30 November 2007

Gillian Gibbons needs peaceful Muslims to stand up

and rally to her cause. She's the teacher who let a boy suggest his own name, Mohammed, be used as a name for a teddy bear, which most in her class agreed with. For this she faces jail and 40 lashes.

She's now been charged with "insulting religion" and "inciting hatred" according to the Daily Telegraph. The Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain has fortunately been backing her saying "This is a disgraceful decision and defies common sense". Of course he's not defending her because the law is absurd and the punishment obscene, but because "There was clearly no intention on the part of the teacher to deliberately insult the Islamic faith". Presumably if she was trying to insult Islam, he'd happily see her be flogged? By contrast the "Sudanese Assembly of the Ulemas" a bunch of stoneage men believe she is part of an international conspiracy against Islam - but then again these are the same men who regard rape victims to be to anything but victims. Vile bastards to a man.

Boris Johnson, Conservative MP for Henley, who is trying to unseat Ken Livingstone as dictator for London, has said "the voices we need to hear now belong to Britain's vast, sensible Muslim majority. If British Muslims speak up decisively and loudly against this lunacy, then they can achieve two good things at once. Their arguments will be heard with respect in Khartoum, since they cannot be said to be founded on any kind of cultural imperialism, or to be actuated by Islamophobia."

Well indeed, although Johnson then slips a bit backwards saying "a strong protest by British Muslims against the imprisonment of Gillian Gibbons would help to contradict the growing ranks of pessimists and neo-cons - the people who say that the real problem is Islam, the religion itself. "

I can understand Boris saying this, and to an extent he's right - Islam as simply practised privately by consenting adults, is not a problem. People must have the right to believe whatever they wish and worship this, as long as they do not seek to initiate force against others. However, Islam as a basis for laws and the state is a problem, it is stone age. It DOES seek to initiate force against others, and more importantly enough Muslims in the West also seek to initiate force against others who insult them.

You see while Boris seeks to paint Islam as not being the problem he bemoans another fact "If you want grounds for despair, read the entries on the BBC website, in which some British Muslims say that she should be punished; or read the entries from people in Sudan saying that the children should be punished. It is tragic and incredible that we can allow people to take offence over such a simple misunderstanding. If this goes any further, it will entrench prejudice and misunderstanding. "

Frankly, such people are barbarians themselves, and this makes the point further. If there will be those who continue to think that people who do not initiate force against others deserve to have violence done to them, then they need to be criticised and outed for the fascists they are - they are no different from the likes of the BNP.

Sadly I think Boris is wrong with his last statement "But if British Muslim leaders are able to seize the opportunity and speak up for common sense, then they have a real chance to show that there is all the difference in the world between Islam and the ludicrous fanaticism that has incarcerated Gillian Gibbons." Sadly I think the difference is not that great. Most predominantly Muslim countries are full of people who wouldn't bat an eyelid at Gillian Gibbons's

UPDATE: She has been sentenced for 14 days, she wasn't even allowed her lawyers for the hearing. Stone age thugs and Damian Lanigan from the Daily Telegraph has a good comment on it all:

"Politicians have been fair game for millennia and now religions and religious people are as open to ridicule as everyone else. This is of course excellent news, and actually a mark of civilization. We all roll around in the mud together - but at the same time, we actually treat each other rather well. Is it ironic that those who profess to have powerful notions of something 'higher' can act so bestially? Or is it kind of inevitable?"

Indeed, every dictator acts in exactly the same way.

Why is SHE being charged?

My most popular recent post has been about this woman (warning link from that post is NSFW), who engaged in group sex on a hotel balcony in Latimer Square Christchurch. All consensual of course, but for some reason she has been charged but none of the men involved have been?
Now, as I've said before the only crime really is trespass - if the hotel didn't want them all doing this, then they could have told them to leave, it was private property after all. However, it is an outrage that her name is plastered over the media, whilst those men who availed themselves of the openings that she offered are anonymous and don't face legal proceedings? After all "taking part in a 45-minute group-sex session one afternoon" didn't mean masturbation did it?
She was arrested last Friday breaching her bail conditions that she not go within 100m of Latimer Square, so what pervy cops were keeping such a close eye on a young woman who, presumably, means nobody any harm (indeed quite the opposite for some)?
1. Why was she charged in the first place for doing an "indecent act" which actually is not an offence in and of itself, but is in a public place? Is the balcony of a hotel a private or a public place? Who forced anyone to look?
2. Given she has been charged, what of the the men involved? Are men immune from prosecution if they gangbang a willing teenager?
Finally, you might ask why the Police in Christchurch so eagerly jumped upon this case, so to speak, but will be apathetic about burglaries, car conversions and the like when there IS a victim.
Nice to know there is so little real crime in Christchurch.

29 November 2007

Pity Pakistan

Founded from the religious separatism, and bigotry that Jinnah inspired in the Pakistan movement, the artificial division of India into two then three states, the hundreds of thousands murdered and who died in the population transfer, as a heterogeneous India became several lands - and Pakistan and India would be antagonists, fighting over borders and Kashmir especially. It became an "Islamic Republic" ensuring that the common law legal system and criminal law it inherited from Britain would be frittered away with Islamic law and its brutal treatment of women.
So with its cold war with India, it was inevitable sadly that it would become nuclear - and so Pakistan is the only predominantly Muslim nuclear weapons state. It also is the location of not a few madrasses, teaching hatred of the West, fomenting the Islamist attitudes of anti-semitism, anti-Americanism, and anti-individualism. So letting Pakistan slide towards the sort of rule of Iran or the Taliban, would not just be scary, it would be downright dangerous.
Fortunately, the vast majority of Pakistanis are not Islamists, there is an Islamist element, but they are, by and large, moderate. So that is why having secular leaders, which has been mostly the case in recent years, is important. Unfortunately, those who Pakistan has had have either been authoritarian or grossly corrupt.
I didn't cheer the arrival of Benazir Bhutto. She may be a pin up of the left because she is a woman in a Muslim country, secular and a socialist, but her and her husband are under charges of corruption for a reason. Apparently a rather large property outside London was found that was paid for by the Pakistani government, which was allegedly for her and her husband (though she denied it), when the government was seeking to sell it off, suddenly they came out of the woodwork. Pervez Musharraf isn't so corrupt, but his state of emergency and martial law were unacceptable.
Now he has not only surrendered control of the army, but has declared the state of emergency will be over in a few weeks, with elections allowed in the New Year. That is all good, but what Pakistan needs is leadership - secular, modernising, reforming and not corrupt. India is growing enormously because it has finally unlocked the entrepreneurship of its people and its enormous market. Pakistan could share in this, if only it wasn't shackled by socialist policies that India has been throwing away, and the stifling influence of Islamism. The former needs reforms, the latter needs a serious battle against terrorism, seeking of peace with India on Kashmir, and to ensure the judiciary is fully independent, respects private property rights and contracts, and to be open. Pakistan is not Iran, but it is a long way from being a Turkey. That is the model it should be looking to follow, and if the economy is opened up, fear of terrorist attacks against Westerners reduced, then the prosperity that would arise would be a useful antidote against Islamism.
A booming Pakistan bordering Afghanistan and Iran will speak volumes, and will be our best hope that the nuclear weapons will stay in the hands of those who are sane.

28 November 2007

Hone Harawira's simple approach to life

"One media commentator told me that the difference between CNN and Al Jazeera was that “CNN films the missiles being fired from American bases and Al Jazeera films those missiles exploding in Middle Eastern communities” – a simple but powerful analogy that was easy to understand."
Yes, but who films the bombs being exploded in Middle Eastern communities by Islamist terrorists, or rockets fired by Islamists into Israeli territory? So CNN wasn't in Baghdad during the last two wars against Saddam Hussein?
In fact, where did the technology come from to allow Al Jazeera to even operate, who conceived it, who built it? Oh Hone, take your Anti-Western bigotry and your crayons and go play.

Green party faith based initiative

Ahhh the regular ballot for private member's bills has brought up one of the loony Green ones, which I already blogged about last year.
In my assessment last year the "Climate Change (Transport Funding) Bill" was the second looniest one of the lot. What does it do? Well it aims to dramatically increase the proportion of your road taxes (fuel tax, road user charges and motor vehicle licensing fees) spent on modes where the users don't pay any (or the full costs) of any contribution to that fund.
The effect of this would be to run many of the country's roads into the ground, because it would increase funding of slow modes of transport so much that it would cut significantly into the maintenance budgets for roads. Some work undertaken by Transit NZ in the early 1990s indicated that there were fuel savings/emissions savings and safety gains by maintaining roads to a high standard - something that the USA and much of the UK hasn't learnt - that would be destroyed. So this bill could be the "potholes and lower speed limits" bill.
You see the Greens see money collected from road users for roads as being money that can be pillaged to pay for their pet projects. Unhappy with a funding framework that has shifted from regarding economic efficiency as the primary criteria for funding transport projects, to a multi-faceted criteria (which they agreed with). Unhappy with a funding framework whereby the Minister can direct Land Transport NZ to spend larger amounts of money on public transport, walking, cycling and the like, now the Greens want to make it mandatory.
It is a faith based initiative.
For starters it is anti user pays. The Greens don't like road users money being spent on roads, I mean, how ludicrous that you pay for what you use? They far prefer road users spend money on other people travelling by other modes, or freight going by other modes -EVEN if the benefits to road users are less than what is spent on the subsidy.
Apparently, the travel time savings, fuel savings, safety improvements and environmental improvements from many road projects are simply ignored by the Greens, but the merits of railways and public transport simply don't need evaluating - they are good so should be funded. The Greens reject objective appraisal criteria to decide if it is better to pay for a road or a railway, because odds are the railway probably wont win, and this goes against the Green article of faith: railway good, road bad. Bus better than car, train better than bus, electric train better than diesel train.
Jeanette's complete naivety or rather, willful stupidity (as the Greens have advisors who understand the system but don't like its results) is shown in this statement
"With the cost of fuel steadily increasing, people are already seeking alternatives to using their own vehicles. It is pointless to keep pouring money into more and more new roading projects, which will only end up being very expensive white elephants."
Well actually Jeanette, if the appraisal by Land Transport NZ indicates that the projects will be little used and not worthwhile, the project wont be funded.
She waffles on: "It will also decrease the amount of freight transported on roads. Getting freight onto coastal shipping and rail has huge benefits. It gets long-haul trucks off the roads, saving fuel and reducing the amount of CO2 emissions."
Huge benefits really? That's why the shippers aren't actually choosing to do this without others subsidising them to do it? Utter drivel. If it saved so much fuel, the freight would go by the other modes, but then it isn't all about fuel Jeanette, some of us value other things too.
Finally the Green press release emits "In the 2007/08 year the National Land Transport Programme spent six times as much maintaining and expanding the road network as it did on providing more sustainable options like public transport."
Oh sounds awful, except that almost all of its funding came from road users. The faith is seen here, because public transport is "sustainable". How on earth something that requires people who don't use it to be forced to pay for it is "sustainable" takes a belief in the Green faith to cloud your mind to sustainability being about anything other than the environment. You see, nearly empty trains and buses are good, cars are bad.
Scratch the surface and you see the Greens are completely banal on transport. They treat any emissions from cars and trucks as "bad", but emissions from buses and trains as "good", because those modes CAN carry more people. The holy grail is electric transport, bikes and walking of course. The difficulty they have is threefold:
1. People make choices based on a whole host of factors. Fuel use, travel time, availability/convenience of parking/public transport, flexibility and other costs/benefits. If you don't respect that, you wont understand why you see trucks carrying freight beside railway lines, or people driving past bus stops. People make the choices best for them.
2. Oil will never "run out", at the most it will become unaffordable compared to other fuels, which are numerous. The trend to private mobility has been inexorable since the 1920s, there has been no sign of this changing, it simply changes pace.
3. Refusing to accept objective analysis that goes against their holy grail. Just because you believe it is so, doesn't mean the evidence supports you. Electric rail in Auckland will do virtually nothing to relieve traffic congestion, and cost a fortune to do it - that's a fact - along with the fact that the users will not pay any more than a small fraction of the cost to have this toy. The Wellington Inner City Bypass is another tale, a tale of constantly refusing to accept the evidence, even after the Greens changed legislation to meet their vision of the transport funding world, the project still got funded. So their own beliefs, when applied objectively, failed to be backed by evidence.
My point is simple. If fuel cell cars and trucks become economically viable within the next 10-15 years, what then is the environmental argument against them and in favour of, what is basically, collectivised transport?
The USSR restricted car ownership for control, and advanced railways over roads, for control. Is not the "if only people caught the train" mentality a weakened reflection of this failure to understand that in a free society, people often make decisions you don't think they should?

So when does my biased report become news?

New Zealand Herald reports "Wellington law researcher Moana Jackson has repeated a poll he did of 2000 Maori people in 1988 which found that Maori ranked the police 20th out of 20 occupations, and found that earlier this year the police had climbed to 11th out of 20."
Ignoring that Moana Jackson is an extreme leftwing ethnonationalist activist who believes that Maori should have a separate judicial system, no doubt even if they commit crimes against non-Maori.
After all he also said "Mr Jackson restated his 1988 analysis that high Maori crime rates could not be blamed solely on immediate factors such as poverty or dysfunctional families, but could be traced back to 167 years of dispossession and marginalisation. "If you are dispossessed, if your land is taken, if your power is denied, if your right to say things in your own way and to make sense of the world in ways that are unique to you and your history are taken away," he said, "then you are oppressed.""
It's not our fault we bash our kids, it's cuz we were, I mean are like oppressed eh man? I mean we aint allowed to say things in our own way or make sense of the world in our own way - it's rong bro, just rong. No wonder we bash our kids.
In a separate report, parking wardens undertook a poll proving that they are very popular people, who perform a task that is genuinely respected and admired, but that most of the public think they are underpaid. North Korea undertook a poll proving that Americans are the most hated people in North Korea because of the imperialist murderous tyranny they run in South Korea.

Second chance for Muslims to uphold human dignity

Of course I have these in the wrong order, but the case of the 19yo girl sentenced to 90 lashes and six months in prison in Saudi Arabia again speaks volumes about what could be called a different "civilisation".
Seven men raped her and her former boyfriend when they were in a car together, understandable since only sluts and perverts meet in a car don't they when they are not married? After all, if all the world did this it would be like the West, and we know how so few people want to emigrate to those countries don't we?
She was married, and her husband criticised the judicial system, so HER sentence went up to 200 lashes.
However, the boyfriend is getting 90 lashes too, so Saudi Arabia at least treats male and female rape victims identically - as criminals. The Nazis treated the Jews like this.
The Saudi Justice Ministry is reported as saying "The Saudi justice minister expressed his regret about the media reports over the role of the women in this case which put out false information and wrongly defend her. The charged girl is a married woman who confessed to having an affair with the man she was caught with."
No, your stone age legal system can't even distinguish between alleged criminal events and where liability stands. EVEN if we were accept your fascist law, this is what should have happened. The rapes, infidelity and meeting illegally should all have been treated as separate charges, with only the second and third cases treated together. All crimes should have been investigated thoroughly. The husband protesting the sentence should be a mitigating factor in sentencing, and the girl should NOT be punished for what HE says.
So I expect to see Muslims and "peace activists" marching the streets calling for this woman (and man) to be freed and not to be punished for this victimless crime, for them to be left well alone - but no, the former would rather get agitated about a fucking cartoon insulting their ghost, and the latter.... it's not America so they don't get excited about it.
UPDATE: So while the NZ government has expressed dismay, Helen Clark has said that "New Zealand fully respects the judicial system of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and notes that the case is still working its way through the courts". SOLO's press release on this is damning and quite right.
NZ only took a strong stance on nuclear issues and apartheid only when a government was determined to do so, governments that listen to MFAT will always be wishy washy and always want to compromise. Imagine if NZ took a strong stance against governments that punish rape victims, wouldn't you think that might do more good than waffling on about the nuclear phobia?

Chance for Muslims to stand up for human dignity

but I wont expect to see Sudanese flags burnt in the street or thousands swarming onto the streets outraged that a peaceful English woman has been arrested in Sudan for blasphemy and faces 40 lashes and 6 months in prison. I also don't expect the so called "peace movement" to campaign for her either, after all she should respect the laws of the free decolonised country she chose to move to, and be grateful the evil US imperialists haven't destroyed the beautiful culture and traditions of the place.
Her crime, she allegedly let a class of children choose to name their teddy bear Mohammed. Yes I know, this is worse than a girl being raped.
Several parents complained about this to the authorities, and like the jackbooted faith based fascists that they are, they arrested her.
According to the Daily Telegraph:
"She asked one of the female pupils to bring in a teddy bear and asked the students to name it. "They came up with eight names including Abdullah, Hassan and Mohammed," said the school’s director, Robert Boulos. Twenty of the 23 children opted for Mohammed and the toy was taken home by a different pupil each weekend to record a diary of the bear’s "activities"."
It speaks volumes of priorities in a country which ranks 141st out of 177 in development, that letting children name a teddy bear Mohammed is a reason to inflict violence upon someone. In fact, it probably reflects one of the reasons why it has such low development.
UPDATE: Substantial efforts are being made by the British government to get her released, and some statements from British Muslim representatives have indicated that this appears to be a misunderstanding and they are calling for her to be released. Apparently the Ministry of Religious Affairs in Sudan is "unhappy with the unlawful way in which she has been treated". She hasn't even been charged and she is being held in a police cell! The Daily Telegraph also reports the boy who suggested Mohammed's name did so because - it is his OWN name.

26 November 2007

A seed planted in Australian politics perhaps?

Silly me, freedom loving Australians did have an option to vote for, well in some electorates.
47 electorates had candidates for the Liberty & Democracy Party, a party that looks somewhere between ACT and Libertarianz. On top of that, LDP stood for the Senate, where there is always a far higher chance of smaller parties holding representation. In fact, all minor party Senators will be needed by Labor to get legislation through the Senate in this term.
This is the first time the party has stood for the federal elections nationwide (previously it only stood in ACT). So how did it go?
Well for a first time standing, for House of Representatives candidates, it got 0.1% of first preferences, actually about half of the votes of the redneck bigots at One Nation. Not too shabby when so much attention is given to the big two parties and a bit less to the Greens and Democrats.
For the Senate it did slightly better, with:
0.23% in ACT (the capital votes for freedom?)
0.21% in NSW
0.1% in Vic, WA and Tas
0.16% in QLD
0.12% in SA

More detailed results on Labor Party Broadcasting, I mean ABC's website here.

So, I'm hoping after this early start that the LDP in Australia can grow bigger and better. Under Labor, and with the Liberal Party in disarray, Australia could do with a decent third party of freedom as a foil to the Greens.

A constitution but...

Not PC's excellent post reminding us that government needs to be restrained by a constitution reminds me also about my wariness of the republican movement and those who talk simply about such things. Arguing about a republic and a written constitution is a bit more than simply saying it's a good idea - you have to know what the purpose of the constitution is for.
Simply codifying convention would be virtually meaningless. A constitution is a statement about the role of the state and the limits of the role of the state, and what freedoms and rights the state guarantees to its citizens. In New Zealand there are a handful of wildly disparate views of this. Think of those who, like followers of a faith, want to include the Treaty of Waitangi, assuming somehow that this will do something about the state other than accentuate ethnic division. Others will see it as a chance to enshrine not rights against people doing things to other people, but in favour of the state doing things for people. Put the Greens, Maori Party, Labour, NZ First, National and Libertarianz in the same room and you'll get very different answers - most fundamentally conflicting.
You see, this is not something that should be left to politically appointed commissions or groups of nodding heads from people who follow the same vision. It needs to be evolutionary, and indeed until politicians start respecting property rights and individual freedoms more widely, a constitution would merely entrench nanny state.
So for now, the matter of shackling the state should be a point of debate and discussion. I wouldn't give anyone on the left a chance to ever start creating a constitution worth wiping my arse on. A constitution should be about two things: What the state can't take do, and the creation, maintenance and checks and balances on that state. Unfortunately, with a Prime Minister who declares "the state is sovereign", and around five political parties happy to keep her in power, one way or another, precious little evidence of the former exists in the minds of the majority of existing MPs.

Archibishop of Canterbury no great supporter Western civilisation

According to the Sunday Times, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams has said that the US wields its power in a way that is worse than Britain during its imperial heyday.

Interviewed by a British Muslim magazine, he criticises Western civilisation saying "Our modern western definition of humanity is clearly not working very well. There is something about western modernity which really does eat away at the soul".

Continuing he says "If the soul is, to give the most minimal definition, that dimension of us which is most fundamentally in conscious relation with the Creator, then those things which speed us up and harden us are going to get in the way of the soul. We don’t know how to talk about it any longer but it is language that we still reach for." In short, it appears to be something about the pace of life getting in the way of religion. Hmmm. He doesn't seem shy about spending the fruits of hard work though.

He also says "The more our education system is dominated by functionalism, skills, productivity, and the more our whole society is determined by that kind of mythology, the harder it is for the religious voice to be heard. There is a real abrasion between lots of the forms of modernity and religion". He has a point about education being vocational not educational, but to claim that work is a mythology given HIS job as a professional proponent of mythology, is a joke. He is right there is abrasion between modernity and religion - but I would say it is reason and religion.

Meanwhile while saying that the Muslims world must acknowledge that its "political solutions were not the most impressive" we commends praying five times a day. He calls for more engagement between communities, fine in its own right, but also to, in his words "help Muslims see that "not everything about the West is destructive, secular and undermining of virtue."

Not everything no, he isn't exactly a defender of it is he?

Ah to end the links between the church and state completely!

Zimbabwe's slide to horror, as Ian Smith dies

The latest movement by Mugabe's kleptocracy is nationalisation, without compensation, of the country's mines. According to The Times, the largest mining company, ironically, is Zimplats, a subsidiary of South Africa's Impala Platinum - reaping the rewards of the ANC government's appeasement and support for Mugabe. Also facing this hteft is Rio Tinto. Of course, the appropriate response by both should be to get their workers to install explosives in the mines and blow them up. Short of sending their own mercenaries in to defend their property against Mugabe's regime, there is no alternative.
Meanwhile, Rhodesia's last leader - Ian Smith, has died in Cape Town. Mugabe's regime loathed him, in fact back when Chris Laidlaw was being NZ's sycophant to the regime Mugabe expelled Smith from the Parliament at Harare. Smith is largely seen as an unrepentant racist, who wanted to move from Empire to white supremacist rule. Certainly the now infamous acronym UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) for Rhodesia was universally condemned. Smith saw the results of decolonisation in some parts of Africa, particularly Belgian Congo, and was less than impressed. There was a strong desire for Rhodesia to gain independence, peacefully, and to retain a political system based upon what was inherited from the UK.
However, internally it was divided. The black majority saw independence elsewhere and was agitating for majority rule, the white minority feared being overwhelmed. At the time the Rhodesian Parliament's franchise for voting was dependent on income and education, much of the black population did not qualify and of those who did, many boycotted as Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo's resistance movements called on them to do so. When Smith became PM in 1964, he threw much of the black resistance movement in prison - and the next year undertook UDI. The UN Security Council condemned it, and sanctions were imposed on the newly independent Rhodesia. Smith believed it was necessary to maintain stability and had the backing of white-run South Africa, and the fascist president of Portugal, Antonio Salazar. The UK tried over many years to negotiate a way forward for Rhodesia to have universal suffrage. However, as South Africa started a process of detente with black Africa, and Salazar died allowing Portugal to decolonise and move towards liberal democracy, Rhodesia became increasingly isolated. South Africa no longer assisted in the fight against the communist black rebel movement. In 1976, Henry Kissinger told him he had to allow for universal suffrage within two years.
Smith tried, valiantly, to save Rhodesia from what he saw, rightly, though few accepted it at the time, a bleak future of rule by communist autocrats. He negotiated with Bishop Abel Muzorewa, a moderate black nationalist of the United African National Council (UANC) and ZANU, two black African parties that were not aligned with the Mugabe/Nkomo communist guerrila movement. The so called "Internal Settlement" was an attempt to achieve black majority rule peacefully. As a result, Rhodesia's first election under universal suffrage was held in 1979, with the UANC winning power. Rhodesia became Zimbabwe-Rhodesia.
However, the "Internal Settlement" still maintained 28% of Parliament chosen for almost exclusively whites only seats, with continuity of the white dominated judiciary, civil service and armed forces. While there was a vision of a transition towards broader involvement at all levels, Mugabe and Nkomo continued to fight for a revolution. Nevertheless, the election which was held was deemed to be free and fair by international observers, with a 63% turnout.
In other words, despite calls for a boycott from ZANU-PF and ZAPU, the majority voted and a majority government emerged. However, it was damned by the UN and not recognised by the UK or the US administrations.
ZANU-PF (backed by China with North Korean support) and ZAPU (backed by the USSR and its satellites) had long been fighting a civil war against the Smith regime. They had strong backing from neighbouring Marxist dominated Zambia and Mozambique. This battle was bloody, with the communist militants engaging in activities such as shooting down an airliner then summarily executing the survivors. Bloody fighting continued on both sides, until both the new Zimbabwe-Rhodesia government, ZANU-PF and ZAPU agreed to negotiate in what was known as the Lancaster conference.
The agreement was reached including much aid from British taxpayers and agreement to fund so-called land reform - or rather purchases of white owned farms to be redistributed. Mugabe, as head of ZANU(PF) became President, as Zimbabwe's freest elections ever were held in 1980, and his party came to power. He promised to maintain a private enterprise economy, but as time would tell, Mugabe was to start a slide downhill to tyranny. He talked openly of one-party rule, and Smith was ejected from Parliament when the remaining whites only seats were abolished, and as his criticisms of Mugabe's regime were tolerated less and less. The 1990 election spoke volumes, as opposition candidates were harassed, some murdered, and the President gained the right to appoint 30 MPs of his choosing. The 20,000 Ndebele massacred by Mugabe's 5th brigade in the 1980s should have warned others, but Ian Smith saw it as vindicating his opposition to black majority rule. In truth, it reflected the acceptance of the murderous thugs of ZANU-PF.
Ian Smith may seem vindicated today, he warned of Mugabe and he saw him as a "communist gangster", which he is. Mugabe seduced the international community enough in the early 80s to get power, and since then to be a more murderous, violent, corrupt and despicable leader than Smith ever was. Smith, at worst, was racist and failed to make early steps to move Rhodesia to a peaceful transition towards universal suffrage. The creation of Zimbabwe-Rhodesia was too little too late, but had it happened ten years earlier it may have seen a united government able to fight the communist militants. Indeed, one can perhaps blame the Carter, Wilson and then early Thatcher administration for not sticking by it. However Ian Smith did not bulldoze people's homes while they were in them, he didn't massacre civilians in the street, and he didn't steal millions from the state to enrich himself and his cronies. He was no hero, but history should look fonder upon him than Mugabe - they were both authoritarians of their own kind, but only one destroyed an economy, engaged in indiscriminate murder on a wide scale and halved the life expectancy of the population. Smith's biggest mistake was seeing it being a fight of race, not one of ideology.
As the Times reports, more than a few Zimbabweans say it was better under Ian Smith, and I don't mean white ones.

25 November 2007

Aussie takes a step sideways

So it's Rudd. 6.3% swing to Labor, meaning Australia was sick of Howard and despite prosperity it was looking for something more. So what'll he do?
He'll take Australian troops out of Iraq - but then, Iraq seems to be improving in any case. No doubt this wont help Australia-US relations on trade of course.
He'll soften labour laws, increasing unemployment and reducing growth - but well Labor Parties typically don't represent working people, rather trade unionists.
He'll sign Kyoto, but not much will change. After all, Australia's per capita contribution of CO2 is largely because it has very energy intensive mining industries, and the transport costs across a vast low density country are high. Peter Garrett as environment minister ought to frighten a few though.
On the bright side, the loose wheel third party of Australian politics - the Democrats - have vanished from the Senate, though largely replaced by the Greens. However, even with the Greens and renegade independent Senator Xenophon, it is still a hung Senate between that lot, and the Liberal/National coalition, with a single Family First Senator. It wont be easy to force much change through the Senate.
So a slight swing to the left, and the new Labor cabinet will learn a lot from officials in the next few weeks - about what they can't really do, or about delaying things. No doubt Helen Clark will be cheering, although Rudd is probably more conservative than John Key!
Australians voted for a new Prime Minister, but they really didn't vote for new policies. So unless Rudd has some tricks up his sleeve, it's business as usual, by and large.

23 November 2007

Us vs Them - Trotter, Marxism and what he REALLY thinks.

Not PC and Lindsay Mitchell both comment excellently on Chris Trotter's column (on Mitchell's blog), which paints an explicitly Marxist view of the debate on free speech and democracy. It is one that puts in stark reality what the view of those on the left is based on - one that should be a lesson to you all.

For Trotter it is "us" and "them". "Us" means the masses, the working classes, or as he would say those who are "obliged to earn a living by hiring ourselves out to the fortunate fifth". A view you'd find taught in Moscow 30 years ago. Those earning salaries could NEVER set up a business of their own could they? No. Indeed, those earning salaries are somehow inferior, at a disadvantage, though you might wonder if people didn't set up a business and didn't get a job, how Trotter would expect them to survive, except by the charity of others - or force (one he quite understands).

More telling is his view of "them". The "fortunate fifth". The despicable envy ridden venom for those who own more than others. You see if you save some of your salary, and set up a business, or make some investments, instead of drinking it, or spending it on consumption you are "fortunate". In the world of the Marxist success isn't something that everyone can aspire to if they work hard, apply their minds and try to get ahead - it is luck. It is clearly "luck" that such people are sought after by companies, not the fact that in most cases, hard work and intelligence get rewarded by those who value them. No, in Trotter's world it is binary.

"Them" own most things, it was luck they got it, and that is unfair isn't it? "Us", well we work for "them" increasing their wealth and they pay us a little to keep us going. See where this is heading? It is heading for the view that at the least, the state must exist to take from "them" to compensate "us" for the fact that "luck" bestowed property upon "them". At its worst it grants justification for the rivers of blood in revolution brought about by Marxists throughout the 20th century. After all, if you are taught that this is the way the world works, you might be angry and see the inequality in incomes and property as being unfair - not a simple reflection of the wide range of human abilities, intelligence, decisions made that were right and wrong, that those at either end of the "them" and "us" spectrum (rather than it being binary) may shift roles in our lives. More than one millionaire has ended up destitute or salaried, and vice versa.

For Marxists, the rich that have fallen are to be laughed at. The poor that have succeeded either better be engaging in significant amounts of charity and transfers, or are liars, cheats and have only succeeded through exploitation.

It is a fundamental bigotry against success - a bigotry that should be counter to human nature - imagine a civilisation that despises success. You don't have to imagine - go to North Korea, Cuba, look at China 1949-1979, Cambodia 1975-1979, "Myanmar", Albania 1945-1991, Romania 1947-1990, and on and on. It is a bigotry that at best stagnates and suppresses, with a little blood spilt from day to day (Cuba), at worst it murders en masse (China, Cambodia).

So this is how Trotter sees the debate - a debate about democracy. He sees democracy as only being legitimate when it grants the masses the right to say what he deems they would say if only they knew their best interests. These are leftwing views. He derides other views as those of the "owning classes". You wonder if he even thinks the "owning classes" should be allowed to participate. He knows if he said "no" he'd be walking right into the countries I listed above. After all, many communist states used the word "democratic" in their titles because they genuinely said they were "people's democracies" - "us" being represented by the communist party, in which case why represent "them" as they exploit, lie and cheat, so you only need one party to encompass the interests of "us". Trotter's view may perfectly align with the one party state.

However he isn't QUITE there yet. You see he also knows Labour swings from right to left, the 1980s being the period he despises most. He likes having the Greens and Maori Party keeping Labour honest with a leftwing perspective, and remember the Alliance which he credits as bringing Labour home. He also doesn't think you need you do away with liberal democracy to keep the left in power, you just need to regulate the expression of views of "them" by passing laws to ensure nobody can spend more money than "us" on that expression. Trotter's steady state democracy sees Labour permanently in power (pretty much), with the Greens and Maori Party keeping them there and honest. National permanently in opposition (by and large) and he'd just wish ACT would disappear, because that is "them" par excellence. He sees NZ First as representing a conservative version of "us", the one Rob Muldoon cultivated and which is long gone in National. Besides, Winston and Peter Dunne have been keeping "us" in power, so let's not get too upset (and both are one man ponies who are likely to retire in one or two elections).

Trotter also believes that, for all of his advocacy of "us" - most of "us" are really quite simple folk, bless them, salt of the earth I am sure. "Us" are easily swayed by lots of advertising, billboards, television, leaflets which advocate the election of "them", which criticises those who defend "us". In 2005 that's what happened. "Them" conspired, with a tiny religious sect (you can smell the evil), to produce billboards, leaflets and advertising that wasn't regulated or restricted enough. "Us" almost lost the election. Now "us" can't let "them" seduce the simple "us" to vote against their best interests can we? So we need a level playing field of advertising.

So the word "equality" is bandied about. Not actual equality mind you, he'd never expect Libertarianz and Labour to have the same amount of publicity - "don't be ridiculous", but enough to keep Labour and National on the same level. He says "them" want to "restrict ready access to effective mass communication technologies to people like THEMselves".

Funny how the argument to do the precise opposite is turned on its head - Marxists do that. However, his view is that such technologies aren't owned by the owners. He wants access to newspapers (which he actually has if he didn't notice it), broadcasting, forgets the internet is very much a free for all, forgets that anyone can publish leaflets, booklets and the like if they want - but hold on, what if you have MORE money. Ahhh, that's unfair. So he wants to restrict it. You see if you have the means and will to spend more money on political advertising than others, then you are one of "them" - which means you got the money from "luck" - and when you engage in politics you're ONLY going to express one political perspective.

You see, Trotter thinks "them" only want one thing - to use the state to defend the "them" and "us" system he has structured society and the economy into. So if you believe in "them" and "us" there are only two points of view. Therefore those with money want to use the state to advance themselves (ignoring that most advanced themselves in spite of the state!). We can't have the state advancing "them" can we? It's unfair. So that is why we need the EFB from his perspective.

Marxists want the EFB so "them" (people with money, who by definition got it by luck or exploitation) can't convince "us" (people without money, who are seduced by the advertising of "them" and don't know what's best for them, and who can't aspire to be one of "them", because "them" don't want it), to put "them" in power, defeating "us" (many of whom live and act like "them" but let's not mention that) in power. If "them" got in power they would use the state to make "them" richer and more powerful, and exploit "us" more and take away more of the "fair share" for "us". While "us" are in power, we'll take from "them" and look after "us". If we let "them" do as they wish, they would always be in power because most of "us" would be seduced by the advertising of "them".

It is a stark view of democracy that says most people are too stupid to know what is good for them and wont vote for their best interests, unless the views expressed at elections are in equal quantities - only then is it clear that they should vote for "us".

Arguments about freedom are meaningless in this world view. He sees those advocating freedom as "them" wanting freedom to not give "us" our share, and to exploit "us". Freedom for "us" is enough if you can protest and not get arrested, but that's it.

Of course, I wonder what category a man who has considerable access to all broadcast media and major print media would put himself in. He will claim to be one of "us", but how many of "us" have his power to influence? Or is it ok to be one of "them" in this situation. You know, a bit like how those high up the communist party would act and live like one of "them", but say if they didn't then the rest of "them" would get "us".

and in Australia, how come without such a law, it looks like "us" might beat "them"? Ah, but "them" have been in power for so long - they let "us" win for a term to remind us it's still democracy don't they?

Funny to be in the brain of a Marxist isn't it?

Australia - where shalt thou head now?

I'm glad I am unable to vote in the Australian federal elections. The choices are grim for one who believes in less government.
For starters, there is compulsory voting which does mean that those who are inert, end up taking whatever is easiest for them without being truly interested. That's the first thing that should change.
I could go on about the complications of a federal system, the preferential voting system and the like, but what this election is about is really a two party contest. The parallels between NZ and Australia are considerable. Labor vs the Liberals is not unlike Labour vs National. However, they are far from identical.
NZ Labour is further to the left, rejecting tax cuts until very recently, and clearly not as male dominated as Aussie Labor. Aussie Labor is reasonably conservative, after all Kevin Rudd does not approve of gay marriage and he's a practicing Christian. The Liberal Party isn't very at all! Howard's conservative as well. While Australia happily accepts open markets and there is little debate about the reforms of the 80s and 90s, it certainly doesn't have freedom or even liberal market attitudes expressed much politically. While NZ Labour is dominated by feminist, unionist, gay and Maori sections, Aussie Labor is a union based party with not a lot of room for the rest.
So what's up for grabs? In the Senate, 40 out of 76 seats are up for election. The Liberal/National coalition current holds a one seat majority there. Indications are that neither Labor nor the Coalition will hold a majority here, with the hotchpotch of loony minor parties holding the balance of power. In Australia this means the Greens, the Democrats (who stand for virtually nothing) and the conservative Christian Family First Party. Hmmm. nothing to cheer about there. Minor parties in Australia are all about growing the state!

In the House of Representatives all seats are up for grabs. There are 150 seats (contrast that to NZ's rather bloated 120+ Parliament notwithstanding Australia having a Senate and states). Labor needs to win 16 seats to govern in its own right.

So it is a two horse race. John Howard, PM since 1995, with the Liberal/National coalition (National being effectively the slightly more conservative rural version of Liberal), and Kevin Rudd the new more charismatic face of the Labor Party.
The issues? Well it has been the true advance auction of stolen goods, with a couple of exceptions. The Liberal promise of extensive (and welcome) tax cuts has been nearly matched by Labor (except at the top rate). Howard is also promising more labour market flexibility and streamlining of processes, while Labor is rejecting most of them. Beyond that though, both parties are promising to spend money. Some of these include:
- Liberal promise to rebate private school fees;
- Liberal promise of tax breaks for first time home buyers, childcare and supporting "carers";
- Labor promising money for 65,000 apprenticeships;
- Labor promised high speed broadband for all schools;
- Labor promised all students in their final four years at school to get access to their own computer;
- Liberal promise 50 new emergency medical centres which Labor said was its policy;
- Liberal promise of a 15% cut in CO2 emissions by 2020, Labor said 20%
- Liberal promise to spend a great deal on roads.
In other words, tweedledum, tweedledee. The real battle is one of style. John Howard looks old and from the past, the rather smart Mandarin speaking Kevin Rudd seems, like the BBC has quipped - like a younger John Howard.
So, by and large, I don't care. The worst thing that can happen under Labor is that, like in NZ, being out of power for a long time means that the harder left is more motivated to change, to tinker and grow the state. However, frankly, John Howard and the Liberal Party hardly deserve to win either. They don't deserve to be "Liberal", play ruthless political opportunism and continue to be willing to spend and waste Australians' money on pork barrel politics. Neither Liberal nor Labor want to shrink the state. Even the tax cuts are at best slowing down the growth.
Truth be told, if Howard wins it will be historic - he will beat Menzies as the longest serving Australian PM. It will also decimate Labor, which until Kevin Rudd was despondent. However, if he loses he will be doing so while Australia has a growing economy, low unemployment and a general sense of contentment. He'll lose because he's seen as yesterday's man, and Rudd as a fresh change. In fact that's all that will happen. If Labor wins, it wont be because of policy, it will be personal. It will give the unions a little back, spend a bit more, cut taxes a bit less - but pretty much not a lot will change. If it's lucky, the Liberals might grow a backbone and be against state waste and growth in bureaucracy.
The latest poll puts Labor ahead 52/48 on a two party preferred basis. The trend looks like a Labor victory, but it is up to marginal seats (and Howard's is one of those now). If Labor does win, it wont be by much, and it may not control the Senate. However, assuming the economy ticks over - Rudd may be in for the long haul, assuming his government doesn't screw it all up!
However, for a libertarian - it is next to irrelevant.

Well I'm not judgmental....

but really, do the Police have nothing better to do than arrest this woman? Surely the hotel should simply have been let to assert its property rights if it was so offended, although it is a backpacker's
With such a name ****************** one can imagine that her family are mortified that their princess is such a hedonist, and an exhibitionist one at that. I wonder whocollege produced such an angel? Assuming she wasn't a foreign backpacker, clearly tis time for her to have her OE in England where her name will open doors, as long as her accent is sufficiently refined to not betray her antipodean heritage - and such hedonistic antics are par for the course, although more discreetly undertaken, albeit sometimes in unsavoury places with the suitably titled name of dogging.
I wont laugh at her bail condition of being banned from Latimer Square, but you do have to wonder how some of those involved in this case aren't simply jealous they weren't invited to join in (discreetly of course). Bob Jones in his book of around 30 years ago talked of a case whereby a judge and Crown prosecutor called naked photography of a young (legal age) lady obscene - and quite rightly remarked that many (male) judges and virtually all (male) lawyers would jump with both boots at the chance to be involved with such a thing, as long as others, especially wives/partners never found out. A female judge of course has looked after this case and should be suitably lenient. I mean we can't have public gangbangs on verandahs in Christchurch, it wouldn't suit those from FenDALton now would it?
UPDATE: Bloody 'ell, this post is so incredibly popular, so many of you dirty buggers out there wanting news about a public teenage gangbang in Christchurch. Of course she should be left alone, as should the men involved - up to her if she wants to be a horny hedonist. However, if you're all looking for something prurient then go to (NSFW, R18) here. Sheesh.
Or indeed, that this may be her career...

22 November 2007

Tribalism of supporting the EFB

Jordan Carter's vituperative response to Garth George (who yes is largely someone I don't agree with) speaks volumes about the lack of thought when supporting your political tribe - after all, those you respect and like politically can't get it wrong. Can they?
Jordan said "The people who are trying to subvert New Zealand's democracy are the various right-wing extremists out there who are portraying perfectly reasonable changes to clean up the financing of elections as some kind of totalitarian suppression of free speech".
That includes Not PC and myself you see, both members of Libertarianz - a party that manages to campaign and stand candidates without huge amounts of money, and arguably may even benefit perversely from the EFB - why? Because if the Nats and ACT find it harder to campaign, it probably reduces SOME of the competition for votes from those who believe in less government. So we're not motivated by any self interest politically, it is a point of principle - the EFB is an abomination if you believe that peaceful people have the right to free speech.
Jordan thinks election financing needs cleaning up - but then one who stood by Labour as it used taxpayer's money to finance the pledge card, and couldn't actually blink when Labour insisted it was NOT about helping Labour get elected - has an association with the truth that is perhaps only similar to that of ardent supporters of Marxist Leninist governments. If Labour said 1 + 1 = 3, then you may wonder if he simply would believe it. If National had used government money to pay for pledge cards, you can be certain without doubt you'd never hear the end of it from the likes of him. He would, of course be right in that case too - but it is political tribalism.
He goes on "For them, freedom is the right to buy elections. Democracy is rule by the moneyed. Fairness is screwing the scrum for your own team. A level playing field is tilted at 89° with National and the forces of the right at the uphill end. Justice is making sure that there is no chance of a fair fight at the next general election."
Arrant nonsense. Buying elections is about bribery, and as has been said on more than one occasion, an election is itself an advance auction of stolen goods. Labour is very supportive of using taxpayer's money through policy to prop up businesses, and groups of individuals knowing they are more likely to vote for them. Working for Families could have been about trying to reduce poverty - but that wasn't the target, as beneficiaries pretty much sleepwalk their votes to Labour anyway. The target was swing voting families that would also be interested in a tax cut - but a tax cut was offered by National (giving people back their own money). Labour preferred to tie them in longer term by saying Labour has given you something - for being a working family, so isn't that nice? What's giving Tauranga money to fully pay for its second Harbour Bridge instead of it being a perfectly viable toll road if it ISN'T about buying the election - or rather buying the support of NZ First after the election - with taxpayers' money. Who authorised that? Doesn't matter - it's Labour (oh and National would do it too if it had to).
He claims we want rule by the moneyed (sic). So why has ACT never been in government? Why does National not win election after election, it has lost three in a row now - did Labour claim the 1999 and 2002 elections were unfair? No, just the last one when it nearly lost - as much because people liked tax cuts and straight talking about the state being colour blind, than National's electoral ads (though you have to admit, the billboards spoke volumes).
Remember also every incumbent government has an enormous advantage by using, carefully, departmental advertising budgets to promote existing policies and market how to take advantage of them - but to Jordan that isn't campaigning. Money spent advertising Working for Families in election year couldn't be, could it now?
He claims that his political tribe is so good and honest and would never ever want to tilt the playing field in their favour. However, he sees those opposing the EFB being so motivated. In short, Labour is the party of angels, and National is the party of satan. Yes, there are Nats who think the exact opposite. The truth is they are both - but tend to be dominated by one motive - getting and staying in power. Jordan is part of that, and it would be sad if it didn't affect so many people. At best it is the height of political immaturity to support your own tribe without exception, and regard the others as fundamentally evil - at worst it IS evil.
He continues "try and claim the moral mantle of those good people who were fighting for the very democracy, the very freedoms that the legislation is designed to uphold, and which were threatened by deceitful and outrageous abuses at the 2005 General Election by National and their Brethren mates? How dare they?"
How laughable, almost hilarious. The "good people" who spent taxpayers' money on a pledge card, denied it, changed the law to legalise it because "they made a mistake", which JUST happened to help them get elected. Imagine if the party I belong to made such a mistake on such a scale, could we change the law because "sorry judge, we made a mistake in interpreting it". My arse we could. Jordan doesn't like National getting more donations than Labour, pure and simple envy - because people with money are evil and just want to hurt others. The sad sad bigoted world view of the avowed Marxist, so much blood spilt in the name of that envy. Or does Jordan simply think voters are stupid and get swayed by the amount of advertising, not the content of it? The "deceit and outrageous abuses" at the very least can be thrown back at Labour too - and funnily enough even the polls seem to indicate the public don't think there has been deceit and outrageous abuses - the Nats outpoll Labour consistently, or is that the stupid voters who don't vote Labour again?
If Jordan really supports fair elections then maybe he might support the following small list of potential changes (setting aside NOT passing the EFB):
- Prohibiting ANY government department spending money on advertising or promotion in election year, given the risk it can be seen to be advocating the incumbent government;
- Privatising TVNZ, Radio NZ and Maori TV, so that the state does not have any media outlets;
- Ending state funding for broadcasting advertising, so that the two major parties don't get state sanctioned domination of political advertising on the most influential media.
Of course this wouldn't give Labour any advantage, so why support it?
Finally he says "If the Electoral Finance BIll was truly as these people describe, everyone under the sun myself included would be ripping it to shreds. But it is not! "
Well it's not totalitarianism no, but the bill does NOT ensure each of us has an equal voice. It protects the incumbent government, and continues to advantage the two major parties, and suppresses the freedom of peaceful people to campaign how they wish, and with their own money. If you want an equal voice, then use your own money, and attract it from others. If you can't get people to choose to pay for your political party and point of view in campaigning, then why suppress the right of others to do so?
Unless, of course, you're a Marxist who thinks that those who have more money than you have it unfairly or unjustly - in which case, you don't believe in freedom, and don't really believe in democracy, you think voters vote for whoever has the flashest ads, and those who spend the most at elections must be suspicious, and have bad motives. That's the bottom line philosophical difference:
- Some people believe elections are about voters making their own decision, after being bombarded with propaganda from umpteen parties. They believe voters are smart enough to know when they are getting tricked, and that a vigorous campaign means accusations from left and right against each other are out in the open. They also believe that people can choose to support and fund parties or not, and that people should neither be forced to support parties, nor suppressed from doing so. Parties may be born or die according to support. It's called freedom, and trusts that people supporting parties and voters can make their own minds up.
- Some people believe elections are dominated by big parties who have to sway a lot of rather stupid, kneejerk reacting ordinary people to give them their vote. They think the average voter is pretty dumb, largely votes according to the loudest message and biggest spin seen in propaganda, not voting on self interest or belief in policies or the integrity or likeability about candidates. They don't think voters can be trusted to sift through all that parties might say. They also believe parties are good in their own right, so essential to government that everyone should be forced to pay for political parties, and their propaganda - especially the bigger ones. They think election should be about different playing fields for different parties - they talk about fairness, but think Labour and Libertarianz must be treated differently. After all, Labour's in government - it's only fair isn't it? National can't be allowed to get more donations than Labour, that would be unfair that more people want to donate more money to National than Labour - the fools, the evil ones, they can't be allowed - it undermines democracy because, remember, voters are stupid, they don't know what's good for them. That's called the arrogance of statism.
Statism vs. freedom. That's it.

Who trusts the government with their details?

The headlines in virtually all of the national UK papers today were stark.
"Lost in the post - 25 million at risk after data discs go missing" said The Guardian;
"ID fraud alert to every family" said the Daily Telegraph;
"25m victims" said the Daily Mirror;
"Darlings ID Crisis as 25m names lost" said the Sun (actually "Keeley's such a hot date" was also there).
Nevertheless, what has happened is that an official at HMCE (Her Majesty's Customs and Excise) posted in the normal post, 2 unencrypted CDs containing the data of all parents claiming child benefits, the childrens' names, the addresses and the bank account details of them all. These CDs have gone missing. The risk is that criminal can use this data to engage in widespread identity theft and bank fraud, ordering credit cards in the names of others. Not to mention the risk to personal privacy.
The information had been posted to the National Audit Office which didn't actually request all that data. It simply wanted a sample of child benefit claimants and then only names, National insurance numbers and child benefit numbers - HMCE decided it was too hard to filter out the data so posted the lot. The low level official to blame is now under 24 hour watch in a hotel under a different name to avoid being pursued by criminal gangs eager to get the data.
The story is covered in detail on all major paper websites, but what i've read so far has been from The Times in several articles.
Now one way of looking at this is - well if you're going to claim child benefit then the government takes this much data in exchange. Lower taxes don't need the government to hold all those details at all. However, what this really demonstrates is the sheer incompetency of the state in managing huge amounts of private and sensitive data. It obviously raises questions as to whether it could ever cope with a National ID card scheme and ensure the confidentiality of any data.
For starters, the data sought was not what was supplied. It was "too burdensome" to supply the smaller amount of data, demonstrating the incentives to get this right simply aren't there. HMCE wanted to ensure it did minimum work, so sent far more than it needed to two.
Secondly, the mistake in posting this information, in an unencrypted format also demonstrates the lack of incentives to get this right. Imagine a bank doing this? Imagine how much business it would lose from being so incompetent? The difference is the state has a monopoly, you can't say no (although as I said you could say no to child benefits, but it's not as if you'll get tax back from doing so).
Finally, there is lack of honesty about this. It didn't happen yesterday, or last week. It happened months ago - the efforts to find the CDs have been fruitless, so now the banks have been advised, and the public too. It is not a Labour or Tory issue, it is an issue about government, and the simple fact that there are never the adequate incentives or accountability for when the government fails to protect its citizens. This is one very good reason why governments should do less, nor more.

21 November 2007

Ken Livingstone talking nonsense again

So Ken has swanned over using his increased council tax take for a trip to India - and he has the gall to go on about climate change.
His latest "great idea", reported on BBC London TV news is to ban airlines flying between London and Paris, and London and Brussels because "you'd be mad" to fly now that the high speed rail link has been opened. Like any budding petty dictator, Livingstone wants to ban the flights.
Of course for starters he hasn't the power to do this, so he's talking out of his arse about "wanting to do it".
However, secondly he is wrong. You're not necessarily mad to fly instead of catching the train. For starters, some people live or work closer to the airports than the railway stations. Heathrow may be a lot more convenient for some west of London than finding your way by rail to St. Pancras. London City Airport is more convenient for some as well. More importantly, one very good reason both BA and Air France fly London-Paris is that the airlines pick up passengers to feed onto long haul flights. You can fly quite cheaply from London-Paris-Africa or Asia for example. However, like many politicians (it isn't just the left) Ken automatically knows what best about something he really knows little about.
Thirdly, what would be the effect of "banning flights"? The price of rail travel would increase, dramatically. It would be a monopoly, then the drones and complaints about the privately run railway ripping people off would also come from Ken. Airlines add competitive pressure, something that Ken has shown no interest in with his London transport policy.
Finally, his own idea fails to reflect that the market itself is already delivering part of what he says. BMI stopped flying London-Paris two years ago because of the competition from Eurostar rail services, Easyjet and Ryanair have also abandoned such routes after having a go at them. Air France has reduced its schedule because it gets higher value from selling those precious Heathrow landing rights to its airline partners like Delta and Continental, than keeping them for this route.
Flights between London and Paris/Brussels have been in decline for a few years, this is likely to accelerate - for good economically rational reasons. People are responding to their best interests, and airlines are responding to this - none need Ken to push them around.

20 November 2007

Austrian Airlines - pretty good really

I recently has cause to fly to China from London, as BA was charging an extortionate fare for the direct business class flight, and I wont fly Air China for reasons I shouldn't have to explain, and I can always do with some Star Alliance points, I chose Austrian Airlines - which means obviously, flying through Vienna.

Austrian has a good reputation for long haul service, and I also read that Vienna airport is a breeze to transit through and Austrian waits for connecting flights - so why not?

Well first, what was good?

Vienna IS a breeze to transit, when returning it was literally out one gate and there's the next one less than a minute away. Even arriving from London when we had to be bussed in the rain from the tarmac (grrr), the walk from the entrance point to the gate took 2-3 minutes. No further than going from checkin at Wellington to the Air NZ gates. Light years ahead of the rabbit warren of Frankfurt.

Secondly is the food. Austrian Airlines has a dedicated onboard chef in business class on long haul. Yes a chef, not a trolley dolly heating up pre-packed food in ovens, but actual cooking. The starter is an antipasto trolley with around 12! - yes 12 different starters, hot and cold, and soup to choose from. The dessert, fruit and cheese trolley isn't much different - with a wide range available. The mains is cooked as you like it, so steak can be rare, medium or well done. You order breakfast with eggs how you want them! This wasn't done on a 747 either, it was a 767! However Austrian 767s are far nicer than Qantas and Air NZ ones, it also has brand new 777s. Austrian uses a good part of the front to put in the galley. It also offers 10 different varieties of coffee, and an ample selection of liquor. Seriously, Austrian Airlines offered the best long haul airline food I have ever had, and makes you realise how second rate heat and eat food can be. This SHOULD be the standard for business class food. Even the short hops to and from London had high quality hot meals that were quite delicious.

Thirdly is the service. The crew are willing to please, helpful, friendly, and respond quickly to calls and accurately, and are very keen to be perfectionists. Indeed, easily the best service of any continental airlines I have flown. Tall, multi-lingual, good looking, friendly, light years ahead of the moody trolley tarts for Virgin (and none of them can remember when they were) Atlantic. The strange orange uniforms don't complete put your off, and the chef wears a chef outfit as part of the deal. You get an amenity kit, which is fairly conventional and handy, and a decent blanket, but small pillow.

What was mediocre?

The longhaul business class seats. They are of the sloping flat variety seen in business class on Qantas, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific and most Singapore Airlines flights. In other words, when you fully recline, it feels like you're lying on an ironing board which is leaning. The seats are also rather narrow. You see on the 767 the seating goes 2-2-2, whereas in economy class it is 2-3-2. The width of one economy class seats really only adds enough to cover the consoles between the business class seats. The good side is they are infinitely adjustable and have an excellent massage function, I got about 4-5 hours sleep on the overnight leg, so they are ok - and certainly light years ahead of any old fashioned recliners. There is some useful storage places in the seat, but it could simply do with being wider and properly flat.

The inflight entertainment. Essentially it is like the old Air NZ business class multi-track entertainment system with slightly bigger screens (sort of like the Air NZ economy class ones in size). Not interactive, but quite a few channels. OK, but needing replacement.

The lounge in Vienna. Frankly, this was crap. The business class lounge is pokey, has a small bathroom, no showers (which are highly desirable after a 9 hour flight), and a selection of snacks and drinks that are mediocre at best (Koru Club in Wellington is light years ahead). Free wifi is welcome, but a distinct lack of comfortable seating - and at certain times (and my flight to London was delayed over an hour and a half) people struggled to find seats.

Finally, the business class seats on the European route were complete crap. I'm used to this, but these literally were just economy class seats with the middle seat blocked out on the A320 Airbus, but on the smaller jet there wasn't even that. Business class within Europe gave me a hot meal and first off the plane, otherwise I could've been flying Trans Tasman on Air NZ economy class and been more comfortable.

So the conclusion? Fly Austrian if the food and service matter first, as both are good, and despite the poor quality lounge in Vienna it is still light years ahead of almost all United Airlines lounges. The long haul seats are alright, better than other sloping flat seats I've been in - but you can't beat true lie flat. The entertainment system is ok, no better than that which most BA and Qantas planes have, and Vienna is easy to transit - if you don't have the pain of waiting for your flight. The food and service are worth trying, and despite being part of the Lufthansa group of airlines, Austrian is well ahead of Lufthansa in every respect. It is a pity it has stopped flying to Australia!

Winston concludes his visit to North Korea

Winston's back from the "Workers' Paradise" and while I give him kudos for raising human rights, I do seriously wonder what good he has done. Will he incentivise North Korea to move forward, do these contacts plant seeds in the minds of high ranking officials and politicians that the outside world isn't so scary? You see these are the only positive things that could come of this - that eventually Kim Jong Il will die/be toppled, and those who work as part of this nightmare system will want help.
The significance of Winston's visit isn't just about New Zealand reaching out to North Korea, according to Stuff it is the FIRST Western Ministerial visit since North Korea tested a nuclear weapon. Oh, the irony that the nuclear-phobic New Zealand is first to send a Minister to a totalitarian nuclear proliferator.
According to Stuff, Winston said that 'Kim Jong Il's regime was making good progress on denuclearisation. North Korea had doubled the number of people working on projects such as the dismantling of its main nuclear facility, and was committed to the success of the six-party talks on the issue.'
Honestly, how does he know this? North Korea is a habitual liar, as anyone who spends time reading its press releases should know. What is "good progress"? How will anyone ever be able to verify that it has destroyed its nuclear arsenal, or dismantled all of its nuclear facilities? Seriously, how can you trust a totalitarian dictatorship that remains in denial that it started the war in 1950, that doesn't tell its population that men have landed on the moon and that claims South Korea is a starving chaotic hellhole of dictatorship and despair (yes the irony!). North Korea lied about pursuing a nuclear weaponry programme for many years, denied it wanted them - then "boom".
North Korea is committed to convincing the rest of the world to bail out its bankrupt economy from its bankrupt system - that is what is wants - and it blackmailed the world into doing so.
However, give Winston some modest credit:
'His visit included stops at a garment factory and farm, but Mr Peters was cautious about giving an overall assessment of life in a country few foreigners are permitted to visit, "I don't like to give my impressions after only three days. I came with certain impressions from my reading of background information. It is clearly a society that is unusual in most respects with the freedom of movement and information, but I saw glimmers of enough change to believe that we could be seeing a change going on here."
I would have thought the impressions are obvious. Unusual is a great euphemism for totalitarian control. However glimmers of change are curious. There have been glimmers of change for years, but there have always been children incarcerated, tortured and enslaved in gulags. It should have been made clear to North Korea that this is unacceptable - New Zealand has penalised Zimbabwe, Fiji, Burma and South Africa for far far less than this. Why change now?
Meanwhile North Korea reports on Winston leaving with a casual statement of fact . We shall wait to see if it makes any serious propaganda about his trip.

Dear Dr Kiro, most people are not the problem

Dr Cindy Kiro - Children's Commissar (which is a title she will continue to get from me as long as she seeks Orwellian monitoring and surveillance of all families) is, according to Stuff, concerned about a "wall of silence" surrounding child abuse. She cites a rather disconcerting example of a girl of 11 who became pregnant and gave birth at age 12. It isn't clear what has happened in this case, but the girl is not naming the father, and the whole family denies any knowledge.
There are two likely explanations for her early pregnancy. Either someone older, influential and threatening within the extended family has effectively raped her (and she is too scared to point the finger because she wont be supported by her family), or she has had a boyfriend - transitory or otherwise - and they did what some adolescents do, without protection, and she is protecting him from prosecution. The family silence is far less likely in the latter category, unless she was often away from home and what she got up to was not monitored or even noticed by the family. Dr. Kiro is betting it's the former because of the wall of silence.
Now the concern being shown is laudable, but what does disturb me is how Dr. Kiro paints a broadbrush over everyone with her statements. She makes it everyone's responsibility.
For starters she seems to indicate that there is only just now starting to be a cultural change to reject child abuse. Stuff quotes her saying "New Zealand is at a tipping point where communities are making it clear they will not tolerate child abuse and every adult needs to take responsibility for the physical, emotional and sexual abuse and abuse through neglect of our children,". Notice the phrase "communities are making it clear". She likes to collectivise, I tend to think that individuals express themselves, but that is a diversion. The clear implication of this is twofold:
1. Up until today, people DID tolerate child abuse. This of course will be remarkable news to the vast majority of parents and adults who are appalled by anyone who abuses children. It is counter-intuitive for almost all adults to inflict harm or hurt children. It's not news, it has been a publicly expressed serious concern for at least a generation, and even before that there is little doubt that most people never tolerated child abuse, for as long as the concept of "children" has really existed in Western civilisation (which really does only go back to the early 19th century).
2. There is consensus that EVERYONE has to take responsibility for the abuse and neglect of children. Not just those who commit it, but you who don't. Where did she get this from? Of course if anyone I knew was abusing a child, it would concern me and I would be likely to take steps to intervene - quite simply I couldn't tolerate it. However, the state can't legislate for this, you can't make people talk, and all you can do is have particularly high standards for those cohabiting with children. A mother who repeatedly stands by while her child is abused by another is effectively an accessory to the crime and is grossly negligent by not protecting the child. In such cases, custody should be removed from her.
Dr Kiro also said that "New Zealanders had to change their attitudes and behaviour to become more child-focused." Well hold on, most parents do this. Most children are raised in abuse free, loving households. There is a small minority who abuse, and the appropriate response is for the criminal justice system to punish those who do, to protect the victims and to deny welfare (and if necessary custody) from those who commit these offences.
Underlying all this is, of course, a serious point. There are families which are large, and not so linked by relations as relationships, and in those circumstances it is convenient/lazy for the real parents to let others perform functions "in loco parentis". In other words, many adults have access to the children. Because the children are being watched over by a whole group, it means no two people are paying inordinate attention towards them, providing an opportunity for abuse through fear to be carried out. The rewards of having many adult role models (although sometimes a lot of those are questionable at best) are outweighed by not having two solid ones who protect, provide and monitor those kids. Indeed such large extended families risk there being nobody a child can turn to, because some bonds between adults are greater than those where families are not so closely interlinked. Children need adults they can turn to, trust and who wont respond erratically if they need to tell them something scary or awful - like how a relative, teacher or family friend has threatened them or sexually abused them. It's clear who Dr. Kiro needs to aim her message at, it is those who share the family raising among many adults. In short, the parents need to watch - and be their children's first defence, AND be prepared to turn against any close relatives who may be abusing their kids. The problem is, clearly, disproportionately Maori. Something else Dr. Kiro wont say.
Like I have said before, why not completely deny welfare benefits from anyone who is convicted of brutality or gross negligence against a child? Or indeed, how about denying welfare from anyone convicted of a serious violent or sexual offence (something above common assault or indecent exposure). Permanently. Stop forcing other New Zealanders to pay for those who are violent to survive. Granted, it would save little money, but it would make an important point.
and you can watch the socialists whine and defend violent criminals' right to welfare, because they might do it again - so because they will hurt you, you have to be forced to pay for them to live?

17 November 2007

Winston in North Korea - we have much to learn from you

Who said that?
Why it's the pensioners' friend - Winston Peters! It must be true as the Korean Central News Agency said so "Winston Raymond Peters said in his speech that it was not long since the two countries established diplomatic ties, but there are a lot of things to learn from each other, hoping that the good relations between New Zealand and the DPRK would go on".
Hopefully when Winston returns from North Korea, he might be asked by the NZ Media, what exactly are the "lot of things" we can learn from North Korea? Here's some suggestions:
- Nuclear processing and weapons development? (hardly in a nuclear phobic NZ);
- Immigration policy? (stop people from leaving by force);
- Agriculture? (collectivise all farms and let produce be given to the state in exchange for a wage);
- Law and Order? (have 1/12th of the population spying on the rest, have internal passports, gulags, executions, summary judgments, torture)
- Disability policy? (kill all disabled newborns, have none living in the capital, mental patients virtually ignored)
- Culture policy? (have nothing but paeans to the leader, the party and the nation, censoring internal bad news and showing almost nothing but bad news about the outside world);
- Education policy? (take children from infancy and place into childcare where they are taught Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are their fathers, and they should be loyal to them and the nation above their parents?)
- Health policy? (the elite get first class healthcare, whilst everyone else takes their chances with ancient medicine and antiquated equipment)
I can't wait.
What might North Korea want to learn? Well it is clear from the same report that Foreign Minister "Pak Ui Chun, said in his speech at the reception that it would be in the interests of the two countries to boost the bilateral ties of friendship and cooperation on the principle of respect for sovereignty, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, mutual benefit and equality".
That's the key, you see North Korea sees imprisoning children in gulags as an internal affair. However, don't believe everything (or indeed almost everything) the Korean Central News Agency reports, you see Winston did say something right.
He has raised human rights as a concern, as reported by TVNZ and Radio NZ. So he has played a careful diplomatic trick, by not mentioning it in advance - he mentioned in Pyongyang what North Koreans would get imprisoned and executed for mentioning. Good on you Winston. Hopefully we''ll find out exactly what you did say!