31 July 2007

Politically correct sledgehammer

So the next time my mother enters hospital, she'll be asked:
- Has anybody hurt or threatened you?
- Have you ever felt controlled or always criticised?
- Have you been asked to do anything sexual that you didn't want to do?
Perhaps if it is asked of someone who enters hospital with injuries that could be attributed to violence then yes, but to ask every woman? What utter nonsense.
For starters, many people have had those things happen from those outside family. I've certainly felt the first a few times (threatened more than hurt, and what does "hurt" mean), and as for the third - well how many adults haven't had that?
Imagine this. A couple are being intimate, snogging, touching, playing, and one of them asks "could I insert a dildo into your bum?" the other says "no". Does this mean that the one saying no, being a woman, must report this to the hospital if she happens to be going in after having broken a leg in a skiing accident?
I understand the idea, but it must be targeted, targeted at those seen to be "at risk", not every woman.
I have another idea, let's ban all those convicted of serious violent offences from claiming welfare. Who can morally justify that, why should they live funded by others?

Nat MPs boycott junket

Refreshing it is. A schedule that is lazy as reported by the NZ Herald involving basically 5 hours work on Monday, 5 hours on Tuesday (I'm sure question time doesn't involve NZ MPs working), 6.5 hours on Wednesday (if a meeting is confirmed), 6.5 on Thursday and 1.5 hours on Friday. Staying at the Hilton (very nice) and flying Biz Class which according to Labour MP Lynne Pillay is "irrelevant".
Good, she can swap her ticket with someone who is paying for it all (a taxpayer) flying on the same flight down the back, if it is "irrelevant". Besides, most MPs have so many bloody airpoints they can use them to buy the upgrade for "free".
Good for National MPs Chris Finlayson, Chris Auchinvole and Nicky Wagner refusing to go along with it.
The problem is that most Labour MPs couldn't ever get a job to earn enough that it would pay for such a trip!

It is time to play the blame game

The CE of the National Collective of Independent Women’s Refuges, Heather Henare - regarding the abominable instances of brutal assault against children was recently in a press release saying:
"Just playing the blame game will achieve absolutely nothing. Nor will evermore punitive sanctions, which will only serve to further alienate individuals from their whanau"
Blame is an inflammatory word which means attributing responsibility, and while some are of a political bent to not ever make anyone responsible for anything (other than government or business or any group perceived as having "power") responsibility for the abuse of children lies primarily with one party.
The abuser is to blame first, and any accessory to the abuser is also culpable. Serious abusers (the systematic and brutal) should be sentenced with a permanent prohibition on having custody of children or living in the same premises as children. The real need to protect children from abuse has been distracted by campaigns for sex offender registers, plenty of abusers do not sexually offend. If you are brutal towards children you should never be allowed to live with any.
However, there is also responsibility when another adult responsible for the child does nothing. Being an accessory means doing nothing while the child is being abused, a few revel in it, many fear repercussions in confronting it or leaving. However, remaining with any person abusing your child should be considered criminal negligence, unless you report the person to the Police. In this case the Police must be effectice and competent in providing protection and apprehending suspects.
Yes, I know that some feminists will excuse this negligence by women because of fear, but frankly any mother who is so scared of someone that she simply refuses to protect her child is not worthy of the custody of that child. Who else is meant to do it? Is the state meant to monitor everyone (like Cindy Kiro seems to want)? What is being a parent about if it is not first and foremost to protect your child? When do those who peddle "no blame and no responsibility" for anyone about anything accept that there IS responsibility here? Any parent worthy of that title and certainly almost all the ones I know would sacrifice themselves to save their child's life, it is not just instinctual, it is a rational reaction to the love for that child.
Her nice words such as "We need to make sure we are not alienating whanau and that increased support goes into preventing such abuse from happening".
Oh, "alienating whanau", the only ones that should feel alienated are whanau who sit by and do nothing, who cover up for the abuse of each other, who collectively parent and hold no individual responsibility. Children are being battered, abused and killed, and she worries about upsetting people - well Heather, there is a reason for getting upset - brutality upsets and if it doesn't upset any particular whanau then what the hell are they? They are part of the problem. It is not a race issue, except that apparently more Maori abuse their children than non-Maori, and that is nobody else's fault other than the abusers. Anything else is direct denial of the facts.
The "support" needed are a combination of law enforcement, support for womens' refuges (which perform an invaluable role) and appropriate means so that abused children and adults can turn to someone to get redress. It's about breaking down the walls of large families who look after each other, including the abusers and who refuse to confront the cancer within. That refusal is costing lives, and I don't care who the hell gets upset in the process.
and Heather you're wrong when you say "people must accept violence and abuse are issues for every part of society to confront". As a collectivist, you talk about parts of society. There is a part of society that doesn't need to confront it - those of us who don't abuse. We're not the problem.
By contrast, Family First NZ (hardly an organisation I'd have much philosophical support for) has presented a programme which, on the face of it, isn't a bad start:
1. establishing a non-political Commission of Inquiry comprising community leaders who are working with at-risk families to identify causes of child abuse and effective solutions, and examining specifically the role of drug and alcohol abuse, family breakdown, race-based issues and poverty in these high rates. Well I'd want more than community leaders, I'd want some decent expertise across the intellectual, philosophical spectrum but it may be helpful;
2. an immediate increase of support and resourcing to grass-root community organisations who are working with at-risk families attempting to stop abuse in the first place - for example HIPPY Foundation, Early Start, Family Help Trust and other early childhood home-based programmes. In principle, this could be helpful too, though I'd be careful about what organisations to support, and in the longer term this should be through donation not state funding.
3. an increased investment in parenting organisations such as Parents Inc and other community based positive parenting programmes. More sceptical of this, although by donation this could also be helpful. Indeed, supporting non-partisan, secular parenting support organisations may be a far better use of taxes than welfare.
4. a media-based anti-child abuse campaign, in the same way road safety ‘shock’ campaigns are run, raising the awareness of and encouraging ‘positive’ parenting and identifying what is abuse. The UK National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children already does this, there should be the same in NZ, and people should contribute towards a fund to support this.
5. sentencing for those who abuse and kill our children to be substantially increased to provide both a deterrent and a clear message of our community’s disgust with the actions of people who abuse children. Like I've said, there should be a clear increase in sentences at the severe end of the spectrum. Recidivists should be the priority. Anyone who is convicted a second time for any violent/sexual offence against children should be considered for preventive detention or denial of custody sentencing.
There is a severe problem in New Zealand of systemic child abuse, particularly in lower income Maori families. The problem is not poverty, most poor people don't abuse their kids. There is no excuse for the vile behaviour spread across the media as of late - it's just a shame that some want to evade individual responsibility as the sole cause.

28 July 2007

David Benson Pope - good riddance

I have one simple reason for cheering this, is goes beyond the scandals behind this man, it is his sheer hypocrisy on one thing.
His press release on his resignation states "I have had more than my fair share of personal abuse and attack from the opposition, their fellow travellers and parts of the media. No one should underestimate the toll that this has on family members. I would urge opposition politicians to focus on policy not personality"
Would you David? So when you sat on the Local Government and Environment Select Committee, and taunted the Libertarianz spokesmen who were presenting a submission on the bill on dog control by saying "Why are you a party? if you believe in individualism how can you form a political party? Are you a party? Do you have any members?" constantly interrupting the submission, talking over the spokesmen attempting to answer his questions until the Chair requested that he let the spokesmen talk, were you focusing on policy not personality?
Of course not you rude prick, now fuck off you obnoxious hypocritical bully!

27 July 2007

The National Puritan Party

You can almost always rely on the National Party to roll out some do-gooding busy body who wants to regulate what people do in their privates lives.
The incessant demands for prohibition of party pills from Jacqui Dean are a tiresome example, reflecting a peculiar middle class conservative opposition to all drugs except alcohol - with a stereotype that everyone taking anything like party pills is probably poor, unemployed, in bad health, committing crimes and needing to be looked after. It also reflects an even more peculiar stereotype that banning it makes the problems lessen. The idea that, in fact, people might occasionally take certain drugs and suffer no damaging effects is about as far away from that philosophy as womens' rights are to the Taliban.
The latest campaign is the one against a teacher who, disgustingly, Katherine Rich refers to as "porn site teacher". It is pretty much a cheap shot at someone who has done nothing illegal and indeed there is barely evidence at all that he sought to do anything illegal. However, it involves sex and it involves having an unconventional sex life, so that makes this teacher fair game in the world of politics.
The facts appear to be:
  • The teacher in question posted nude pictures of himself on an online dating website. This website only allows registration of users 18 years and over. Katherine Rich calls them "hard core pornographic" involving himself and two women. Some were probably of him having a stiffie, the sort of image half the population gets to see in person most days, and a good part of the rest of the population gets to see a little less often. Other would involve him committing legal acts with the women. Nothing illegal about it, and hardly immoral given that the vast majority of the population "commits" them regularly (and the remainder usually want to). Online dating websites are NOT porn sites, though some get perilously close;
  • The only people that would get to see these photos are other adults registered on the dating website who searched for someone with the teacher's profile;
  • He sought other women to commit legal acts with, presumably consensually, although Katherine Rich has focused upon the phrase "the younger the better" to imply that he is a pedophile, or seeking underage sex. While he COULD have said 18 plus, the implication is that given it is a legal dating site, given that the dating site has strict rules about these things, that it is borderline.

The teacher appears to have committed no offences, or even attempted to do so. He has not solicited anyone underage, there is no evidence of handling illegal pornography and no evidence of any untoward activity towards students.

The Teachers Council Disciplinary Tribunal ruled that he should continue teaching, presumably because there IS insufficient evidence to support that this teacher is any more a risk than say, a quiet demure understated man who doesn't show his cock online. Indeed, an adult swinger may well be LESS of a risk than the quiet lonely male who never seems to have much of a profile. Two out of five on the tribunal dissented, but then again that is not enough to end someone's career,

The fact that the teacher's ad could be accessed by past present and future students is truly irrelevant. Are teachers meant to live an ascetic life, or maybe the National Party stereotype of heterosexual married couples breeding happily, without threesomes entering into their lives, or large age gaps?

When can people have private lives when they have committed no crime, have not even done anything sufficient to be charged of the attempt of a crime without politicians taking cheap shots?

Would I be comfortable with this teacher teaching my children (if I had any)? Well frankly, I either wouldn't know or I wouldn't care that he advertises for other women, including young legal age ones if there are NO outstanding allegations about actual behaviour towards students or sex crimes more generally. It is no different to the scaremongering over gay teachers not too long ago that implied that a gay man in front of a class of boys was probably wanting to fondle them. Does "the younger the better" mean illegal? Well, the question you have to ask is, do you want to give someone, for whom you have no other evidence, the benefit of the doubt or do you want to engage in a witch hunt?

If he had been caught asking for schoolgirls, or flirting with them, or been caught with any, then fine - this is all justified. However, there are hundreds and hundreds of teachers who, secretly, will fantasise occasionally about their students, and I mean particularly younger teachers with the oldest students. You will never know who they are, because 99% of the time you never get to know who fantasises about whom. As long as it remains so, it is nobody else's business. As long as teachers pursue sex lives that do not break the law or do not involve students, then it should not be anyone else's business.

Winston in a time warp

NZ First press releases can be funny, they read like North Korean ones at times. Statements like "New Zealand First Leader Winston Peters said today that despite misinformation campaigns being undertaken by some in the media, the fact remains that our major strategic assets and land cannot be allowed to fall into foreign control."
No Winston, a misinformation campaign is not defined as those who have a different political view of the world compared to you. "The fact remains" does not make anything a fact, it is a political point of view. What sheer utter arrogant nonsense to think that an alternative political view from Winston is not a fact, and is simply a "misinformation campaign". Colin Espiner can write what he likes, but clearly he has annoyed Winston who seeks to win votes from an anti-foreign investment line.
What's funnier though is this statement "Auckland Airport is a strategic asset. It was clearly defined as such in the coalition agreement of 1996, and nothing has happened between then and now to change its status in our view".
In the what agreement??
So the fact that:
  1. The coalition agreement terminated in force when the coalition with National broke up in 1998;
  2. The remains of that government was voted out in 1999 and remains so;
  3. The confidence and supply agreement with Labour does not cross reference the 1996 coalition agreement as a basis for policy;
  4. The coalition agreement is not the word of some sage, it's a political document of convenience.

means nothing?

Sorry Winston, reread the calendar it is 2007, not 1997.

Yes, if you had a gun and a bullet and could get away with it

you might remove these oxygen thieves from the planet as well:
and the Rotorua ones are only charged with assault, so far.
Yes I know people have abused children since time immemorial, and I know yobs have been the gutter trash of Britain for decades, but what is this culture that scares people into retaliating, the culture that denies ambulance workers the means to defend themselves?
Here's a simple response:
- If found guilty, the Rotorua accused are permanently denied custody of children;
- The yobs in Manchester are denied access to the ambulance service unless they pay the full cost.

25 July 2007

Peter Dunne does occasionally have common sense

Well, just this once.
On Auckland airport the NZ Herald quotes him saying "the sale of the airport was a matter to be sorted out by its shareholders"
Amazing Peter, such common sense!
JohnKey on the other hand is pandering to a group that Winston thrives on by saying according to the NZ Herald that "in principle he would like to see the airport remain in New Zealand hands". Fine John, you put together a consortium!
Winston meanwhile is satisfied that national security issues will be taken into account.
Of course he is pandering to the racist, bigoted, largely monolingual constituency who drag their knuckles to vote for him, because you see Dubai... well they're foreign aint they it's Iran isn't it? They want nukes and they stop girls going to school you know. They ummm are ummm Muslims u know they have beards, they're not like us, they're probably bloody terrorists those Iraqis who want our airport, they like camel riding, well I wont use the word, but you know. They have funny ways and that weird music, you know, for belly dancing and stuff. They are not like us those Arab types, they eat funny spicy food that isnt our sorta thing not like steak and chips, real tucker. you know they'll bomb our planes those Palestinians you know, they're just going to use it to train terrorists, they'll hire their own kind, they do that.. probably bring their families over and fill up our schools and hospitals then where we'll be? We fought them in Gallipoli those Turks too.
Hysteria, seen also in the Greens who say on their website that "Auckland International Airport is the single most important piece of monopoly transport infrastructure in the country".
1- It's a monopoly partly because you don't want Whenuapai developed as a competitor;
2- Given it is more important that the rail and road networks, can't we sell those too now? (foaming at the mouth foreseen) (I mean give away the rail network, since it was bought for $81,000,001.

They're taking the piss... aren't they?

What things are government good at? Solving crime? Prosecuting fraud?
No, I know - recipes!!
I kid you not. This is Nanny State par excellence.
Who has demanded this? Consumers? Well, if they have then the food industry should pay for it themselves. Surprisingly, it seems to respond to what people want.
"No Minister" calls the Ministry of Health food nazis. They are!!! When did anything delicious and desirable come out of the Ministry of Health? (besides the odd staff member) Will there be research into healthy chocolate cake? How about funding pies that are healthier? How about a nice cup of fuck off?
and by the way, just to help them out. Tomato sauce is one of the best sources of antioxidants (better than fresh tomatoes), but a lot of people already appreciate this.
A proper Minister would tell the food industry to figure out healthy chips on their own. Of course Sue Kedgley will be frothing at the mouth with excitement at the idea that the government is paying to make some food healthier - imagine a restaurant that Sue Kedgley designed recipes for, with help from the Ministry of Health. Mmmmmm NOT!

Chavez turns the screws, once more

According to the Guardian, Venezuela's soon to be dictator, Hugo Chavez has announced that any foreigners in Venezuela that "denigrate" his leadership will be deported.
He ordered cabinet ministers to monitor statements made by visitors to Venezuela and then, without a hint of irony is quoted as having said:
"How long are we going to allow a person - from any country in the world - to come to our own house to say there's a dictatorship here, that the president is a tyrant, and nobody does anything about it?"... "No foreigner, whoever he may be, can come here and attack us. Whoever comes, we must remove him from the country. Here is your bag, sir, go."
Like most socialists, Chavez makes the mistake of thinking that he is Venezuela, by saying "attack us" instead of "attack me". So if you say he's a tyrant and he acts like a tyrant then....
The Guardian also notes that this follows "an acceleration of his self-described revolution by ordering the armed services to reflect socialist values and telling education officials to purge the "perversity of capitalism" from school textbooks."
but that's ok the fawning sycophants of the self styled "liberal" western left will still say he's better than Bush.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs (you do have to wonder about that title) said "Venezuela is not moving towards an authoritarian regime. It's just that when he speaks Chávez doesn't have a pause button. These sort of remarks cause enormous misapprehension and misunderstanding but don't really represent his convictions."
So i guess the nationalisation, the closing of a TV channel and the press release about deporting foreigners critical of the regime don't really represent his convictions. However as the Council on Hemispheric Affairs treats statistics Cuba sends to the UN on its healthcare system as being fact, when there is no way for Cubans (or anyone else) to verify conditions or criticise the figures with empirical analysis), it would be fair to say that it is another sycophant of Chavez.

24 July 2007

A game

Which political party said the following? (and yes I know it is easy to search for it, but read it first and ask yourself who would probably agree with virtually all of this)
“By achieving a relatively self-sufficient economy, it is possible to greatly cut back the amount of energy and resources that are needed to provide the goods and services that people need. By using local economies and small local factories, we largely eliminate the need for transport and heavy packaging. It also becomes much easier to recycle all waste products into fresh goods, given that manufacture takes place locally and recycled materials do not need to travel far. Local economies will also provide a much fairer distribution of wealth. Enormous factories and economic outlets have a tendency to concentrate wealth into the hands of just a few people.”
“Ultimately it is quality of life that matters most. A truly localised economy, which blends the benefits of modern technology with the more friendly, quiet and socially integrated communities of yesteryear, could offer people the best of both worlds. The advantages that such a society would bring, in terms of quality of life, care for the elderly, greener and quieter surroundings, freedom from crime and traffic, better health, safety for our children”
“Empirical data show that a good supply of domestic capital is still more likely to lead to investment, as capital doesn't flow perfectly across borders (nor should it).
Dependency on foreign capital means we have to run our economy like a tart on the streets of global capitalism, always primping to be attractive for other people's money, and setting everything from interest rates to worker-protection laws to please them.
This means turning ownership, and thus control, of much of our economy to foreigners. When their economic interests coincide with ours, this is tolerable, but they often won't, and on fundamentals, they never will"

Grey grizzling anti-wog brigade and the xenophobic economic infants

You know them as NZ First and the Greens. Not PC has written well on this,
On Auckland airport, have you ever read such sheer nonsense?
The Bigoted wog haters (when has NZ First ever been positive about immigration?) talk of it being the selling of “another New Zealand plum” to a foreign owned company. What rot. The Bigoted Wog Haters could always buy it out if they wanted. “New Zealand” doesn’t own it, so stop using deceptive language that some collective entity called New Zealand has any rights to it. Anyway, what do they think Dubai Aerospace are going to do? Put rockets on it and send it to the Middle East, or destroy it? Have another sherry or five and go watch TV1 and fall asleep. This is the economic illiteracy that nearly bankrupted NZ under Muldoon.
The xenophobic economic infants are funnier still. Apparently there will be monopoly issues because of the change of ownership!! Air New Zealand will wonder what it has been going on about for years then, and I guess the Commerce Commission investigations had too many big words for the economic infants to read. Changing ownership makes NO difference. Such xenophobes rant and foam at the mouth saying “Coming on top of the attempt to buy up Tourism Holdings Limited, tourists to New Zealand could be landing at a foreign owned airport, travelling in foreign owned campervans, and visiting foreign owned iconic tourist sites and spending money which will simply go back to the overseas owners.” We'll all be branded with 666s and those foreigners will be so mean and cruel to us. I'm so scared of the foreigners, they eat babies and drink the blood of virgins! The foreigners will only hire their own kind after all, who wont spend a cent in New Zealand, but repatriate it all, they wont eat our food or rent our buildings or spend money in our shops - and then they'll stop us using the airport because monopolies like to stop people using their facilities, and then they'll buy our homes, our clothes, our children, then it will be hell, and the little elephants in the sky will land on our houses and eat gingerbread trees and...
The answer to the bigoted wog haters and the xenophobic economic infants is:
However they wont, it’s SOOO strategically important they want to stop others using their money to buy it and others to realise their investments by selling it, but like most good old socialist whingers they wont cough up a cent to risk by investment. Of course they'll blether on about "we used to own it". Oh really? Did you get dividends, vote on the directors, could you sell what you owned if you thought the management performed poorly? Of course not, you owned nothing - the state owned it and took risks with your money, and spent the dividends on what IT wanted.
Anyway that was the past. NZ First and Green party members should put together an offer and buy the strategically important and valuable Auckland airport shares, or put up and shut up.

21 July 2007

Etiquette lessons of the month

Cellphone use:

  1. Older people, mostly men. Put your cellphone in your pocket (or on your desk if you're the prat sitting 5 metres away) put it on vibrate and turn it onto silent or meeting. Many of us can tell by the fact you keep the default ringtone on, and on a loud setting, that you barely have a clue how to use this device, and more importantly you don't know how fucking annoying it is to here that ringtone time and time again. I don't want to know that your phone has rung, frankly it isn't important.
  2. Talk quietly on the phone or go away somewhere to talk on it. I have as much interest in your phone conversation as I have in the contents of your stomach. Doing this in queues is the worst thing of all, it doesn't show you're important, it shows that you are too lazy or stupid to check voicemail and can't stand not having phone calls.
  3. There is something on trains in several countries called "quiet" carriages. In those you should turn your phone on vibrate and answer it only in the vestibule. If that's too hard, don't sit in the quiet carriage. I will sarcastically tell you off if you don't obey, which is nothing compared to my desire to take your phone and break it.
  4. Women. Don't put your cellphone in your handbag on a loud ring and spend the next 5 seconds rummaging around for the infernal thing so that in the last second it is so loud we all notice. Put it somewhere else and put it on vibrate, it will make us both happier.
  5. Beep Beep Beep Beep. Similar to 1. if you're too much of a retard to change the notification for text messages to a single silent vibrate, then you don't deserve the phone. One beep will do, but beep beep.... beep beep is unnecessary and rude.
  6. Airlines. Whatever airlines choose to allow people to receive phone calls or text messages should be boycotted. The Daily Telegraph has a campaign on this. If you are on a short flight, then you can cope spending an hour or two without the world being able to reach you or vice versa. On a long flight, people are likely to sleep, work or relax, and again what the hell are you going to do differently when you're on a flight? Ryanair and Air France are keen, well I wouldn't fly Ryanair anyway as it is the airline that has done more to lower service standards than any other, and Air France is disappointing, but then it accentuates the stereotype of French rudeness.
  7. Airline passengers. For fuck's sake wait till you're through the terminal before you use it. Who the fuck cares that "I've landed" while you're standing up waiting for the front door to open? If someone is picking you up, let them use their fucking eyes and look at the arrivals screen to determine if your plane is in or not. You have to be quite an absolute cock to suddenly turn your phone on when the seatbelt sign goes off, as if you have lost oxygen and you desperately need it. If you feel like that, get help.

In short, cellphones have one main use. The ability to call someone in an emergency or for business purposes (people working remotely). The secondary use is to text messages silently. Calls received should go to voicemail and people can pick them up later. It is possible to live productively without them going off infernally in public all the time.

and don't tell me your whinge and moan story about how much business you do with your phone. Fine, great, fantastic, just don't have the conversation in my ear and turn off your fucking ring tone. Got it? If you're that clever you can put it on vibrate.

20 July 2007

Life's hard for Winston

According to the NZ Herald, Minister for Collecting Airpoints - Winston Peters doesn't think that his role is glamorous or that easy.
How sad.
He said "There are some in my office who would have me constantly sitting in meetings," ... "Some would want me reviewing policy options, Cabinet papers and the like, and there are others who would have me travelling offshore all the time."
Presumably he doesn't do most of these things, personally I think it is far safer for him to be travelling than to do anything else, particularly those retards who, according to him are in this category "Others still would want me to concentrate more on my role as Minister of Racing, or Associate Minister of Senior Citizens; and there are those who want me to do more as leader of New Zealand First."
There is no need for a Minister of Racing, or an Associate Minister of Senior Citizens, and indeed the more you do nothing as leader of New Zealand First, the less your lackeys do, because they are terrified of getting it wrong.
Keep flying Winston, New Zealand is safer when you're collecting Airpoints, and if it's all too hard then you know you can always resign. It's not like there aren't others who wouldn't have your job.

19 July 2007

Greens cuddle up to Galloway

Socialist Islamist sympathiser MP George Galloway's visit to meet the loony leftwing Residents' Action Movement (RAM) has now been backed by Keith Locke of the Greens.

Besides talking nonsense like "Locke said he understood Mr Galloway represented a constituency that had a sizeable Muslim population and they were very supportive of him during elections". As George has stood for ONE election in his constituency, and he won the seat with a majority of 823, with 35.9% of the vote. Hmmm.

He has been quoted by Stuff as saying "We are very much impressed with him in his stand on Iraq."

Which stand is that then? Is it...

saying to Saddam Hussein "Sir: I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability" which he repeatedly claims is a misquote.
or maybe his meeting with Uday Hussein reported by the Sun with photos of the video reviewing this. Given the numerous allegations around Uday murdering, torturing and raping, you have to wonder at Galloway being friendly to this late thug, and Keith Locke wanting to be associated with that (but hey, anyone who's anti American may be his friend).
Or if not Iraq, how about his support for the Syrian invasion and occupation of Lebanon reported in the Lebanon Daily Star? "Syrian troops in Lebanon maintain stability and protect the country from Israel."
or does Keith sympathise with his statement to the Guardian that "If you are asking did I support the Soviet Union, yes I did. Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life"

Nice friends he has.

17 July 2007

Debating global warming

Having pointed out that something is more tragic, deadly and important than global warming, it is important to note that it IS important to discuss, but how about answering some questions first. In order to assuage those who believe it is happening, let's assume that a human enhanced greenhouse effect is underway. Unfortunately the scientific argument on this has almost become a case of absolute belief or absolute disbelief - neither are likely to be accurate. It is difficult to deny that there is climate change happening, but it is also difficult to believe the hysteria around it and the evangelism around it. Seriously, not driving tomorrow will not make one iota of difference.
So here are questions I'd like answered.
1. What is a realistic range of costs AND benefits of global warming? Few talk about the benefits, and some will benefit. Should they pay others for those benefits, given the call for many to pay for the costs? The Stern report was hardly realistic.
2. If there are costs, who bears those, and who bears the benefits. Not glib statements about the poor and the rich, but something geographical.
3. What is the cost of measures to reduce the impact, what are the net benefits of doing so, what else could that money be used for? (e.g. the argument it is better for people to buy better health care than to spend a lot of money on reducing emissions).
4. What public policy that would improve economic outcomes and reduce emissions could be undertaken? (e.g. remove of price controls on electricity, ending subsidies for all transport modes, ending subsidies for any industrial or agricultural production).
In other words it shouldn't be about "global warming will kill us" hysteria, but a sober appreciation of steps that can be taken in the right direction of economic prosperity and reform that WILL see less waste. It is also about recognising the costs of that. My list of steps that could be taken that would not hurt economic growth, AND would reduce CO2 emissions are:
- End price control and subsidies for any part of the energy sector. If energy companies could charge as they wish, the price would go up, demand would drop and voila so would emissions. New forms of energy would be incentivised by the market to appear. It might be wind, it might be biofuel, it might be nuclear, it might be hydrogen fuel cells. However you can be sure there is no way in hell that this lot, or this lot or even this lot know what is best.
- Cease subsidising any industries. Why give preferences to any activities that use energy and are clearly less economically efficient.
- Cease subsidising breeding. End any welfare or tax credits for people who have children. The most environmentally destructive activity anyone can do is breed, so the government shouldn't incentivise it.
- Get the government out of subsidising and running transport. Ceasing subsidies for any transport, and privatise roads. You might find when people pay for what they use, more will walk and cycle, and people will drive less at peak times because road owners can charge a lot more for peak time use. Congestion would significantly reduce too.
Funnily enough the loudest advocates of doing anything for climate change want to subsidise energy, subsidise businesses, increase welfare for breeding and spend a fortune on subsidising transport that few people will use.

Greens continue to ignore Camp 22

So the Greens had a "day of action against genocide" on Bastille Day.
How absolutely disgusting.
How dare Metiria Turei claim that current policy on aborigines is akin to the Holocaust, akin to the Turkish slaughter of the Armenians, akin to the Hutu genocide against the Tutsi, akin to Saddam's slaughter of Kurds, akin to Year Zero in Cambodia (not strictly genocide, but was mass murder of people according to a stereotypical group), or even akin to policies towards Aborigines in the 19th century? She diminishes what the word "genocide" means - the deliberate or reckless killing of a large number of people of a particular ethnic group.
and how can she remain ignorant of Camp 22, No. 14 Gaechun camp, No. 18 Bukchang camp, No. 15 Yoduk camp, No. 16 Hwasong camp and No. 25 Chongjin camp - all slave labour camps, enslaving children as political prisoners? The silence from the Greens is deafening.
While you're at it, get Rodney Hide and Heather Roy to support this too, they have every reason to do so. The North Korean gulags are an atrocity that should not be tolerated in the 21st century, and we should not let concern over its nuclear weapons arsenal blind us to this. I don't expect Winston Peters to give a damn as foreign Minister, I mean honestly, you really think MFAT would dare ruffle feathers by allowing him to send a formal protest to Pyongyang about it?
More importantly, would those who proclaim NZ's "independent foreign policy" on something as virtually meaningless in real terms as nuclear armed ship visits, want to stick their neck out and have New Zealand demand the closure of North Korea's gulag? If not, why not?

Boris for Mayor of London?

I am pleased Boris Johnson is going to have a stab at being the Mayor of London. Not least because his profile gives him a chance of unseating the angry Marxist embarrassment known as Ken Livingstone. Boris is far from perfect, frequently amusing, but is bound to be better than Ken.
I have no idea what Boris would bring, other than a healthy dose of skepticism about Nanny State. After all when criticising Jamie Oliver he said "I say let people eat what they like. Why shouldn't they push pies through the railings. I would ban sweets from school - but this pressure to bring in healthy food is too much" later describing Jamie Oliver as a "national saint" and "messiah" given David Cameron's glorification of him.
I want a few things from a Johnson mayoralty - but what it boils down to is less government, less spending and more accountability.

16 July 2007

Residents Action Movement invites friend of dictators

Residents' Action Movement or RAM portrays itself as some genuine community based organisation that represents the concerns of the average Aucklander. RAM is anything but.
RAM is basically a reborn version of the Alliance, and is nothing short of foaming at the mouth raving socialists. I know this, I spoke to one prominent RAM member on the phone a few years ago who was convinced that tolling the motorway extension north of Orewa was an international capitalist conspiracy whereby Transit, the World Bank and others were going to make big money out of it. This isn't just wrong, it's delusional.
Galloway once said to Saddam Hussein "I salute you", while Iraq was occupying Kuwait. Yes, Galloway warms to peace lovers. The Guardian quotes him saying "Yes, I did support the Soviet Union, and I think the disappearance of the Soviet Union is the biggest catastrophe of my life"- that bastion of peace that invaded all of eastern europe, Afghanistan and waged proxy wars worldwide. In 1999, he met with the murderous rapist Uday Hussein and joked with him. On top of that, Galloway is anti-abortion.
Meetings are being held on 27-29 July with Galloway. Perhaps someone who cares about peace would ask him why he met Uday Hussein, and why he misses the Soviet Union, which enslaved people, denied freedom of speech and executed political opponents at will.
Galloway is a vile apologist for murderous regimes, meeting Uday for a nice talk given the numerous reports about him (including from the leftwing Guardian) is repulsive. His sympathy for the Soviet Union after all of the horrors committed by it is despicable.
It speaks volumes about RAM that it is inviting him, and I hope Aucklanders will note this when they vote later this year.

Style wins over inertia

According to the Sunday Telegraph, the Tories are further falling behind. The Conservatives are on 33% and Labour on 40%, and it is men that are ahead with Labour (11% lead among men, compared to 1% among women). It seems David Cameron has wooed women for some reason, but men are cynical about him. The Tories latest policy, tax breaks for married couples (yawn), gets 49% support and 44% opposition. The Ealing by-election next week may be another bellweather of whether the Tories have made inroads, it is a safe Labour seat that the Tories wooed as ex Labour support to be a candidate for.

Meanwhile according to the Mail on Sunday (hey the new Prince album was free with it ok?) Gordon Brown has told his Cabinet colleagues not to mention the words "Muslim" and "terrorist" in the same sentence in public. This follows the European Commission issuing guidelines for spokespeople to not use words like "jihad", "Islamic" or "fundamentalist" in association with terrorist attacks.

Orwell is alive and well. Islam is voluntary you know.

13 July 2007

BBC loves Nanny State

Today it is fat tax, yesterday it was "bored youfs commit crimes", the UK media, by and large reports both as being about problems that the government should fix. Nothing about individual responsibility at all.
The fat tax one is simple. Oxford researchers are claiming 3000 fatal heart attacks and strokes could be prevented if VAT was applied to high fat, high sugar and high salt foods (presumably this also means buying the raw ingredients even if you don't tuck into a block of sugar rolled butter ever). Blair rejected a fat tax three years ago as being "Nanny State" - amazing rush of sense. However, the BBC today jumped on this bandwagon and held interviews of those who supported the idea, and got no commentators who regarded it as ridiculous.
The basic problem is:
  1. People choose to eat unhealthy food (note that the European Commission subsidies a good deal of it, and healthy food too, but you daren't suggest that these are removed!). This is by and large because the British diet is a collection of fried, fatty, low taste, high energy, poor quality rubbish;
  2. They overindulge and get lifestyle related diseases;
  3. Their healthcare is taxpayer funded and there are no penalties or rewards for looking after yourself;
  4. Government worries about paying for it all.

People are either stupid or reckless when it comes to their health, and so the government can do nothing about this - except by tackling the problem of the NHS. Imagine if people DID pay a monthly amount to the NHS (or maybe it could be competitive) and that varied according to your blood pressure, smoking/drug habits, cholesterol and other factors that indicate objectively health risk factors. OH NO, the statists would cry - it would be SO unfair to make people who live unhealthy lifestyles PAY for the health care costs they create (and conversely reward those who present little risk). Apparently far fairer to make everyone who indulges in less healthy foods, occasional and regular eaters, pay more.

The second one was about "bored youff" (because they never existed before). The charity "4Children" said that young people get bored over the school holidays and it is EVERYONE's problem. It wants everyone to be forced to pay for government funded youth centres to fix this. The poor babies are bored. Apparently because they are bored this CAUSES them to commit crimes and be anti-social. Don't you remember being in your teens and thinking "I'm bored, I think I'll go mug someone, or burgle, or steal a car". That's right, the excuse for any teenagers committing crimes is because the government didn't make everyone else pay for a youth centre for them. 4Children also called for us all to be forced to pay for free public transport and "leisure" for under 18 year olds. Sure, let's make public transport less appealling for those who pay for it, but free leisure??

I have some suggestions:

  1. Young people today have a wide array of technology to entertain themselves. Use it. Play games, watch videos, listen to music, go online.
  2. Meet friends, socialise. Apparently young people "hanging out" is a problem, well by and large it isn't. Most don't hang out looking to mug you.
  3. Get a ball, use it. Look at what African kids do in villages with next to nothing. Why aren't they bored?
  4. When all is lost, go into your room and masturbate, or better yet, get a special friend to do that with. It doesn't spread disease or pregnancy, and it is even a form of exercise. If you don't understand what I mean, go online or see a doctor.
The BBC reported that ex loony leftwing MP Oona King said "Growing up can be tough and we are simply not doing enough to help the next generation to flourish," . Who's this "we"? My parents helped me, and both worked when I was in my mid teens - I didn't go round harassing people.
So the answer is twofold:
  1. Bored? Take responsibility for yourself. Use your brain, and that of your friends and enjoy this free leisure time. You will NEVER have so much free time in your life.
  2. Being obnoxious and criminal? Let the criminal justice system lock you up. Nobody needs you screwing up their lives and property just because you are a loser. If you're excuse for being violent to others is because you are bored, I am sure there are a nice group of people in prison who will keep you occupied or keep occupied with you.

The BIG picture lesson is - in Britain, the solution to so many problems is presented as "the government should do something". Yes it should, it should tell people to take responsibility and stop pandering to those who don't.

12 July 2007

Bureaucratic fascist agenda?

This document is very telling about the agenda of some government departments. Some of the suggestions for the Youth Parliament to debate are unsurprising (like I said before a lot are statist, because bureaucracies have a natural tendency to want to do more), but some are downright disturbing. Some are just stupid, possibly because some departments think the Youth Parliamentarians need patronising (hopefully, because if they are part of a real agenda they are ridiculous) Take the following:
The Childrens' Commissioner suggested "Abolition of any voting age, giving New Zealanders of any age the right to enrol to vote". Great, take the whole family along and make sure you bully your kids to vote the way you want.
SPARC said "a bill to ban all television broadcasting for one day a week in order to increase physical activity levels and encourage community-based activities)"!
the one that scared me the most is the single suggestion from the Ministry of Statistics:
"Should New Zealanders have a compulsory unique identifier number?"
There is only one appropriate response to that question, it goes along the lines of

Youth Parliament tells us a little about government

Can anyone tell me why observers came from a military dictatorship - Myanmar - to observe this rather peculiar activity? What could they learn that they could even talk about in Myanmar?
Why is there a Ministry of Youth Development, and how did almost everyone I know cope, grow up to be happy, healthy, productive, non-criminal adults without our parents being forced to pay for it? Maybe because our parents gave a damn, didn't get paid to give a damn, and (by and large) got things right?
What is positive about encouraging young people to think government can solve problems? Did anyone teach them that the fundamental question of government is between doing nothing and doing something, and almost everyone involved in this never asks the question "should the government back off?".
Maybe the list of topics their "select committees" considered will enlighten one as to the politics of this exercise?

1. Are we the Pacific scrooge? Why have we not met the 0.7% target for ODA? Well, it COULD have said, should the government reduce aid in favour of tax cuts and letting the private sector assist foreign countries? So this is a leftwing proposition.

2. Has the student loan system created an unfair burden for a new generation of New Zealanders? Could have said, is it fair that the general public continues to be forced to pay over 75% of the cost of university education, whether they received such an education or not, and students only pay 25%, when the average university student typically goes on to earn above the average wage? So this AGAIN is a leftwing proposition.

3. How can we keep more young people in upper secondary school, including should there be a higher leaving age and/or a minimum achievement level for leaving school? Could have been, WHY should we keep more young people in upper secondary education, when there is a substrata of around 20% who are barely literate? How could the education system better deliver outcomes tailored towards the needs of students? Not so much leftwing, but assumes the proposition is a good one.

4.How can we prevent young people joining gangs and reduce violent offending? Could simply be, how can we reduce violent offending, the notion that you can prevent gang joining is almost absurd. Not really political, only the insane could argue against violent offending.

5. Is it fair to tax under 18 year olds at the same rate as over 18 year olds? Could have said, is taxation theft (but that would be seen as "right wing" and we can't have right wing propositions can we, although we have left wing ones). Arguably left wing, as it promotes progressive taxation to some degree.

6. New Zealand roads are the leading killer of young people, what can be done? Could be, New Zealand roads are the safest they have ever been on a per vehicle km basis, what responsibilities do young people have to be accountable for the accidents they cause. Slight statist bias (not left or right wing) and feeds the road toll obsession.

7. What should the focus of our youth justice system be? Finally a truly neutral question!

8 . Should New Zealand allow the therapeutic cloning of stem cells? Also a neutral question!

9.Should Party Pills (BZP) be illegal? Again, neutral.

10. Was the National Certificate in Educational Achievement a good idea? Banal, it could be more clever as to "what would be the best way for schools to recognise educational achievement"


So all in all, the Youth Parliament had a somewhat leftwing, statist bias - why should you be surprised, it is organised by bureaucrats from a Ministry that didn't exist a few years ago (hear that John Key?)


However, check out the list of questions bureaucracies sent in for select committes. All in all, you can say the following about them (my criteria was whether the questions assumed more government intervention or whether the government had a role in the issue concerned):

ACC: balanced

ALAC: Statist (assumes state should define role of alcohol for private citizens)

Children's Commissioner: Highly Statist

Creative New Zealand: Totally Statist

Department of Corrections: Somewhat Statist (but it is a core government function)

Department of Internal Affairs: Somewhat Statist

Department of Labour: Meaningless

Families Commission: Totally Statist

Health and Disability Commissioner: Highly Statist

Health Research Council of New Zealand: Balanced

Human Rights Commission (HRC): Totally Statist, leftwing and possibly racist (Why are "Asian Immigrants" a topic?)

Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH): Highly Statist and nationalistic

Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF): Somewhat statist, slightly leftwing

MED: Slightly statist.
Ministry of Health (MoH): Slightly statist
Ministry of Transport: Slightly statist
Ministry of Women’s Affairs: Totally statist

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise: Totally statist

SPARC: Totally statist

Te Puni Kokiri: Unclear

Transit New Zealand: Somewhat statist.


The priorities of the Greens

Given my earlier post about Camp 22 in North Korea, I was heartened to see the Green Party is keen on protesting to foreign embassies.
However, it is telling that the Green Party has not written to the North Korean embassy in Canberra (which also covers New Zealand) to protest the children imprisoned in Camp 22, working dawn to dusk and beyond hours of slavery (you'd think they'd care). No, it is to protest Australian federal government treatment of Aborigines, which includes forced immunisations (which I disagree with), compulsory health checks under threat of welfare cuts (which I agree with, if you are accepting other people's money they it should be conditional) and "market rents" (horrors!).
When will the Greens start campaigning for political freedom in North Korea? Unlikely, given they link (bottom of page) to a website of one of New Zealand's "friends" of North Korea (who doesn't rock the boat by talking about difficult issues like child slavery). It would be nice if the left universally condemned this and called for action - but all they call for is nuclear disarmament and for China and the US to do the same (because you can North Korea to not keep any, given how transparent a society it is!!!).

Guilt merchants of the 21st century

Few things infuriate me more than musicians getting onto a political bandwagon that most of them know little about, with the primary goals of:

  • Assuaging their consciences for their self imposed guilt of being very wealthy;

  • Attention seeking, because it wouldn't look cool to not seem like you give a damn, raising sales of their albums as a result;

  • Telling people off for living their lives the way they choose, whilst themselves making token gestures in that direction.

Most of those doing this are either in the politically naive bracket (also known as stupid), or simply like telling others what to do. They believe that instead of simply being musicians, they have a duty to "change the world" through their messages.

It can't always be wrong. Music has a place in political dissent, when it is about fighting genuine oppression, as with totalitarian government and free speech. However, it is a fact of globalisation that it costs so little to produce music and distribute it, and audiences can be so large that musicians can make a fortune out of one album. Those musicians who performed at Live Earth are wealthy because of property rights, contracts, independent judiciaries and capitalism. They are not grateful for that. I can only assume they either feel (notice they feel more than think):

- Very lucky to be wealthy and successful (in which case if others are less lucky they might want to share their luck); or

- Know they've worked hard to be successful, but think they better support causes to encourage people to change behaviour to make the "world a better place.

Madonna's personal wealth is more than the GDP of about five countries - but for all of the socialist pontificating she's not going to give hardly any of it away. She's far too career obsessed to be a true socialist.

Most of the criticism of Live Earth has been because it was boring or the carbon footprint created by the concert. Frankly, I don't give a damn about either of those things. I didn't go, and the obsession with carbon footprints is becoming almost a religious crusade. I know someone who will give a telling off for flying instead of going by train.

The sort of guilt passed out by climate change evangelists is akin to a sort of Catholic/Protestant judgmentalism. The new sins are now:

- Flying;

- Driving;

- Leaving appliances on standby;

- Using incandescent lightbulbs;

- Not recycling all you can.

In the past you might have been pilloried for:

- Swearing;

- Having sex before marriage;

- Masturbating;

- Not going to church;

- Not standing up for elderly people on the bus;

- Getting divorced;

- Being single at age 25 for women (unless a nun), 45 for men (unless a cad or entertainer, because we all know, you know!);

- Criticising the Royal Family.

I don't know what element of humanity has this overwhelming need to judge others, to set rules and humiliate those who don't follow them. There are others of course, the obsession with judging people's lifestyle related to health is the other one. Smokers, people who eat "the wrong foods", people who don't exercise are all subject to the judgment machine.

Why isn't it a sin to tell others how to live their lives?

11 July 2007

Getting personal

Bloody 'ell...
Well it started with Maia having a bit of a rant about an employer who wouldn't allow a union to hold a meeting on the work premises. She said (sic) "Bosses are theiving parasite dogs, thieving and parasiting is how capitalism works. "
Now setting aside that this is language that was used in Maoist China, the sort used when Red Guards were lynching people. Also setting aside the second half of that sentence, which is a simplistic view of capitalism. The first half of the sentence is vile bigotry. It is akin to saying "Black people are thieves, Jews are parasites, homosexuals are child molesters". Why? Because it assumes all managers are thieves and parasites. Charming really. Some on the left might say "you can't help your race, sex, sexuality, but you can avoid being a boss". Well yes, that's the excuse given by those defending what Lenin, Stalin, Mao and all the other bloodthirsty socialists did. By saying this, she's saying that plenty of people I know, including family and friends are (sic) "theiving parasite dogs". Now she has said she means "employers", which makes it ok apparently.
Now Maia can be a Marxist as much as she likes (though she says she is not, which is a bit like saying the leader of the BNP isn't a Nazi or Rodney Hide isn't a libertarian or the ocean isn't made of water because there are other things floating in it), she's not a Marxist-Leninist (she hasn't read Lenin) she says, although she uses the language and says things like "Despite all these reservations, the Americans of the 1940s and 1950s I most admire were all in the Communist party." and then "There are two acceptable answer to the question 'Are you now or have you ever been?': 'Yes' or 'fuck off I'm not telling you'." liking Che Guevara the man who said he would have fired the Soviet missiles into the US from Cuba had they been under his control (so she likes a warmongerer, nuclear one no less!) and said Cuba should model itself on North Korea. It's her right to express her views supporting authoritarian politics. Occasionally I agree with her, like here, here, here and here. More often than not I disagree, but this isn't the point.
Clint Heine and James both disagreed and said this. Now setting aside whether she is a bludger or not (I have no idea myself), clearly they were taking the piss out of her in a very intimate way, given they think she is nuts. Now I find her comment about bosses to be vile, and I find her almost complete insensitivity to the totalitarian nightmare of communism (and those who supported it) to be inexplicable, but one of her big issues is rape. Rightly so, rape is an abomination, as are all other forms of initiated violence. I am certain both Clint Heine and James agree - it's part of their politics. Some on the left will refuse to believe that, and that is more a reflection of their own bigotry than anything else. Maia has since said "" To talk of 'fixing' a woman with a sexual act and ignore her desires is to threaten rape. I'm aware that James, and Clint had no intention of taking any action, that discussion of sexual violence is just words to them. But the effect, and the intention, is to police women's behaviour, with threats about what will happen if we don't conform." I don't believe the intention IS to "police women's behaviour", I believe if a male had said something similar there could also have made a sexual reference, and there is no intention to use force.
Unfortunately, for those imbibing on structuralist leftwing post-modernist politics, it is difficult to believe that there are people who do think that people should be left to do as they like, as long as they don't use violence or fraud against others. They believe the world is set up for men to run everything and to trivialise rape or encourage it. Funnily enough most men I know despise rape, because it IS violence, and the spinoff are women who fear men, and the extremists who apply bigotry to men as a result. The same bigotry they wouldn't tolerate towards women. There are rapists, men who want to commit rape or trivialise it - that's about as funny as trivialising murder or assault more generally.
Notwithstanding that, given her sensitivity to rape, it wasn't clever and playing the ball instead of the woman isn't something I do unless someone directly advocates violence. She wasn't being threatened with rape - she was constructing that from insults, because she assumed that was where they were coming from. She assumed it was, it wasn't intended to be. My initial response was that it was, and i was wrong. Threatening violence to solve political problems is wrong, throwing insults her way in such an intimate manner is wrong as well - but let's not forget that some of Maia's heroes are advocates of violence too.
In conclusion yes the two of them (Clint and James) were being childish, and didn't advance the core argument anywhere by taking the piss (in a way that was easily too intimate), but fueled the fires of others on the left and right. However, it doesn't excuse the McCarthyist nonsense in response (calling for a google bomb). Just because Maia chooses to be anonymous and Clint Heine doesn't does not mean that there should be a Maoist witchhunt. If she or others embark on this then frankly it shows how vindictive and abusive THEY are. I believe he did not threaten with violence, to be tried by a court of bloggers for doing so is almost as abusive and vile as anyone who DOES threaten with violence.
By the way, if Maia, Idiot Savant and others on the left think it is only women who get threatened online they should open their eyes.
I've had the following on mine:
".Hope some muslim brother blows you up in suicide bombing in London to thank you for your support of muslim cause. " as one example. I guess that's not important if you don't live in London, and think of war and terror as some far over event that is the fault of Bush and Blair - it's great comfort to those of us who daily know that we are considered legitimate targets. Initiating violence is wrong, and I have yet to see evidence that any on the libertarian "right" of the NZ blogosphere believe otherwise.
There should be no political argument that one or several people initiating violence against other individuals is wrong - but then, there is.

10 July 2007

Why Live Earth really is unimportant.

The international act of mutual onanism didn't interest me, in fact my girlfriend bought a car that day - because her access and mobility are more important than self righteous multi-millionaires (none of whom catch the tube) telling her what to do.
I thought I'd draw your attention to something else. I mean, whether or not you take a flight, or keep the TV on standby is nothing compared to this. What this describes happens every single day, yesterday, today and tomorrow - and it is telling how few really give a damn...
It's called Camp 22, it is about 500 or so square miles in size, or roughly the area of metropolitan greater Los Angeles. 50,000 people are held there. Men, women and children. Entire families, rounded up for the sin of not showing unwavering obedience to their government - this is North Korea.
Former guard Ahn Myong-Chol has reported that between 1,500 and 2,000 died annually there of malnutrition - mostly children. He remembers:
"One unforgettable image, there were two girls and they were trying to take out a piece of noodle from one polluted water pond where they put the garbage. And one guard kicked the kids into the small pond, and they drowned. The pond was very deep, and I felt really sad about that"
This is the detention center,” he said. “If someone goes inside this building, in three months he will be dead or disabled for life. In this corner they decided about the executions, who to execute and whether to make it public.
"And I heard many times that eyeballs were taken out by beating. And I saw that by beating the person, the muscle was damaged and the bone was exposed, outside, and they put salt on the wounded part. At the beginning I was frightened when I witnessed it, but it was repeated again and again, so my feelings were paralyzed. "
or how about this tale...
"At that time the tunnel was passing near the pig pen of the camp, and about 500 political prisoners were participating and there was one female named Han Jin Duk, 26 years old. I was in charge of giving food to the pigs. And my supervisor, when he saw the woman, she was beautiful. And he raped her, and he was found by the watchman officer. And he was investigated. My superior, his rank was reduced and the woman was sent to the detention center And then I didn’t see her for one year.
One day I was going to the place to load the coal, I met her. And I noticed she was exactly that woman, and I asked her, how you could survive. And she told me, that yes, I survived. But she showed me her body, and it was all burned by fire.
After six months I met her at the corn storage in Kusan district and found her putting on a used tire on her knees because her legs were cut off. Because of a coal mine wagon ran over her knees. And all she could do now was separate the corn grains from the cob.
The reason why she was forced to go to the prison is her father’s elder brother was purged at the Anbyon, Kanwhan Do province. She went when she was 5 years old. All of the family members were imprisoned. Her mother starved to death, and her brother also starved to death in the prison. I met her at age 26. So it means she was in the prison for 21 years. I think she no longer is in the world."
You see, this is why I can't get too concerned about CO2 emissions. North Korea imprisons 5 year olds and enslaves them. New Zealand has diplomatic relations with this entity, even gives it aid. An academic has a website on North Korea, but doesn't mention human rights. I guess it is inconvenient to ask about a government imprisoning, enslaving, torturing and murdering children? Now that's an "Inconvenient Truth" isn't it? However, Al Gore doesn't rally for North Korean gulags to be closed.
Shouldn't it be an international, unanimous campaign now to demand North Korea free all child political prisoners at the very least? Shouldn't Al Gore, Madonna, Bono prioritise this first? Shouldn't the so called peace movement, the so-called human rights activists and the so-called supporters of civil liberties be protesting outside North Korean embassies in Canberra, London, Paris, Stockholm and the like?
and shouldn't the numerous New Zealand sycophants of this murderous nightmare of a tyranny be held to account?
Have a look at Camp 22 on Google Earth, some high resolution images are here, and just think what matters.
UPDATE: If you give a damn about men, women and children being imprisoned and enslaved because of an accusation of not being politically obedient then go here. Hat Tip to Julian for this video showing you starkly why this matters - it matters as much as apartheid mattered - it matters as much as the Holocaust matters. LINK (Liberty in North Korea) describes itself as:
We are a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ethnic and non-religious group formed in pursuit of the following mission statement:
To educate the world about North Korea;
To advocate for human rights, political and religious freedom, and humanitarian aid for North Korea;
To protect the North Korean people where they can be reached;
To empower citizens of the world to take effective action and make a difference;
To bring together and support existing NGOs and other organizations working to achieve the same ends; and
To tell the world the truth.
North Koreans are also unfree outside the country, LINK estimates that 12,000 are slave labourers in other countries, mainly Russia, Mongolia, but also Poland and even the Czech Republic.

05 July 2007

Virgin - image vs substance

No, not virgins, so the dozens or so pervy people who are searching for something about virgins or anything but virgins, and are now disappointed can go here (R18 seriously NSFW and I'm not banned in China). I'm talking about:
Sir Richard Branson, or "Beardie" as Jeremy Clarkson likes to call him, is a great marketing man. He has built a brand image of excitement, innovation, cutting edge and being, somewhat, the outsider - the new guy who likes to shake things up. It started with Virgin Music, but has moved onto broadcasting, airlines, trains and more. My main experiences have been in travel.
Travelling on a Virgin Trains Pendolino train in first class reminds me of what the Virgin brand is about, image more than substance. The sort of style that leaves dirty teaspoons at the table, the sort of style that means sometimes you can’t get scrambled eggs with the full breakfast because the menu says fried eggs, even though the menu also says scrambled eggs with salmon ("I'll have to check with chef"). Honestly, how hard can i be for a fare that can be as high as £168 one way? Virgin has a whole range of products I have had reason to consume or deal with:
-Virgin Trains
- Virgin Atlantic Airways
- Virgin media
- Virgin radio
- Virgin mobile
My problem with the Virgin Group is not that its products are awful, mostly they are not. Sometimes it is outstanding, much of the time it is ok, sometimes it is awful. It is the inconsistency that is annoying. However what particularly irks me is Sir Richard Branson’s play with the media, and how seduced the media is by his antics. He’s very clever, the name, logo and the style and way he gets media attention is pretty clever. For years he played the underdog ticket, and still does. He played it against BA with Virgin Atlantic Airways, little guy against the big former state owned monopoly.
He has done it more recently with Virgin Media (essentially the former NTL/Telewest cable TV/broadband network here in the UK), moaning about how Sky wanted more money for Virgin Media to keep rebroadcasting content that Sky produced/commissioned/owned the rights to. Branson bleeted about being the consumer’s friend, when anyone who subscribes to Virgin Media must sign a minimum 12 month contract and has no right to use anyone else for national/international calls using the phone service. Virgin Media has lost this battle somewhat, despite slick advertising, Sky has picked up new subscribers by offering broadband as well. Style over substances hasn't really won. Virgin Media's High Definition TV offering is also style over substance, as it only relays some on demand programming and BBC's HD channel. Sky by contrast offers another 9 HD channels and video on demand. Virgin Media in its previous incarnation as NTL had shocking service. Call centres that wouldn’t answer, that weren’t helpful. Cutting off the phone even though you paid your bill because you made calls that went over the “limit” allowed, and meaning you use your mobile to call a call centre that made you wait. The public clearly are not enchanted with Virgin Media more than the previous brand, no wonder there are negotiations to sell Virgin Media.
Of the Virgin group, Virgin Radio bothers me the least. It’s ok, it’s on AM everywhere outside London (and digital radio, but I haven’t bought one of those yet) and I don’t pay for it. Virgin Records similarly is an outlet, which may or may not have what I want. Nothing special, but nothing wrong with it either. However it is owned by SMG, not Virgin Group (although retains the name/logo etc). Virgin mobile is a slightly different story, only in that the coverage of the network it is reselling in the YK (no, it doesn't have a network of its own not here or elsewhere, it resells T-Mobile's network) is inferior to Vodafone. You might notice that a lot of what Virgin does is not really about being innovative, it resells what others offer. T-Mobile is one, the trains are another (it only leases the trains bought by and financed by a rolling stock company), the cable TV service Virgin Media is, partly, another.
Virgin Atlantic Airways is something else though. On one side of the ledger are Virgin Clubhouses, outstanding airport lounges, especially the one at Heathrow. You can get massages, haircuts, the works, full cooked meals before you board the plane. On arrivals you can much the same as well. That’s brilliant, though BA does have lounges that offer a lot of the same (and when Terminal 5 opens BA may give Virgin even more a run for its money). Similarly, Virgin Upper Class sits between first and business class in terms of quality, and offers sleeper suits, on board sit down bars and massage therapists on board the plane. If you've tried Air NZ's new business class then you've experienced the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class seats (Air NZ is using them under licence). Pretty good right? Well…. it would be if the cabin crew were of a consistent standard. Virgin Atlantic clearly has, as one of its selection criteria for cabin crew, age and looks. The vast majority are relatively tall young women who look good in short skirts. While this certainly has appeal to a portion of the City Banker crowd who fly Virgin, in terms of service consistency it doesn’t really work. Virgin Atlantic crew are the spectrum, from very good to moody tarts. The ones that gossip in their regional accents swearing in the galley, and who don’t bother going out of their way to provide service. BA service tends to be more consistently good.
However, Virgin Atlantic in economy class is pretty dire. On the surface it has a handful of little extras that sound good. The inflight entertainment system, fully interactive is rather impressive, though less so now that virtually every airline outside the USA has it or is installing such systems (it is akin to the Singapore Airlines system, which is hardly a surprise as Singapore Airlines owns 49% of Virgin Atlantic). There are inflight amenity kits for economy class passengers (earplugs, eye masks, toothbrush/toothpaste) which is a nice touch. Finally there is a choice of three mains for meals. This is where substance is lacking.
The food itself is vile, bland and is rivalled by your average Tesco readymeal. Drinks are served in tiny glasses and you’ll be lucky if the drinks trolley comes round again (I didn’t get wine apparently because I needed to ask for it, so I got no drink). Once the short skirted ones (never seen a male Virgin Atlantic flight attendant, ever!) have done their jobs, they disappear and lurk in the crew quarters (which on the A340 Airbuses appear to be cunningly situated downstairs I think!). So service disappears. Then there is the seat. Virgin Atlantic squeezes lots of seats on its aircraft (all long haul) with a seat pitch of 29-31”. Want to know what that’s like?
Air NZ on a domestic 737 flight averages as slightly better, imagine that for 12 hours London-Hong Kong. Ryanair manages a similar standard. BA is a little better with a standard 31”, but Singapore Airlines and Air NZ go for 32-34” depending on aircraft type (Singapore gives more room on 777s, but Air NZ gives more on 747s). Virgin Atlantic economy truly is cattle class.
On a better note, its premium economy on the other hand has just been upgraded to new wider seats with more legroom, and from appearance looks better than Air NZ's. Finally, Virgin Atlantic had an annoying little slogan called “4 engines 4 long haul” to imply that airlines that had twin engined planes for long haul flights were less safe. Utter bollocks of course, because any modern twin engined plane can fly on one engine safely for considerable distances, and have done so across the Atlantic and between Europe and Asia for many years.
Now I come back to Virgin trains. Virgin Trains receive tens of millions of pounds of taxpayers money each year to operate trains on one of the main lines out of London to Birmingham and Manchester. These trains run one of the busiest rail routes in Britain. It is quicker by rail than by air (taking into account airport transfer and check in and luggage pickup times) and by road between those cities. Virgin trains charges up to £168 one way in first class between London and Manchester, and £109 in second class. There is a high proportion of business traffic, which explains why four out of nine carriages are first class. Virgin touts how environmentally friendly it is and all that, but wont invest in more trains without taxpayers coughing up, even though it is faster and charges a not too insignificant fare for the trips.
Furthermore it regularly fails to provide the complementary refreshments expected in first class (sorry can’t do breakfast today, the skillet is broken or the coating is worn off, or we didn’t load the eggs), and you get nothing in compensation (oops I forgot, you can apply for compensation and the onboard shop attendant refuses to accept the compensation voucher because it doesn’t have the word “Virgin” on it, and just acts like a Soviet era worker denying that it’s his fault). How about the sockets for the laptop power that don’t work, and the response is a shrug that it is a maintenance problem, presumably because Virgin doesn’t check everything to make sure the train is fully functional.
Branson of course never experiences anything like this when he takes the well publicised trips on his trains. I needn't spend much time wondering why.
Virgin group have been innovators in some senses, Virgin Atlantic was the very first airline to introduce 180 degree flat reclining seats in business class (albeit it was a clunky recliner that went all the way back in those days), and certainly helped put pressure on BA to do better, and vice versa. However, mostly, Virgin is a sexy brand name that has not much more behind it than the colours and the pazazz of Branson. Virgin Blue some years ago promised domestic flights in New Zealand. This, of course, was media bluster and wont ever happen in my view. Pacific Blue was going to slash prices to and from Australia, and it now prices hardly any differently from anyone else (and frankly, if you pay the same with Qantas, Air NZ or Emirates you can get a better seat, get fed with free drinks and entertainment).
It’s a shame really. Virgin trains are ok, but nothing special. Virgin Atlantic is pretty good up the front, but with variable service and economy class that really is scum class because of almost criminally tight seating. BA, on balance, is better in most respects. Virgin media could be really good, if it had the flexibility and helpdesk service that was better than the UK standard (which isn’t high). Such a powerful brand, and such mediocrity. It isn't a brand for grownups sadly.
UPDATE: It appears the Department for Transport has found a more grown up firm to run some of the routes Virgin Trains have been running. I mean, hot meals in first class, free wi-fi. Who'd have thought. Go Arriva!