no more interest than a lamppost to you.

Or is it the gratification? Should we not gain pleasure at looking at another person’s body? Why is this a bad thing? It is when it invades privacy, which is why you can’t go peeking into windows – private property rights pretty much can protect most of that, and implied privacy in contracts can as well. Is it wrong when someone sees someone they find attractive and gains “gratification” from it, as long as the other person isn’t violated? What sort of a thought crime IS this?

Now Lucyna says it affects how people relate to each other, and yes, at an extreme it can. Someone addicted to pornography or sex will be affected because they are looking for instant gratification to fulfill a “need”, but does a man seeing a woman baring her breasts willingly change how he treats other women and men? Unlikely. Even if it does, why is this a criminal matter? Advertising does this, conversations do this, literature does this.

Apparently “to reduce it down to breasts being offensive is to be narrow minded and obtuse”. Yet this is exactly what we are talking about. Men can bare themselves, and conservatives care not a jot – even though many people find it offensive and a few find it arousing. Indeed people can wear many different items of clothing that draw attention to themselves either sexually or in humour. Is making others laugh or aroused by what you wear something the law should get involved in? No. So why breasts?

Indeed, if a woman wants to flaunt her breasts in public why do others want to criminalise her for doing so? Why is her choice less legitimate than your choice to wear a burkha, or wear hotpants?

I.M Fletcher follows up saying that he doesn’t like Steve Crow. Fine, but saying “We don't want you in Auckland Steve - we don't even want you in our country.” Raises the “who is this “we”” issue. I’d rather Graham Capill was sent away, or indeed many others. In fact there are thousands upon thousands of abusive and neglectful (not criminal) parents who are far more vile than Steve Crow. I think Steve Crow is rather tasteless, but he runs a business of consenting adults, selling products to consenting adults. He isn't living off of the compulsorily acquired earnings of others, like beneficiaries or government employees or state subsidised businesses.

The law clearly appears to be that women and men can leave all of their anatomy unclothed, except their genitalia, in a public place. Some find that morally reprehensible, I find the counterfactual offensive. The appropriate responses for those who don’t like it are to:

- Turn away and avoid women they see bare breasted; and

- Peacefully protest against women being bare breasted.

Much as is the case when men show hairy beer bellies, Muslim women wear burkhas and anyone dresses in bad taste. It is not for the criminal law to dictate what people wear in public places.

I’d suggest that if anyone has children and they see a woman with bare breasts, explain the same about seeing a man showing his belly and chest, or a woman wearing tiny hotpants. It isn’t dirty or offensive “per se” but natural – it is your mind that interprets the harmlessness of the human body as being less than that. Breasts are good - and the energy spent in suppressing them and publicising this event may have been better spent focusing on something largely ignored but should be offensive to us all.

It continues to astonish me how so few point and raise awareness of this true Nazi/Stalin type horror that occurs today, given that it is only by raising this tirelessly that there is a chance it will stop.

Obama's non-supporters racist?

Tim Blair blogs on a quote that suggests that Obama isn't doing better because those not supporting him are racist. Gee, didn't see that one coming right? Journalist Ian Munro of the Age wrote this...

It’s the right question to ask: why doesn’t Obama have a much larger lead?” University of Maryland politics professor James Gimpel said yesterday. “I think the race thing is there. It has to be.”

Wrong.

Vexnews got to the heart of the matter. It appear that Age journalist Ian Munro got it badly wrong misquoting out of context what James Gimpel said. This is James Gimpel's response:

"This is a basic summary of what I said to the reporter in our phone conversation.

First of all, there is plain-and-simple partisanship. That is the foremost consideration and primary determinant of voting behavior. It is a filter through which most campaign events and activity are judged.

Second, there is race. People trust those who are like themselves. That isn’t necessarily racist in the conventional sense you mean below, it’s a matter of favoring what is familiar. How many African Americans will be choosing Obama because he is black? Probably a large share of them. But no one is likely to write a story about that.

There is a noteworthy generational resistance to Obama among older white voters — Democrats and Republicans. I don’t think they are virulently racist, but they aren’t particularly progressive in their diversity views either. Several of my own family members fit into this category, by the way.

Finally, I remarked that many people were undecided, and that these early polls should be taken lightly. Late deciders, often among the most poorly informed voters, commonly decide close elections in the U.S.

This is a bit of an irony, but it’s still true.

All best Jim G.

James G. Gimpel, Editor"

So what was Munro doing? Demonising the USA to look like half the country is virulently racist?

The truth is Obama is slightly ahead, but not much more because the country is 40% solidly Republican, Obama is perhaps the most leftwing Democratic candidate for a generation and he has significantly less experience than John McCain who is also the most socially liberal Republican candidate since Ronald Reagan.

If the Obama campaign is foolish enough to start implying those who aren't with him are racist, it could prove fatal.

Monday, August 18, 2008

At last a peace protest against Russia in NZ!

Good on Mary Wareham and the Aotearoa New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition which is going to be delivering a protest letter to the Russian Embassy in Karori.

Yes it is a protest about a particular type of weapon being used (and I recall Billy Connolly making fun of those upset about weapons of mass destruction but not so fussed about conventional weapons - because it matters when you're dead from them!) BUT it is more than what the Greens have said or indeed any other peace campaigners.

Surely the next step is to call for Russia to withdraw its advance into Georgia and for Georgia to guarantee the fair treatment of civilians in South Ossetia. Or even to condemn Russia for talking about striking Poland?

A sense of life

Just read this regularly - life is finite, bloody awful how the culmination of that comes sooner than later for some (and indeed vice versa).

However read it with joy, as someone who has a life definitely worth smiling about, but for one grossly inconvenient bother.

Kedgley says what she doesn't do

Yes, she's at it again. Whilst I agree on one level with Sue Kedgley that Transmission Gully is a waste of money, the reason she gives for opposing it is another one of her hysterical raves.

She is claiming that by the time the goldplated boondoggle is built, "oil will have increased to a point where many Wellingtonians will not be able to afford to drive on the new motorway". She of course assumes no only that oil will get that expensive, but that there wouldn't be any replacement. You see she is almost gleeful that she thinks people will have "moved beyond the private vehicle as a means of transport".

Yes, the inexorable trend of the last 80 years of people moving towards private motorised transport will be reversed. What utter nonsense.

She continues "The Government is already spending six times more on roading than it does on superior options such as rail, which are far more efficient, safe and needed than roads" Six times!! Yes well Sue, the money DOES come from road users (you always leave that one out don't you?) and roads DO go everywhere (most of the country is miles away from any railways), so half the spending on roads is maintenance. So you'd rather roads just were potholed would you? Usual Sue Kedgley mindless rants with nothing intelligent behind them.

and Sue if rail is superior, why don't you use it regularly? Why don't you get the Overlander everytime you go from Wellington to Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North or the like? Or why don't you get the ferry and the TranzCoastal to Christchurch? If it is so "superior", why do you use a car at all you hypocrite?

She talks of urgent "investment" in public transport. So go on Sue, set up your own bus company, or buy some railway carriages, if you're convinced the private motor car is doomed surely you'll make a fortune out of this "investment".

No? Oh yes it's just a lot of hypocritical hysterical nonsense isn't it?

Labour thinking about regulating franchising

Yep, ever the politician looking for something new to control, Lianne Dalziel is to launch a discussion document on regulating franchises.

Nothing like having someone who has never owned or sold a franchise thinking about regulating them.

The tribalism at the heart of Georgia vs Russia

The Guardian reports the dark local level side of this conflict - Georgians abducted and held hostage by South Ossetian militia, amid reports of it being in response to Georgians holding Ossetians.

A simple reminder that on the ground, far too much of the basis for these conflicts are knuckle dragging tribal fears - and the brutality that such brainless collectivism leads people into.

Ukraine seeks to be shielded by the West

Following on from Russia's continued uninvited military presence in Georgia, the Ukrainian government has come forth seeking to be part of the US proposed missile defence system. There can be little doubt that Ukraine has been strongly motivated by Russia, which has a base on the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine, and which has always regarded Ukraine as being "its own".

The Times reports "Ukraine is insisting the Russian military must leave Sebastopol when the lease on the base expires in 2017. The Russian navy has made it clear it may refuse to do so."

Ukraine must, of course, ensure that Russians in Ukraine enjoy the full free rights as citizens, so that claims of racism or bigotry can be avoided. To date there has been no hint that Ukraine treats Russian citizens as lesser than Ukrainians. However, Russia must also defend Ukraine's right to adopt whatever foreign policy it wishes, as long as it does not threaten Russia. Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko was nearly murdered by his Russian backed opponent - so there is little doubt that Ukraine's government fears the dead hand of the fascist bear next door.

In recent history only the mad Mao TseTung and Adolf Hitler sought to take on Russia for territorial aggrandisement. The notion that Russia's neighbours threaten it is more a fantasy dreamt up by Russian nationalists and the military than from reality. Westernised Europe would rather get on with its own affairs, as would China. It is only because the Russian military retains much Cold War era capability that it still commands strength in an economy that has until recently been incapable of sustaining it.

The Times reports Dmitri Medvedev warning it will crush anyone who moves against Russian citizens. A fair point of view in and of itself, but Russia's neighbours rightfully fear imperialism from Moscow, they have after all lived under it for between fifty and eighty years.

Even Austria's left-right coalition privatises

Austria has a grand coalition government, in that the two main parties of right and left are working together. The Social Democratic Party on the left would surely not look far out of place alongside the NZ Labour Party, and the Austrian People's Party is a conservative party of the right.

Their government has just voted to privatise the remaining state owned shares in Austrian Airlines, which is already 57% privately owned. Presumably it doesn't fear an invasion of foreigners (apparently Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines are both interested) despoiling the sovereignty of Austria.

Yet the National Party, seeking to govern alone, wont even engage on privatisation. Why is this? is it:
- The abject failure of the acolytes of privatisation to publicise its successes, demolish the arguments of its failures;
- The braindead ineptness of the mainstream media which so often parrots what politicians and lobby groups say, and rarely investigates what politicians claim unless it is about scandals and juicy titbits that have next to no impact on the general populace;
- National's complete intellectual bankruptcy, in that it doesn't have the confidence or capability to argue against the leftwing "common knowledge" about privatisation in New Zealand;
- National really having a secret agenda to privatise, because it holds the voting public in contempt - much as it did in 1990 when it promised to abolish student fees and the superannuation surtax, but really didn't intend to do so.

If it is the first two, then those of us who believe in less government need to confront, head on, the bankrupt arguments and outright distortions of the left. It means a sustained effort to be bold - it is not a task the National Party is equipped to do.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

McCarten aligns with paramilitaries and fascists

Former genius Alliance President Matt McCarten (who presided over the demise of the party from power) has sadly shown himself to be a predictable vapid cheerleader against the US government and the Georgian government in his latest article in the NZ Herald.

McCarten's thesis is rather convulated:
- Georgia starting the bombing and killing in South Ossetia (true);
- Georgia was killing Russian peacekeepers (well if you call the Russian Army, uninvited by Georgia and uninvited by the UN, peacekeepers - but Matt seems to think the UN isn't important on this one);
- Ossetians are a different culture and language, and didn't want to be in Georgia (true, but South Ossetia contained Georgians too, who Matt ignores);
- A peace agreement was reached giving South Ossetia autonomy with Russian peacekeepers (false, Georgia surrendered against strong Russian backing of South Ossetian paramilitaries, but agreed to cease fighting with a coalition of Georgian and Russian peacekeepers. Georgia retained control of some parts of South Ossetia).
- There was a wider agreement that countries bordering Russia wouldn't join NATO or allow foreign military bases on their soil (false, Ukraine already had one it is Russian)
- "American political consultants" (you know, the devil incarnate) were creating and managing "anti-Russian" parties, like the one led by Mikheil Saakashvili. Somehow this is sinister
- Saakashvili's party swept to power which is when "the real mischief began" according to Matt. Matt ignores that this happened following massive public protests against rigged elections, following many years of corrupt government that had strong military backing. He conveniently ignores that - far better that a corrupt pro-Russian government rigs elections and arrests political opponents, than a popular uprising forces its resignation;
- The US backed the new, far less corrupt, far more savoury government and provided military backing. (Shocking really, I mean Russia supporting Belarus isn't on Matt's radar) It also supported Georgian membership of NATO, surely a sinister move if ever there was one - if you support Russia.
- Georgia supported the war in Iraq. No doubt sinister as well, except when maybe you consider that Georgia is rather close to Iraq. It borders the predominantly Muslim Azerbaijan, so perhaps Georgia would have an interest in Iraq being stable and democratic - but then Matt would have preferred Saddam Hussein had stayed in power, so we know where he lies on that point.
- Georgia "provocatively" allowed "the West" to build a pipeline through Georgia between Turkey and the oil fields in the Caspian Sea. Funnily enough these oil fields are Azeri and Turkmen oil fields. Maybe Matt thinks Russia should have a monopoly on oil pipelines from its neighbours? Why does he support Russian oil companies over Western ones?
- The West allowed Kosovo to be granted independence, upsetting the Orthodox Christians in Serbia and Russia, admittedly after some years of Serbian suppression of a wide range of civil rights in Kosovo. Given Georgia did nothing of the sort in South Ossetia you might wonder why Matt thinks this justifies Russian intervention;
- Georgia's intervention in South Ossetia is "suppressing its independence movement" and to end South-Ossetia's "semi autonomy". Again, the contortions this takes by McCarten are incredible. For starters, the intervention followed some months of an internationally backed plan to grant South Ossetia full autonomy under the Georgian government. A plan opposed by Russia of course, Matt's new "victims". Some South Ossetian politicians engaged on this, others wanted to protect their arms and drug smuggling financed regime.

So having decided that the corrupt, undemocratic Georgian government before Saakashvili was "good", Saakashvili because he was US educated and backed was "bad", that Georgia choosing to allow an oil pipeline linking Turkey to Azerbaijan and other countries around the Caspian Sea justifiably "provoked Russia", that Georgia was trying to destroy the brave Ossetian people's independence - when it was actually seeking to grant legal full autonomy, and, to be fair, correctly identifying Georgia started this conflict - McCarten sees all that is going on as a grand conspiracy of the evil US privately owned mass media!!

He says "Most of the global news networks are owned and based in the US, and therefore tend to set the news agenda worldwide." This is of course rubbish, since when was Reuters, the BBC, ITN, NHK, AFP owned and based in the US. The US is important, but his vision of some grand conspiracy of privately owned news agencies is nonsense. However if he went to Russia he might find it different, but Matt is curiously silent about freedom of the press in Russia. He thinks the likes of the main US TV networks, and newspapers "become a mouthpiece for their government's policy". How utterly absurd! Since when has the US news media as a whole been favourable towards Bush?

McCarten has shown himself at best to be ignorant, about the only fact he has stated is that Georgia started the war. However he is silent on Russia's occupation of Gori, well beyond South Ossetia, its apparent bombing of a railway bridge at Kaspi also well outside South Ossetia, reports of South Ossetian paramilitaries looting Georgian homes, torching them and abducting young women after driving others out, and of course silent on Russian sabre rattling against Poland.

McCarten is just a rather vapid anti-American socialist, rubbing his hands with glee that Russia can take on any country that supports the USA. He claims to care about Ossetian independence, but ignores Georgian attempts to grant autonomy, and is naturally silent about Russia's suppression of Chechnya's independence. He prefers to align himself to the quasi-fascist militaristic Russian state, that has little free press, that does have mass media that echos the government, that runs elections that are far from free and fair, and which threatens nuclear attacks on... Poland.

Why does the mainstream media give this obvious idiot such time?

Terry Heffernan the Nat??

Seriously, this guy is a National Party candidate?

National's profile of Terry Heffernan curiously evades his chameleon like past, one that is notable in New Zealand politics for having been a candidate for five different political parties, four of which would cause serious concern about one's capability.

Terry Heffernan's political career started and was most well known in the Social Credit Political League, later the Social Credit Party. Yes the a+b theorem, Douglas Credit, loony tune, funny money, Skoda driving, grey zip-up shoe, safari suit wearing, bearded teachers and Mangaweka milkmen of Bob Jones fame. The party of nutters.

He stood in the Christchurch Central by-election in 1979 for Social Credit, the election that saw Geoffrey Palmer enter Parliament for the first time. Heffernan came second but with only 18.4% of the vote it was an smashing victory for Labour (and overwhelming embarrassment for National in third). However, Terry boxed on, he was determined to get into Parliament to spread the word of monetary reform.

He stood, not once, not twice, not three times, but four times for the Social Credit Party/Democratic Party in the seat of Wanganui. 1981, 1984, 1987, 1990. Admittedly in 1987 he came second by only 27 votes against Labour's Russell Marshall (who was paying the price for the government closing the unprofitable EastTown railway workshops) (Wanganui, like Rangitikei, East Coast Bays and Pakuranga were odd locations for the loony funny money movement to grab hold of people's brains and cast them to one side).

OK so he was with Social Credit. Stood five times with them. Surely that's enough to get the lunatic politician label? He apparently was once lader

Well in 1993 the "Democratic Party" stood Terry as Alliance candidate in Wanganui. So yes he followed the Democrats to the Alliance. The Alliance in 1993 stood for a decidedly socialist vision of New Zealand, with higher taxes, renationalisation, strong state control of the economy and to increase welfare benefits and make all education and healthcare "free".

Terry Heffernan stood a full on left wing platform. He lost against Jill Pettis.

In 1996, he decided that socialism and funny money weren't his thing, he went to NZ First. He stood in Albany for NZ First, where admittedly he came second against Murray McCully. McCully got just under 50% of the vote and Heffernan around 17%, so whilst he could claim success with Labour coming fourth, that was it. He was 28th on the NZ First list so unlikely to get far unless the party got over 20% of the vote.

Terry Heffernan stood on a platform with Winston Peters, who was campaigning spreading alarm about Asian immigration, and on an avowedly anti-privatisation, nationalist manifesto.

So, now he stands for National. National describes his past as "In a former life, Terry has been involved in active campaigning in a number of elections, coming close on more than one occasion to unseating a front-bench Labour Cabinet Minister. "

Former life? He's not reincarnated is he? He only came close on on occasion, and he ran against a front-bench National Cabinet Minister too.

So the Nats have selected a seven times failed candidate who spent most of his political career opposing National, advocating everything from funny money to socialism to anti-immigration nationalism. Yes he's been a member of the Nats for 11 years now (that's meant to give you comfort).

Will the people of Banks Peninsula boot out Ruth Dyson for this far too enthusiastic seeker of political power? I mean really, after seven tries at Parliament wouldn't you just give up and get the point?

Olympic glory for NZ and British athletes

Well it seemed bleak earlier on in the week, when Togo had a medal and New Zealand didn't, but now a more respectable 21st on the medal tally as of the time of this post shows there is some excellent talent in the NZ Olympic team. Having said that, it would be nice for them to beat North Korea which is at 20th! (Though North Korea might notice its compatriots in the south in 6th place).

The British is also doing well, now in third place! Ahead of team from Australia, Russia, Japan, Germany - all Olympic powerhouses. Quite something indeed, although the teams from USA and China remain far out ahead, and undoubtedly things could change in the week.

However one side of the Olympics I haven't missed is the inane sense of nationalism that TVNZ puts upon Olympic medals - the notion that "we won". What nonsense.

I agree with Oswald Bastable on this:

"there is the collectivist bullshit about NEW ZEALAND winning- like every fat prick in a Lazyboy had anything to do with it...It SHOULD be about individual excellence. The teams sports can generally sod off, although events like team rowing and relays should remain."

The victories are for individual athletes achieving outstanding results against the best in the world. They are not victories for nations, races, ethnic groups, states and least of all governments. New Zealanders can cheer the medalists for their success, be pleased for them and support them - but "we" did not win.

However, don't expect any politicians to understand that - expect almost all of them to want to bask in the glory that should be that of the individuals concerned. Notice the few who wont.

Greens not so green on shipping

A long time ago it used to be that when a ship from overseas sailed into New Zealand waters, it was only allowed to drop off freight that has been consigned from overseas. So, for example, if it arrived first into Auckland, then went to Napier, Wellington, Lyttelton and finally Port Chalmers, it could only offload freight to those ports, and take freight on board that it would be taking overseas again. It couldn't take freight from Auckland to Port Chalmers, for example.

That was called cabotage - it was a form of protectionism that those on the conservative right used to endorse because it protected shipping companies, and those on the left endorsed because the most leftwing (and overpaid and underworked) unions - those on the waterfront and on board ships, were also protected.

This was abolished in the late 1990s, with the main groups bemoaning it the unions, the local shipping companies and Tranz Rail. The same thing happened in the airline sector with Australia, which is why Qantas and Pacific Blue now readily fly domestic routes, to the benefit of all domestic travellers as pressure is brought to bear on price and service quality.

The benefits to shippers have been tremendous, as freight that isn't time sensitive can be placed on ships with spare capacity trekking up or down the coast as part of an international trip. It also has meant it is more viable to keep such ships going to ports at the "end" of the trip, such as Bluff.

From an environmentalist's perspective this should be seen as a win. Ships that otherwise would have burnt fuel running part empty can use this spare capacity carrying extra freight at low marginal cost, instead of being on trucks, trains or on other ships. No need for government owned infrastructure to be used, no need for services to operate specifically for such freight, the spare capacity is there, able to be used. Prices are kept low, the environment benefits, everyone wins (except those higher priced transport operators that don't get the business).

Except the Greens don't see it that way. They would rather these ships keep going from port to port carrying no domestic freight, and instead New Zealand shipping companies or Kiwirail or even truck companies put on services to carry this freight. The reason?

Unions. The maritime unions are the most militantly leftwing the country has and the Greens are rather warm towards them. The well paid jobs these mariners want to keep and grow (only unionised ones of course, the Maritime Union isn't too friendly to workers who don't like their representation) are more important to the Greens that lowering emissions in this case.

So you see the Greens prefer freight charges to go up for shippers, and for ships to operate around the coast carrying less freight, in order to protect their union mates in MUNZ. Another case of it being the Red Party rather than the Green Party?