Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Whilst most of the British media and many (but not all) switch their brains into neutral for the taxpayer funded wedding of the year, Christopher Hitchens writes that the best thing that Kate Middleton and William Wales could do is abdicate:
If you really love him, honey, get him out of there, and yourself, too. Many of us don't want or need another sacrificial lamb to water the dried bones and veins of a dessicated system. Do yourself a favor and save what you can: Leave the throne to the awful next incumbent that the hereditary principle has mandated for it.
I for one will be fleeing to the West Country to avoid the crowds, tat and banal tourism (led curiously by airhead Americans and continentals). Some, I hope, will be protesting a handful on the guest list including the following murderous scum:
- Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz (second in line to the Saudi Islamist theocracy which has intervened in Bahrain to suppress dissent and does not tolerate any basic political freedoms);
- Crown Prince of Bahrain (the regime that is turning its guns on its people).
I have nothing personally against either of them, any more than I have of any random strangers. They mean nothing to me. However, what is telling is how far too many people, who call themselves conservatives, wax lyrically about merit, about people being allowed to achieve, keep the proceeds of their success and to live their lives as they see fit. They talk of how society should mean that people can aspire and achieve, and that those who do not, should not have their lives subsidised, propped up or featherbedded at everyone else's expense.
Yet they embrace the least meritocratic, most featherbedded state institution there is - hereditary monarchism.
For a country to move beyond views of class, or even bigotry against regional accents and dialects, there needs to be a mature discussion about the future of the British "constitution". The House of Lords has been moved from a hereditary institution to a politically stacked talking shop. It would be appropriate to discuss the future of the monarchy, particularly when the future monarch does not remotely meet the test of being political neutral or impartial. Charles is a buffoon, who is not fit to be head of a book club let alone a country.
My only hesitation is the motivation of many of those who want a republic. The likelihood they would advance a constitutionally limited government is not high.
However, the reason to not proceed should not be because of any perceived merit in the status quo - for if the only reason to continue with the monarchy is because the alternative could be worse is no ringing endorsement.
So whilst the millions of airheads watch a wedding of two mediocrities in some peculiar fawning ritual, I'll be ignoring it. Although, I know many of you wont be able to resist the spectacle.
Friday, April 15, 2011
Today is one day in the year when I can always feel thankful. For it is the day that 24 million people who live in the world's largest prison are required and expected to celebrate the birthday of their dead, but still constitutionally empowered, President.
|The cold soulless omnipresent photo of Kim Il Sung|
The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (you need that name to top off the entire effect of this vile absurdity) has Kim Il Sung as "eternal President" as he lies in state at his immaculate marble and granite palace in Pyongyang. Koreans unfortunate enough to be on the northern side of the DMZ pay tribute to this wily murdering warmonger every day, bowing four times to his embalmed corpse. They all have this very photo in their homes, offices, schoolroom, looking down upon them all, everywhere. Yes Orwell was prescient.
The prisoners are all expected to give gifts, but in turn they also get small gifts for their children. They are, of course, expected to be grateful for they have "nothing to envy in the world" according to state media. However, whilst they get gifts for their children, they are not foolish - they now sell them on the black market because food rations are so meagre.
What is particularly tragic is that the country is so closed that most of the slaves actually like him. Why? Because he maintained such a totalitarian grip on media, publishing and in completely rewriting history (and removing those who inconveniently know the truth) that he has painted himself as a hero.
His tale is that he founded a revolutionary army in his teens and he led that army to defeat the Japanese and expel them from the Korean peninsula by 1945. The truth is that he led a small brigade in his late 20s who fought the Japanese in a few battles, but then fled to the Soviet Union. Korean was liberated from Japanese enslavement because the US defeated Japan, helped by Chinese partisans (nationalist and communist) and the latecomer Red Army at the last minute.
His tale is that he arrived in Pyongyang to crowds celebrating his return as a famous hero, when he was virtually unknown and installed by Stalin as a compliant local who would help mould Korea into a client state.
His tale is that the US invaded in 1950 and he and his army fought back the imperialist invasion, despite US use of biological weapons and heinous atrocities committed against Koreans. In fact, he invaded south Korea, brutally took over nearly the whole peninsula before the UN Security Council authorised a US led multilateral counteroffensive that would have defeated him, had Mao not gotten frightened by MacArthur's rhetoric and saved his skin. There is no credible evidence of biological weaponry being used in the Korean War, and tales of US atrocities are grossly and obscenely exaggerated (but not completely without foundation).
His tale is that he rebuilt the country into a workers' paradise whilst south Korea lived under the tutelage of US capitalist slavedrivers using south Koreans as subjects, oppressing them under a brutal military dictatorship. The south Korean people's single hearted desire being to reunify the country under Kim Il Sung's leadership. The truth is that while dictatorship DID reign in the south until 1988, and working conditions in the 50s and 60s were harsh, the dictatorship was nowhere near as pervasive as Kim Il Sung's. Living standards in south Korea soared since the Korean War, materially surpassed the north by the late 1960s and virtually no one in the south have any time for Kim Il Sung. He is widely hated in the south.
His tale is that he developed a unique special ideology, called Juche, which empowers humanity and has millions of followers and acolytes around the world, who look upon him as their leader, a genius, "peerlessly great man" and numerous other sycophantic titles. The truth is that he had academics concoct a contradictory and vague philosophy of isolationism, nationalism and pseudo-monarchical hypocrisy, which is virtually unknown in the world except for a strange handful of peculiar malcontents found in the likes of India, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Stoke on Trent.
His tale is that his people have nothing to envy in the world, that the world is full of famine, disease, exploitation, oppression, war, slavery, crime, depravity and death. The truth is that he has created a country that has lost millions from famine, imprisons people in their home towns, tells them where and when to work, denies them privacy at all levels, demands their constant unquestioning obedience, lies to them on a scale and extent that is almost incomprehensible (virtually nothing positive about the outside world is ever reported, and with the exception of a tiny elite, little is shown of foreign culture, news or major events - such as the moon landing).
His tale is that he has always worked long hours, tirelessly for the people, always giving them wise guidance and helping in all fields, and his knowledge and skills are unbounded in their brilliance and breadth. He being a modest man who demands little, but gives all. The truth is that he lived the life of a wealthy king with numerous well appointed palaces, food, drink, clothing and consumer goods from around the world, enjoyed his own "joy division" of especially selected beautiful young women to enjoy orgies that would make Berlusconi jealous, and by the mid 1960s had so ruthlessly purged any challenges to his rule that he could relax. All the time he called for his enslaved people to work ever harder, more tirelessly than before, filling up their "spare time" with activities either to defend the country, or extra-curricular activities for the monthly "celebrations" of him, his inarticulate playboy son, the party, the country, the army or Juche Meanwhile, there has never been room for anyone disabled in the workers' paradise.
So whilst Libyans fight to depose their megalomaniacal ruler (who has long been loved by the Kim gang), and others go about their daily life. Be grateful for a moment that you're not in a country led by a lying murdering corpse, where you can't leave, where you are denied the truth of his life and his rule and are told to sacrifice more every day and you have nothing to envy in the world.
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Taxpayers in Iceland are fed up. They have in the past year or so faced two referenda on whether they, personally, should be responsible for the costs of bailouts of depositors of privately owned Icelandic banks. Quite rightly they told the UK and Dutch governments (and the EU implicitly) to go fuck themselves.
So what is it about?
Well the Icelandic government set up a Depositors' and Investors' Guarantee for its banking sector. It was set up as a legal obligation under the European Economic Area decision to follow EU Directives on banking guarantees. In short, if Iceland wanted to maintain free access to the EU markets for its goods and services, it had to comply with EU laws demanding state guarantees for banks.
So it did. One private bank, Landsbanki set up aggressively with branches in the UK and the Netherlands, offering retail bank accounts with highly competitive interest rates. It attracted 300,000 customers in the UK and 125,000 in the Netherlands. Another bank called Kaupthing Edge was also part of the Icelandic banking boom, but for simplicity let's leave that one out for not.
The long and the short of it is that Landsbanki collapsed. It had been over leveraged with extensive foreign debt linked into banks outside Iceland. The bank was put into receivership and the Icelandic Financial Supervisory Authority declared that domestic deposit holders would be protected.
For UK depositholders the situation was clear. The UK government guaranteed them up to a relatively high limit, which meant they were safe from any risk. However, the UK government wanted this guarantee to be born by the Icelandic Depositors' and Investors' Guarantee, which was effectively bankrupt. So it confiscated the assets of Landsbanki in the UK, under anti-terrorism legislation, albeit rather late as Landsbanki had already moved most of its assets back to Iceland.
The dispute since then has been because the British government wants the Icelandic government to pay back its guarantees of British depositors. It claims that under the EEA agreement, the Icelandic government agreed to do this, which may very well be true. However, Icelandic taxpayers are not happy and don't accept it.
However, this raises the far more fundamental point - who are those who agreed to this and what right do they have to do so?
At a basic level UK and Dutch depositors took a risk in getting accounts with Landsbanki - a risk they largely unconsciously thought was not real because of national government guarantees of deposits.
The UK and Dutch governments decided to guarantee those depositors regardless of risk, and have used their taxpayers' funds to do so.
The Icelandic government signed up to certain guarantees for deposits, up to 20,000 Euro. However, there is not enough in the guarantee fund to cover this for UK and Dutch depositors. Understandably, given it is taxpayers' money, the fund has covered Icelandic depositors as a priority.
So the relevant governments argued and negotiated, but Iceland's government decided on only paying out 4% of the country's GDP to the UK and 2% to the Netherlands to pay up. Both the UK and Dutch governments refused to accept this. A new bill was submitted to the Icelandic parliament for Iceland's taxpayers to cough up 3.8 billion Euro over 14 years. They were not amused. It comes to around 12,000 Euro for every man, woman and child. They petitioned for a referendum on the matter. It was held in 2010 and 93% of Iceland's voters said no.
The reaction from the bigger countries was despicable. The Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Lord Myners (Financial Services Secretary) said they expected Iceland to meet its obligations, the Dutch Finance Minister said essentially the same. Iceland's taxpayers had said enough.
The Icelandic government negotiated another deal, spread over 30 years at an interest rate of 3%.
Iceland's voters have just rejected this once more, but with a 60% to 40% margin.
As so they should. Iceland's taxpayers primarily work in the fisheries, aluminium and manufacturing sectors. They don't see why they should be responsible for those who risked their money in a private bank they had nothing to do with. They don't see why their governments should bind them to bail out governments who decided to guarantee nationals of their countries for investment in a private bank.
They are right.
The Icelandic government should work for them. It should accept that they, as productive, hard-working people don't owe their government, let alone foreign governments, anything.
Iceland has NOT defaulted on sovereign debt, it has not got a major fiscal problem. It is not seeking a bailout because of years of socialist economics and bloated welfare.
The UK and Dutch governments should leave them alone. THEIR taxpayers should be demanding the skin of the politicians who demanded they guarantee the deposits of those willing to invest in new banks with high rates of return.
It is especially galling at a time when the UK government is quite happy to throw taxpayers money at Portugal to help bail out its fiscal incontinence.
Icelanders have told the world that they are not responsible for governments promising to use their money to rescue those who chose to invest in a privately owned bank. They are right. They shouldn't be bullied to give up their money as a result.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Nil. Indeed it may make things worse.
Nothing at all. It is because the African Union is an association of killers, rapists, thieves and scum of the earth.
The only compromise possible with murdering dictators is your own slavery. Jacob Zuma came from Tripoli having "negotiated a ceasefire" with a man who happily uses jet fighters, artillery and snipers on his own people. Why not "negotiate a ceasefire" with your next armed murderer? Or perhaps this is what crime fighting is like in South Africa.
The African Union is chaired by none other than Obiang Nguema Mbasogo - President of Equatorial Guinea, since 1979, having undertaken a coup against his insanely drug riddled murdering uncle -Macias Nguema. Equatorial Guinea has remained under the iron grip of Obiang, whilst he and his family, including his playboy son Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, enjoy the lavish wealth of one of Africa's richest oil-soaked countries, whilst most of the population remains illiterate and with a subsistence lifestyle.
The African Union has improved performance in recent years, suspending the Ivory Coast and Madagascar because of their political crises. It should do the same for Libya. The problem is Libya helps fund the kleptocratic scum and their comfy lifestyles. Zimbabwe notably has also faced no real sanctions from the African Union. It refuses to recognise the international arrest warrant that was imposed against Omar Bashir of Sudan in response to the massacred in Darfur.
In short, a club of scoundrels is not a reliable one to eject or punish one who acts as they do.
The rebels in Libya quite rightly are ignoring all of this. Jacob Zuma, who leads a country that is increasingly looking more and more like a one-party state in practice if not in law, has no standing or credibility in Libya for anyone other than Gaddafi seeking power.
Friday, April 08, 2011
The big news in the US is how the Republicans leading the House of Representatives are refusing to accept a budget that doesn't cut spending sufficiently, whereas Obama and the Democrats are portraying it as some great social mission to hit abortion and the like.
The truth is that the Republicans are doing what they were elected to do - to cut the deficit.
The proposed cuts are less than 4% of the budget deficit (2% of the total budget) according to Reason Magazine.
Consider that the UK government is seeking to abolish its structural deficit (deficit not attributed to reduced tax revenue and higher welfare spending because of recession) within five years. 4% needs to be closer to 20% to make a difference, and Obama and the Democrats wont even accept 4%.
The Cato Institute has a more ambitious plan that should be the least that is adopted, as this would abolish the budget deficit and set a path to start rolling back the US national debt, as well as lowering taxes.
The question I wonder is why anyone on the left thinks they can evade reality by building debt mountains for future generations to confront - or more importantly, why they think this is moral? Do they think "if only we could confiscate the wealth of the rich" or are they so stupid to think they can have their heads in the sand? If they "don't know any better" or are "just guessing" then it isn't good enough. If they DO want to confiscate wealth, then just admit it, and show themselves up to be the violent crooks they want to be. The same crooks that didn't want banks to collapse, didn't want motor manufacturers to collapse, didn't want ANY businesses to collapse, so used other people's money to pay for it.
Tuesday, April 05, 2011
That's if you take the latest report from INRIX and see the comparison between lower density US cities and higher density European cities, and the effect on traffic congestion.
New Geography reports that "the added annual peak hour congestion delay in the United States is roughly one-third that of Europe".
It follows a report last year that indicated that intensification of development in Sydney is exacerbating traffic congestion and local air quality. It is logical, of course, that having more people in the same area will mean even if a greater proportion don't drive that there is more traffic and more exposure to vehicle emissions.
Given the Green Party, the Auckland Council (and indeed Wellington, Christchurch, Tauranga and most other urban councils in New Zealand) and the Ministry for the Environment all endorse what is variously called "Smartgrowth" "New Urbanism" "intensification" and the like, you might wonder why they don't look at such evidence?
What it means is that the attempt to intensify Auckland's development within urban growth limits and so-called "Transit oriented development" is counterproductive. Well it would be clear if the point of intensification was clear. It isn't, you see. It isn't about reducing traffic congestion, because if that was the primary goal then a whole raft of measures would be proposed that are not about land use, but around the supply and pricing of roads. It isn't about reducing emissions, because if that was the primary goal then measures would be taken to clean up the vehicle fleet and reduce congestion. No, it is something less direct and far more utopian - it is about long term changes to the urban form of the city. I was told this directly by a manager from the MfE some years ago - it is about changing the housing and employment patterns so that - eventually - people would cluster their living near railway stations and their employment near railway stations. It is a railway fetish based on the notion that railway transport is the most economically and environmentally efficient. The problem is that a railway can't deliver this unless it moves large numbers of people regularly - in Auckland it doesn't even start to do that.
Take the Western rail line, which Auckland Transport blog reported carrying around 305,000 in the month of February 2011. Wow. Except that figures from just two years ago on the North Western Motorway, between Newton Road and St Lukes indicate 123,000 vehicles on an average weekday. With an average occupancy of say 1.2, that means around 147,000 people, per day. Even if you divide the whole of the rail patronage among weekdays only, you get 15,260 per day, just over a tenth. Bearing in mind that there are other roads carrying traffic parallel to the railway (New North Road and Great North Road), that means the railway is carrying one tenth of the people of the road.
Now the railphiles are getting all excited about record patronage of their heavily subsidised services, but ignoring the price of this. Len Brown is factually incorrect when he claims tram lines were ripped up in the 1950s so motorways could be built. In fact, tram lines were being ripped up after the war because they lost so much money it wasn't economic to replace the wornout track, so trolley buses were put in place (which in turn faced the same fate from the 1970s). The trams were owned and operated by Auckland City Council, the motorways (which didn't start getting built until after the trams were virtually all closed) by the Ministry of Works.
However, note the pattern for patronage. Rail patronage has climbed 276% between 2002 and 2010, but bus patronage only grew 8.5%. Why? Well bus patronage fell two years in a row (2004 and 2005) by a total of 10%, whilst in the same year rail went up 53%. Bus patronage dropped marginally again in 2007, but in effect by 2008 there were less trips by bus than in 2002. Bus patronage recovered almost exclusively because the North Shore busway was such a stunning success.
That doesn't mean rail hasn't attracted more than people from buses, it has generated new trips, and has no doubt taken some people out of cars - it should, it has cost taxpayers over $1 billion so far.
However, you see this is what intensification is about. It is about moving the mountain to mohammed so to speak. Most people in Auckland don't live within a coooeee of a railway station, so said Helen Clark. Building railway lines closer to them would be ridiculous (although look at the Think Big plans for the North Shore, even without the electrification opened, they want more!), but changing planning rules so that new housing is about living on top of or close to railway stations - that's what they want.
People wont divert long distances to go to a railway station, but making them live near them - that will solve the problem!! Then Auckland will be like Copenhagen or Paris or Stockholm (or whatever quaint European holiday city the fantasisers imagine Auckland could be)! The actual impact is higher housing prices, less homes that people want and worse congestion because, even if a few more people ride trains at peak times, the rest of the time almost everyone still drives.
The whole SmartGrowth, intensification policy is quasi-religious - the evidence does not demonstrate that it delivers improvements in terms of transport outcomes, let alone housing or environmental outcomes. It is simply a tool to try to make new urban railways seem more viable - but it fails on all counts.
Friday, April 01, 2011
Deep inside me there has been a burning desire to find faith and find a purpose that is beyond myself, and which goes beyond the tainted lurid pursuit of money and personal satisfaction.
I have found it, in the wisdom of the Koran.
For years I have excoriated this religion, but have been quite wrong, indeed blasphemously insulting to those who have found the voice of God through his blessed prophet the most merciful Mohammed.
As such I have decided to resign from my employment and to plan a trip to Mecca, and pursue a new career to spread the word of Allah to those who have been misguided in their ways.
For it was only the realisation of the pernicious toxin of our culture upon my heart and soul that caused me to recognise the wisdom of these teachings. You may join me in my faith, and be my brothers (sisters you should listen to your father or find a husband who will keep you on the righteous path), or you will be my enemy until you convert and see the path to glorify our short time on earth before we enter paradise.
I see all in a new light, the aural pollution of so-called "music", the visual pollution of the totems of the abandonment of the soul through reason, and the dressing of women as whores and harpies to lure men to the path of satan and attract new converts to their lives of prostitution. The relegation of the beautiful Arabic language to second place to that of the pagan languages of English, French and others, and the desecration of our holy lands by the peoples chosen to taunt us and betray us. Those who read the first and second books of the Prophet but not the latest and greatest. Their internecine wars told us all we needed to know - that there is nothing to be learned from Judaism, Christianity or atheism - except the means to defeat them all.
So on April 1 I beseech you all to read the Koran, visit a Mosque, sacrifice your mind, your life and dedicate it all to the worship of Allah, to the glory that comes from death and the celebration of the destruction of all the creations of the infidels. For if it all fails, on April 2 things may just change back!