31 January 2008

Which US Presidential candidate will call THIS ridiculous?

Expelling good students from school for kissing on a bus. Video here of the news article.

The puritanism, the idea there is something immoral about two teenagers kissing in public. The Islamists are closer to how some Americans think than many will admit.

Whose money?

The Dominion Post reports "Wellington City Council will plough $90 million of its own money into a Government-funded revamp of its dilapidated council flats"
Excuse me? Replace "its own" with "ratepayers'". Given 179,466 residents of Wellington city, and assuming one third are children, that means around $749 per adult resident being spent on the proposed council housing revamp.
Of course it could always sell them. After all, why should one of the local authorities with a reasonably above average citizen income be the second largest landlord in the country?

Naughty Ryanair

Isn't the UK Advertising Standards Authority amusing? I mean, seriously. It is not a government body, but you can be sure that if it didn't exist, the government would create it. It has ruled that an ad, that I and millions were unaware of, is offensive.

Now of course, it's been far more widely seen than it was originally, and Ryanair is laughing, and rejecting the finding.

The ad is shown here in the Sun, (mildly NSFW) depicting an adult woman dressed as a tarty schoolgirl. The problem is it "appeared to link teenage girls with sexually provocative behavior" which of course is a link that is completely unjustified. There is no claim the young woman in the ad is under 18, or really a schoolgirl, and she is wearing a uniform that is more likely to be seen at School Disco club events, rather than real life. However, it clearly can't be allowed in post "Carry On" straight laced, highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, Britain.

Of course, surely it should be up to the newspapers carrying the ad, which were the Daily Mail, the Herald and Scottish Herald, to decide whether it is offensive. They are best able to judge their readership. I almost never buy The Independent or the Daily Mail because I often find their content offensive, for example.
Ryanair is up for a fight as "Ryanair head of communications Peter Sherrard said the airline was refusing to withdraw the advert in light of the ASA ruling...Ryanair believed there was nothing irresponsible nor offensive in its advert. “Consequently we will not be withdrawing this ad and we will not provide the ASA with any of the undertakings they seek,” he added"

According to the BBC, none of the papers that ran the ad will run it again - but I wouldn't bet it is the last time it will be shown. After all, one thing about the UK, it is full of pervs!
Oh and if you don't like it, don't fly Ryanair. I don't, and it's not because of its ads!

Bye Rudy, onto Tuesday (yawn)

He's not happy is he?
CNN reports the Republican race is between McCain and Romney. Now it is up to Super Duper Tuesday. Will the Republicans choose the Mormon flip flopper or the Republican-lite both of whom have similar policies of a little less government in some areas, and a little more in others?
Should I simply not care anymore?
Well since the "Change we can believe in" site requires me to effectively register, to find out what Obama wants to do, I had to go to Hillary "my entitlement to rule you" Clinton's site. I find she believes in restricting freedom of speech, subsidising families, nationalise parenting and early childhood education, more farming subsidies, massively subsidise the energy sector, strengthen unions somehow, demand all Americans pay their fair share (for what?), and finally be softly softly on the Iranian backed insurgency in Iraq as she wants to "work to convince Iraq's neighbors to refrain from getting involved in the civil war".
OK, that's enough reasons to want her NOT elected, shame the Republicans don't give me any reason to be excited about them more than that.

Scotland drops tolls, ignores economic truths

The Scottish Executive, which governs Scotland under devolution with taxpayer funding directly from Westminster, is abolishing tolls on the Tay and Forth Bridges. So, instead of road users paying for the maintenance and upkeep of the two bridges directly (and paying off loans associated with the Tay Bridge), money will come from general taxpayers. Socialism at work - shifting from user pays to bureaucratic planning and taxpayer pays. According to the Scottish Transport Minister this ends "years of injustice". Apparently the injustice is that those bridge users pay for their bridges, but other Scots get their bridges subsidised by everyone else in the UK. Maybe food should be "free" too.
Well it wouldn't be if you applied some economic rationality. For starters you could have dedicated the average amount of fuel tax collected from users of the bridges to the bridges themselves, and used the tolls to collects anything left over. You could have sold the bridges. Yes, I know you'd almost rather paint a St. Andrew's Cross on yourself and call yourself English that do something so instinctively anti-Marxist, but you could've. Then you'd still have people saying they pay fuel tax and tolls, but you could have offered to refund the fuel tax, or credited it towards the tolls. After all, what's wrong with user pays? Oh I forgot you're running the Scottish Executive, everything is wrong with user pays isn't it? Because the users wouldn't pay if they had the choice.
Of course abolition of the tolls is meant to bring great benefits, by elimination congestion at toll booths. Again, a modicum of research would point out that toll booths are yesterday's technology to tolling, as electronically tolled roads in Canada, Chile, Australia and elsewhere have proven for several years now.
The truth will be in a few months time and a few years down the track. Removing the tolls lowers the cost of using the bridge, this increases demand, which will in itself mean congestion at peak periods of demand. This will bring demands for new bridges, which are not cheap. So then you have to decide do you have those who demand the new capacity pay for it, or just be good socialists and make everyone pay for it.
In Tauranga, it was less than 2 years after the toll was removed that there were regular reports of lengthy delays on the harbour bridge, and calls for a duplicate bridge. Now the bridge is being built, paid for by all road users nationwide, after NZ First Leader Winston Peters lobbied for it not to be tolled as part of the confidence and supply agreement with the Labour Party. No doubt in 10 or so years time there will be demand for yet more increases in bridge capacity or at least peak periods of congestion.
Selling the bridges would make far more sense. You may then see the following happen:
1. Operators of the bridges that want to maximise their efficiency, so would shift towards lower cost electronic tolling and optimise maintenance;
2. Operators of the bridges that want to maximise throughput of the bridges. This means charging more at times of peak use, but correspondingly ensuring traffic is not severely congested. It also means responding quickly to accidents or blockages, and ensuring maintenance activities are carried out at off peak periods. Don't believe me? Look at the privately built, funded, designed and owned Citylink motorway in Melbourne, because this is exactly what happens.
3. Operators of the bridges that make profits, and might reinvest the surplus in other worthwhile business ventures, pay dividends to shareholders or even build duplicate bridges if they were deemed worthwhile. This is bound to be better use than politicians spending the surpluses.
4. Government would get a substantial windfall of cash it could use to pay off debt and reduce taxes overall.
Or you can keep doing the old fashioned tried and tired central planning option for roads. It has been a stunning success hasn't it?

Another reason why the job in Afghanistan was half done

Yes the Taliban were removed, from Kabul and much of the country. Yes, the new administration is friendlier towards the West. Yes it is better than the Taliban, but no.. it is no friend of individual freedom.
A death sentence has been imposed upon Afghani journalist, Pervez Kambaksh, for "downloading and distributing an article insulting Islam". According to the BBC the Upper House of the Afghani Parliament "supports" this, reportedly "the Afghan Senate has issued a statement on the case - it was not voted on but was signed by its leader, Sibghatullah Mojaddedi, an ally of President Hamid Karzai. It said the upper house approved the death sentence conferred on Mr Kambaksh by a city court in Mazar-e-Sharif."
It isn't final yet as "Mr Kambaksh has at least two more courts in which to appeal and the sentence would have to be approved by President Karzai to be carried out". One can hope that one of these appeals would be successful. However it simply highlights how little so called "imperialism" has been imposed by the US and allied forces. All that has happened is that an offensive war mongering regime has been replaced by a less offensive non war mongering regime. Afghanis deserved better than this.

30 January 2008

Greens oppose apolitical state sector

Transit has for some time now allowed foreign countries to fly their flags on the Auckland Harbour Bridge on various occasions, particularly national days. This policy was reversed last year to avoid controversies with the relevant press release stating "The New Zealand flag will be the sole flag flown on the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It will be flown on both flagpoles and will fly at half-mast on occasions of national mourning as directed by the Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage".
This was a wise step, Transit should, after all, be apolitical. So its most recent decision to refuse to fly the Tino Rangitiratanga flag is correct. Green MP Metiria Turei's response is nothing more than grandstanding. She claims it is pure prejudice. What nonsense. Transit New Zealand is a New Zealand government Crown entity, if it flies flags of political movements it will need to also fly flags for any political party or organisation, and ceases to be apolitical. Turei is quite racist and patronising to claim that the Tino Rangitiratanga flag represents "Maori". Some Maori may support it, but others do not. Turei, like the collectivist she is, believes Maori are a political group, with one set of views. The flag does NOT represent Maori, nor does she.
The public sector should be strictly apolitical. The Tino Rangitiratanga flag is highly political. The only "cultural division" here is between those, who like the Green Party, Chinese, Zimbabwean and Russian governments, think the state sector should be politicised, and those who believe the state sector should be beyond politics to the extent possible. So should the Auckland Harbour Bridge fly a flag for free market capitalism too Metiria, or is that unacceptable because it isn't your preferred race?

Kedgley peddles more hysteria

Like some parroting hysteric, Sue Kedgley has found a new conspiracy which threatens the health and lives of us all. It is the possibility that telecommunications transmitters might be installed, of all places, on top of power poles. Her reaction tells all about the use of language as propaganda.
The tenor of her press release is seriously unhinged and outright scaremongering with statements such as “telecommunications companies will be able to clutter power poles in residential areas and next to schools and childcare centres with new cellular and wireless technologies”.
In that once sentence she loads so much evidence absent value judgments to frighten the ill informed, i.e. those who vote for her. “Clutter” apparently implying that somehow we’re all using the top of power poles now, and will be interfered with, or that it will be ugly. I am willing to wager than in one day, Sue Kedgley would be unable to identify every single telecommunications transmitter site in Wellington City – because so many of them are unobtrusive, and plenty are on top or on the side of building with nobody noticing them. However, I am sure it wouldn’t be “clutter” if they were broadcasting a free to air commercial free channel of leftwing doggerel.
Then she talks of “next to schools and childcare centres”, implying, though not saying, that transmitters are “unsafe”. She likes claiming new technologies are unsafe, it gives her something to regulate, something to blame at and it looks like she is saving us all from the evil companies who don’t care. The truth is that she is an unscientific busybody who prefers fear and hysteria to science and balanced debate – she squawks like a parrot, happily stirring fear to gain votes.
She continues "We have set up a power pole in Mount Victoria with antennae and masts, to demonstrate how visually intrusive power poles around New Zealand could become”. No doubt using the latest technology with every incentive to make it work efficiently and be unobtrusive right? Of course most homes in New Zealand already have antennae, masts, some have satellite dishes. Perhaps they are visually intrusive too, as are the trolley bus wires that provide a 550v netting over many major arterial routes and city streets in Wellington – but that’s ok, because electric buses are good – telecommunications companies are bad. Of course she has a cellular phone and rarely catches a trolley bus – funny that.
She continues her rant “there will be no restrictions on the number of masts and antennae hanging on poles outside homes and bedrooms, regardless of concerns about the health effects of increased exposure to radio frequency radiation”. Forgetting that the laws of physics do impose such restrictions, given poles can’t carry unlimited numbers of these things, and there are serious issues of avoiding harmonics and interference between antennae, and if you have a bedroom next to a power pole then more fool you. More importantly the “health effects” are largely a beat up by her. She completely ignores that every single radio and TV transmits non-ionising electromagnetic radiation, she also ignores the proliferation of home wifi systems as well – presumably this is all good, or because it isn’t an evil entity (telecommunications companies fit that category), it isn’t worth her attention.
Finally she says “There is no obligation under the proposed national standard for the companies to pay rentals for the usage of power poles, which in many cases are owned by state-owned enterprises”. Again, her lack of command of the facts says a bit about her. Very very few power poles are owned by state-owned enterprises, largely because most are owned by electricity lines companies. These are not retail companies (which SOEs most certainly own). The implication here is that the beloved warm embracing state that she loves is being “robbed” because of a lack of rentals. She should relax. Not only are they not owned by state owned enterprises in almost all cases (and transmitters on top of Transpower masts are likely to be hardly an issue for numerous reasons), but the issue should be whether owners of poles should be allowed to.
So there it is, a press release of hysterical assertions, and leading value judgments with next to no evidence. It bears a mild resemblance to the sort of nonsense that passes for news from North Korea – blurting out fear, blame and demands that something be done – when scratching the surface it is just a grasp for attention, pleading to the ignorant by the power hungry and envy ridden.

Bush's final state of the union address

I don't go along with the views of most people I meet about Bush. It is almost de riguer to treat Bush as an unmitigated disaster. When you probe as to why, the comments tend to be "Iraq" or "foreign policy" or climate change. You see it's trendy to bash Bush. Michael Moore made it an art form, or indeed a multi-million dollar business, ironically - funny how little of that he uses to buy poor people health insurance isn't it?
So I react to that, not because I think the Bush administration is an overwhelming success. However, I do acknowledge what has happened. Afghanistan and Iraq have been partial successes, and quite principled too (and contributed to Libya coming out from the cold). It has also been a relatively friendly administration for free trade, challenging Europe to match it on slashing agricultural subsidies at WTO talks - which the EU promptly said "no" to. Yes I can criticise Bush for excessive spending, and for the erosion of civil liberties as part of the war on terror, but I don't doubt that Bush believes in Western civilisation. He called Islamism Islamo-fascism, and he was dead right - you wont hear Gordon Brown say that, let alone Helen Clark, Anyway, so what of his final state of the union address? What DID he say?
  • He called for a balanced budget, and not by increasing taxes. Good.
  • He wants to save Social Security. Bad, but hardly surprising.
  • He believes "Spreading opportunity and hope in America also requires public schools". Bad, public schools are the problem.
  • He wants public school control to be further devolved, and effectively endorsed education vouchers. Good, but it wont happen. Democrats don't like school choice or performance monitoring of schools or teachers.
  • He wants standard tax deductibility for health insurance. As far as this reduces taxes for those looking after themselves then good.
  • He wants to subsidise state programmes to fund private health insurance. Bad, it undermines the earlier programme, states should raise their funds locally.
  • He wants to establish a temporary worker programme for foreigners. Good.
  • He wants to use taxpayers' money to subsidise alternative fuels. Bad, let the market decide based on price signals.

None of this excites me particularly, in fact, sadly I can say at best it could be worse. However, Bush does inspire me in one direction - his response to Islamofascism. He said:

"Al Qaeda and its followers are Sunni extremists, possessed by hatred and commanded by a harsh and narrow ideology. Take almost any principle of civilization, and their goal is the opposite. They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent. Our enemies are quite explicit about their intentions. They want to overthrow moderate governments, and establish safe havens from which to plan and carry out new attacks on our country. By killing and terrorizing Americans, they want to force our country to retreat from the world and abandon the cause of liberty. They would then be free to impose their will and spread their totalitarian ideology. Listen to this warning from the late terrorist Zarqawi: "We will sacrifice our blood and bodies to put an end to your dreams, and what is coming is even worse." Osama bin Laden declared: "Death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us."

Take that "death is better than living on this Earth with the unbelievers among us". THAT is the enemy, as cold and murderous as that. THAT is who is appeased by withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and by befriending Islamism. Bush continues:

"What every terrorist fears most is human freedom"

Indeed. It is as clear and stark as that. You wont hear this from Helen Clark, Ken Livingstone, Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. In fact you wont hear it from the Green Party either. Listen carefully from the Presidential candidates this year, as to who talks of freedom, and who really believes it.
As Bush continues, talk of withdrawal from Iraq, like the left wants to do unconditionally is a nonsense:
"If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict. "
Islamist Iraq would be a disaster for Iraq, and its neighbours (except Iran), and the West.
Beyond that Bush talks of freedom elsewhere, although saying "We will continue to speak out for the cause of freedom in places like Cuba, Belarus, and Burma -- and continue to awaken the conscience of the world to save the people of Darfur." may be too short a list. I'd add Saudi Arabia, Russia and China as well. Realpolitik means it is easy to support freedom in relatively weak states, it takes more courage to confront Russia, China and Saudi Arabia.
You see, flawed though he may be, Bush more than many of his critics, understands that the battle against Islamism is a battle for freedom, and a battle for Western civilisation. It is for this he should be remembered. His domestic record is not inspiring, and on balance perhaps mildly positive. However, internationally Bush has adopted a foreign policy that at best has overthrown evil murderous dictatorships, and at worst had mistakenly replaced them with democracies, not guided by secularism or freedom, but by milder forms of Islamism.
The world is a dangerous place, but a withdrawn USA that ignored the hosts of its enemies would not make it safer. Beyond the rhetoric of the centre-left chattering classes, Bush understands that. Islamism is our most real and present enemy, confronting it not appeasing it is critical.

Who's lying John Minto?

The story of John Minto's rejection of an alleged award from the near to one party state South African government has, of course, been well covered. Minto generated plenty of publicity through his open letter to President Thabo Mbeki, himself a man with a flexible view of reality. Minto basically condemns the democratically elected South African government for not being more Marxist, which perhaps says more about what he thinks of democracy - he presumably thought the ANC would be far closer to its communist allies than it actually is (it's already far too close for my liking). As fragile and questionable as South African democracy and freedom is, it is still better than it was under apartheid - but Minto wanted a full revolution.
"Now he wants to thumb his nose at authority again; this time at our expense — build the Minto legend. All he has achieved is to show South Africans that we were misguided in trying to give him the award in the first place — what he actually represents is exactly what we were trying to get away from. Ironically he, despite his views, played a part in that."
However the real rub is that Reuters has reported that he was never offered the award in the first place. A statement from the office of the President of South Africa states:
"The Presidency has noted publication of an open letter addressed to President Thabo Mbeki written by Mr. John Minto of New Zealand.

In the letter, Mr. Minto claims, amongst other things, to have been nominated for the prestigious Order of the Companions of OR Tambo.In this regard, the Presidency wishes to place it on record that Mr. Minto has not, as a matter of fact, been nominated as a candidate for any of our national orders
So the burden of proof is on Minto - come on - prove it! Post the evidence John!
UPDATE: So Minto has now been reported in the Dominion Post as saying "South African sports minister Reverend Makhenkesi (Arnold) Stofile told him at his home last year he had been nominated for the award." Oh so no letter John? No written evidence? Funny that. Given this is a man who once said the death of the Kahui twins was "society's" fault, it's no surprise that he has his own portable reality generator. I guess a journalist will now interview the South African sports minister.
"Kitch Cuthbert, who attended the Auckland dinner with Mr Minto and Mr Stofile, said her recollection of that night was that the award offer had been a "done and dusted scenario".
"My understanding was that an award of some substance was being offered, and Minty said that he would have concerns and issues about accepting such an award," Ms Cuthbert said.
"I didn't hear the preamble to it, but I thought the offer had been made and Minty had basically said thanks but no thanks.""
Not that convincing, a good lawyer would be able to tear that evidence down, but still someone needs to ask "Mr Stofile", his contact details are here.

29 January 2008

Clinton or Obama then?

No, I haven't gone mad. Supporting a Democrat? Hardly. Both big government statists, who think "change" is about the state doing more, taking more money and regulating more. They are central planners, and about as inspiring as a public servant.
What my point is - which one is more likely to lose against a Republican. Not that the Republican options are inspiring. No.
Whilst I'd be concerned about Huckabee, being an evangelical, the truth is his campaign is likely to fizzle out after losing Florida. He might pick up a handful of states on Super Dooper Tuesday, but he wont win the nomination (although he could be selected as Vice Presidential running mate).
Unless Giuliani can bring in a miracle in Florida (even getting second will save him, third is probably too little too late), he's out of the race. He could have been a strong contender, but has misjudged and has no momentum.
So it's Romney vs. McCain. It will be McCain. Why? Romney has at least two characteristics that are against him:
- He's a mormon, which will kill off evangelical support more than McCain's social liberalism;
- He is a flip flopper. He was liberal in Massachusetts, and now claims to be conservative. He will be eaten alive by either Clinton or Obama, and it will be obvious.
On top of that, his charisma largely comprises a smile.
McCain for what he is worth has experience, understands foreign policy, is reasonably socially liberal and, well, he's all there is. Not particularly inspiring for one wanting less government, but he should be able to maintain a strong line against Islamism. Most importantly he wont frighten socially liberal voters, and his military record does inspire some admiration.
So who can McCain beat? That IS the question.
Clinton is a polarising figure.
Although she is more mature than Obama, the claims that she is riding on Bill's coattails, that she is cold and calculating remaining married to a misogynist in order to pursue her own ambitions of power, and her tactics against Obama (which indicate a sense of "entitlement" to the Presidency) are likely to ensure a substantial vote for "anyone but Hillary". Stopping Hillary getting elected may encourage enough conservative Republicans to back McCain, whilst McCain himself is socially liberal enough to not scare centrist independents. Quite simply I don't believe Hillary is electable - against McCain.
However, Obama is something else. He now has the Ted Kennedy endorsement, which while hardly endearing him to 40% or more of voters, does give him some momentum to build upon his crushing win in South Carolina. His strong victory in South Carolina shouldn't be dismissed as "oh well, it's a black state so no wonder", he won with over 55% of the vote, with Hillary getting only 26.5%, more than double of her vote. The media also are giving him a relatively clear run, and has done so for several years now. His talk of conciliation, and avoiding division sounds good - his talk of anything substantial is difficult to see, but it doesn't matter. He is a media darling, and if Florida goes well for him (not that it officially matters, though it will substantively), then he does have a chance of carrying it off. Especially given that the Clinton technique to respond when threatened is to get nasty - which plays into Obama's hands beautifully.
Obama is no better than Clinton though. In fact given his campaign is subject to scrutiny only superficially, and he can turn attacks into, implicitly, something about race, and turn any attacks as being against his "collegial" style. It's slick, and it avoids substance. Whilst Obama will, inevitably, encourage a racist minority to turn out to vote against him, he wont invoke the hostility of Hillary Clinton. In short, he could beat McCain.
So, given the choice between a McCain Clinton or a McCain Obama contest, I reluctantly pick the former. I would like to see the Democratic race be close, and bitter. I'd like to see Clinton snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, but only just, and having done so alienated enough of the Democratic base that they wont turn out for the cold calculating collectivist that she is. Obama wont, after all that, be a Vice Presidential running mate, but John Edwards might be, giving some geographical balance between east coast and the south. Obama wont be gone for good, but Clinton's true colours will be shown.
McCain might just win under these circumstances, as Clinton's arrogance in believing in the inevitability of becoming the first female President does not pay off. Of course some will say having a female President would be good, to which I say, it really isn't that important - it could be good, not important or bad. It depends on the person, which is really what this should be about.

Prince Charles wont go to Beijing

The Daily Telegraph reports that Prince Charles is refusing to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, this wouldn't be important really except in two respects:
Firstly, if Charles was in the capacity of a private citizen, then good for him. There are good reasons to boycott the Beijing Olympics, notwithstanding the low value that the Chinese communist regime places on human life and ever lower value on freedom. Supporting independence of Tibet is less of a reason, as an independent Tibet per se may not mean a great improvement in freedom there. Nevertheless, the Chinese record is abysmal enough to support independence for Tibet. I don't object to the sentiment or boycotting the games that the vile Communist Party of China and the state it controls will use to paint a rosy picture of how wonderful China is - ignoring how it treats those who disagree, or get in its way.
However, the issue is moreso one of the role of a future constitutional monarch, which, notwithstanding accident, Charles will become. The truth is the man is completely unfit for the job. He has laid his cards on the table politically, which, regardless of what views they hold, is utterly contemptible. One can always guess the views of Queen Elizabeth II on politics, she has probably been more comfortable under Conservative administrations than Labour, although Thatcher probably was too liberal and radical for her liking. However, these are matters of hearsay and conjecture, entirely. Not once has the Queen ever expressed a political view of her own. Nor should she. Whatever her views, and she obviously has them, and is entitled to have them, they do not tarnish her role. Charles on the other hand appears to be some sort of muddled up centre-left econut who sympathises with numerous religions.
He supports numerous charities, which is, in itself, hardly a problem. Patronage of charities, that do not have a strongly political agenda, are just part of the role. However, he has created several foundations to advance his personal agenda, such as "The Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment" to advance his views on architecture and "The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Health" to advance his advocacy of unconventional medicine. He has championed climate change and is seen as supporting the likes of Al Gore, hardly an uncontroversial figure. His support for organic farming is well known as well. The big question is when does he cross the line between pursuing personal interests and pursuing political agendas.
What happens if a government was ever elected that was negative towards support of organic farming or alternative medicines? What if one was skeptical about man-made climate change? How about one that maintains friendly relations with the People's Republic of China?
The decision about whether or not he goes to the Beijing Olympics should be a matter not only of himself, but of the Queen and Cabinet. Clearly, refusing to go will send a negative message, unless it is for non-political reasons.
Of course the real solution is simply to let the constitutional monarchy expire when Elizabeth II does. It is time to move on, for the British royal family to be left with whatever assets they hold to manage or mismanage as they see fit, without a single pound of taxpayer's funds. They would remain some sort of tourist attraction no doubt, with pomp and ceremony, but that would be all. Who would be the head of state then? Well that is another matter - but you could do worse than having a written constitution, with a democratically elected President essentially ensuring that the government of the day does not breach its constitutional role.
Meanwhile Charles should pull his head in - he must be apolitical - his inherited privilege and influence are such that he is not entitled to anything more.

28 January 2008

"Redistribution of wealth" - the phrase of lies

Now this phrase is thrown about endlessly by the left, usually with the weasel word "fairer" in front of it. Now there are two key points about the use of this phrase, and the complete dishonesty behind it.
1. It is a euphemism: Yes, what it really means is theft. The word "wealth" is used to imply abundance, a sense of "those who have more than enough", so it is a value judgment that some have more than enough (according to the person who said it, remember this isn't some moral guardian, it is just an opinion). Redistribution does not mean to let people give, or encourage people to give, it means "take". A more neutral way to describe this is "taking property to give to those deemed by me to be more deserving". Those who advocate redistribution of wealth are advocates of theft, given that taking property without permission is quite simply that. After all, if you went into the home of one of these people (or their bank account) without permission and decided to "redistribute" the wealth, they'd call it theft wouldn't they? However, when THEY or their friends do it, it's "ok".
2. It is based on a false premise: You see the concept of "redistribution" implies that someone "distributed" wealth in the first place. It implies a central power did so, and also implies that it was not done so fairly. This is complete nonsense. By and large, (the exceptions are in kleptocracies and authoritarian states) property is not distributed. Nobody sits in a room and decided "how much wealth will x or y get today". Now before you say "hold on, my boss decides my pay", well yes - but your boss doesn't decide what property you own, just what you earn based on your labour - which you can remove, or augment through your own effort.
The wealth you have is because you earned it through the application of your mind either through owning a business, your job or making a wise investment, or you received it as a gift, inheritance or gambling. Of course some may have wealth due to theft, or due to the state giving what has been taken from others, or due to the state skewing the market through regulation or protectionism. That is the state "distributing" wealth, or rather engaging in theft directly or indirectly.
So next time a politician talks about a fairer "redistribution of wealth" ask him or her "who distributes wealth now?" and more importantly ask "don't you mean theft?". You see it is them wanting their hand in your wallet. You might respect them more if they simply said "I want to rob the majority of you so I can give that money to the minority", at least it would be honest.

Zieg Heil - NZ fashion police

In Iran there are police specifically patrolling matters of apparel, particularly women who show too much flesh. In New Zealand there are also police doing this, because, you see, they already perfected rapid response to your house being burgled, your car being converted and the like. The complete absence of real crimes means the Police can now focus on men wearing the Borat swimsuit.
Now we all know it is a fashion crime, and I would question as to how many men could get away with it (women of course are hardly a problem really) and not look vile, but this is all besides the point.
Now when the Police don't respond to your demands you know what they are doing - stopping people getting offended.
I dare people to do this, wear the swimsuit in public (the stadium can set rules on entry, although it is hardly "private property") and go to court, and see where covering up genitalia is indecent exposure.
UPDATE: David Farrar quite rightly calls them the fun police. However, will the National Party confront the culture of lack of cost accountability, and varying performance of the Police? Will it even consider radical reform of the Police (decentralising Police into regional forces would be one step worth serious consideration, and no the Police should not undertake any investigation).

NHS die while you wait

Michael Moore, the fat git of an American socialist (you know one of those very wealthy socialists who don't give up their own money to help people but want everyone else forced to first) in his film Sicko praises the UK NHS. I wonder if he would care to meet Colette Mills.
According to the Sunday Times, Colette Mills has breast cancer. Avastin is a drug that can hinder the spread of cancer around the body, and could keep the disease under control. However, the NHS - which after all is compulsory to pay for, from National Insurance contributions and income tax - wont pay for it. Nevertheless, Colette wants the drug and is prepared to pay for it to assist her treatment. However, the NHS isn't impressed. It has ruled (after taking her money over many years) that:
"any patient who wants to pay for additional drugs not prescribed by the NHS should lose their entitlement to their basic NHS cancer care and pay for all their treatment."
Like an envy ridden Marxist, it effectively is saying "oh, so you don't think we give you enough treatment AND you want to buy more? Well fine, pay for all of it".
Vile, just vile.
The UK Department of Health says that "top-up payments would “undermine” the “fundamental principle of the NHS, now supported by all the main political parties, that treatment should be free at the point of need”. "
Besides the minor point that the Department of Health should NEVER attempt to reflect the views of political parties, it fails miserably by only emphasising half of the sentence. It demands that treatment should be free, but fails to provide what Colette needs. In other words, if it takes your money, doesn't provide what you need, then tough.
Now here's the statement you'll hear time and time again from leftwing politicians, like Gordon Brown, like David Cameron:
"The government claims that to allow some patients to pay for additional drugs on top of their NHS treatment creates a two-tier system between those who can and cannot afford them."
Excuse me? So if Colette paid for ALL of her treatment (getting no NHS refund) that isn't a two tier system? So allowing Colette to die is ok as long as there isn't the FICTIONAL absence of a two-tier system. Isn't socialism nice, caring, warm and loving?
So will Michael Moore pay for all of Colette's treatment? Now there's a joke. The truth is that it is too late for her to benefit from the interaction of the new drug and her treatment.
meanwhile the system happily pays for me, on a well above average salary, to get free doctor's visits, and happily services for free thousands of drunken gits who poison themselves every weekend - for nothing. Great isn't it?

George Habash, terrorist - dead

Habash was the founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a Marxist-Leninist movement calling for the total abolition of the "zionist entity" by military means, with no negotiation or compromise. This included fighting to overthrow the Jordanian government of King Hussein so that Jordan could be a base for revolutionary war against Israel.
The PFLP engaged in a protracted list of terrorist incidents, one of the highest profile being the hijacking of four airliners in 1970 in the so called "Dawson's Field Hijackings". It rejected overtures of peace from the PLO, and has opposed any settlement with Israel.
good riddance to Habash, he was no friend of peace.

Transmission Gully investigation hits problems

After Ohariu MP and Labour lackey Peter Dunne, and Porirua Mayor Jenny Brash shrieked and wailed for Transmission Gully, like they worship some kind of cargo cult - Labour bowed and threw taxpayers' money (not road users notably) worth $80 million to investigate and design the 27km motorway with a $1.02 billion pricetag (note how a reporter keeps quoting a figure of $955 million in 2005 dollars). That work is now hitting a snag. Engineers commissioned to do the first in depth investigation work of the route can't find the faultline along it. You might recall that politicians supporting the road were all far more concerned that the current route along the coast could be cut off by an earthquake, but in the "no shit sherlock" file didn't seem to notice that Transmission Gully IS ALONG A FAULTLINE. Let's build a billion dollar motorway along a faultline, on the basis that - hey if there is a major earthquake, even though the coast road might be knocked out, Transmission Gully almost certainly WOULD be destroyed. Engineers are finding the road might be too close to the faultline, and on top of that several farmers are saying no to having their land drilled to find out more. Understandably so - it is their land after all (for those unfamiliar with the concept, then please publish your name and address for people to explain what an absence of property rights means to come visit you).
"Local geologist Tony Edwards, who mapped the section of fault line running through McKays Crossing, believed it ran several hundred metres east of where it was traditionally placed through the northern section of the Gully route. "It would not be wise to build a road or bridge within about 200 metres of the fault," he said"
I don't doubt the first utterance that Transmission Gully might not go ahead will call screams of hysteria by umpteen politicians, who want their pet project to proceed.
You see New Zealand is rolling in such bucketloads of GDP that it can afford to do this.
No doubt Dunne and Jenny Brash will not care about the cost - ignoring that unlike all other road projects underway in the country, Transmission Gully cannot be built by only levying road users (certainly not by levying users of Transmission Gully) and its economics remain highly dubious.
Anyway, if you want more on Transmission Gully, I blogged this issue to death two years ago. It highlights, more than anything, that when politicians meddle in an area, they very very rarely have the incentives to make decisions based on best value for money, but rather based on a popularity contest for how they look like they've spent the most of people's money for a monument.

Holocaust memorial day

Some say they already know, some say it ignores or takes attention from other incidents of genocide or mass murder, but it doesn't matter that some know, it doesn't matter than many might not want to be reminded, and it is not the same as other incidents of genocide, nor does it take attention away from them. Those comments in particular fail to do justice about what happened in the 1930s in a country that had been widely seen as a civilised modern state. The Holocaust showed that those who thought themselves above tribalist brutality could do so en masse, could do so efficiently, callously and that people sat by and did nothing.
Today Sunday 27 January is International Holocaust Memorial Day. It marks the day of liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp. It is about remembering all those murdered by the Nazi state, from six million Jews to 200,000 disabled people to gypsies, Poles, Soviet POWs, homosexuals, political dissidents from socialist to liberal persuasions. The utter complete dehumanisation of all those effectively declared "unpersons" by the Nazis remains a horror unparalleled in its comprehensive efficient single mindedness. It also reminds that the murders of the Khmer Rouge, the Hutu militia, the Sudanese government, the Serb nationalists and all others show that mass slaughter based on collectivist ideology has not evaporated - indeed it show no sign of having been eradicated.
So take a moment to remember, remember those who had their jobs, their homes taken from them, who were beaten, bullied, robbed, imprisoned, tortured, humiliated and killed, like cattle. Those who were rounded up as enemies of the nation, and slaughtered en masse, day after day, week after week for years on end. This whilst so many peacefully went about their business, turning a blind eye to the train loads of human cargo, the neighbours who were taken away at night never to be seen, the propaganda blaming troubles on the one group of people who never ever threatened you or others.
The Holocaust was the natural conclusion of violent collectivism - the elimination of those who do not fit the collective vision, the collective punishment of them and the demonisation of them based not on what they do, or even what they think, but what identity they fit. Take a moment of silence to remember, and just think, think of those who use identity politics now to demonise.

27 January 2008

Suharto - dictator, murderer, thief, but....

Few should mourn the death of Suharto (yes that is his full name). From a great promise of creating another Asian tiger, (and the growth that did occur), he created a authoritarian corrupt state that brutally occupied and murdered hundreds of thousands of East Timorese.
I very much expect all those on the left to condemn him unconditionally, and so much is with good reason. His family made billions of dollars from special deals, concessions and privileges for businesses they set up. Not only were these corrupt, but they cost Indonesia a fortune economically. Estimates of his family holding billions in assets from that era are damning indeed, and attempts to confiscate this loot from the Suharto clan have been thwarted, no doubt because plenty of lackies also benefited from the Suharto kleptocracy. Nonsense policies that gave members of his family monopolies on importing, manufacturing, and the like, the lack of an effective independent judicial system to enforce contracts and debt collection, saw private entrepreneurship stunted. None of this was helped by extensive price controls on basic commodities and a vastly over valued currency. Unlike neighbours like Malaysia (which also suffered from some authoritarianism and corruption), innovation and new industries were rare or if they existed, were poorly guided and protected. Indonesia's oil wealth has been squandered by central planning and corruption, this culture of corruption, bribery and state theft continues to plague Indonesia today.
Far more damning is the authoritarian rule of Suharto. Laws against "subversion" and "spreading hate" were extensively used to arrest and imprison those accused of opposing his manufactured "democracy". The system he founded allowed three political parties to nominally contest elections, of which Golkar was always guaranteed to have a majority. The military was guaranteed seats in the Parliament, and all public servants were under strong pressure to belong to Golkar. The difference between Golkar and the state was blurred indeed, adding to the scope for corruption and patronage. Suharto's authoritarianism included oppression of Indonesia's Chinese. Whilst initially aimed at communists, it also tapped to racism of Javanese envious of the entrepreneurship and success of Chinese in Indonesia. This banned the used of Chinese characters and language, Chinese language schools and saw Chinese owned assets confiscated. This racism against Chinese in Indonesia remains to some extent today, even though most laws have been repealed. The lack of free speech, the blending of the state, party and military kept Indonesians under Suharto's thumb. In the 1970s, this was not unlike most states in Asia at the time, but he did not relent - until he had to.
However, two major incidents more than any others see blood covering Suharto's hands. One is unconditionally damning, the other may well deserve a mixed verdict. The invasion of East Timor was murderous, seeing between 60,000 and 100,000 killed in the resistance. Notwithstanding concerns over the communist ties of Fretilin at the time (Fretilin is not an organisation of angels either), the invasion, occupation and suppression of dissent in East Timor was bloody and vile. It was not genocide, as it was not a racial matter, it was pure political suppression, bloody and indiscriminate. However, few should pretend that Sukarno wouldn't also have suppressed independence in East Timor like he did elsewhere.
The East Timorese invasion and occupation was small fry compared to the initial period of Suharto's rule. There is little doubt that many thousands of innocent people were killed in the suppression and destruction of the Communist Party of Indonesia. The campaign to destroy communism, and to oppress those linked to it continued well into the 1980s - with anyone linked by family to the Communist Party facing discrimination by the state. However, the sheer scale of the attack on communism was monumental and indiscriminate. The suppression of communism saw hundreds of thousands murdered, not just communist party members but their entire families, slaughtered, as the army, Islamists (who were anti-communist due to communism's touting of atheism) and others went on a bloody killing spree. This was all carried out with the USA, Australia and the rest of the West turning an uncomfortable blind eye. Why?
The only good thing to be said of Suharto is that he did save Indonesia from the twin evils of communism and economic collapse. Sukarno's sympathy with Marxism, closeness to Maoist China and the Communist Party saw a relatively prosperous former colony be crippled by rampant inflation, confiscation of land from mainly Chinese owners, and socialist economic policies that saw agricultural production stifled and food shortages. Suppression of umpteen rebellions throughout Indonesia in the 1950s and 1960s, also cost in money and lives. Sukarno backed the so-called "confrontation" with Malaysia, with sporadic military attacks. The army was divided on this approach, which saw Indonesia have reportedly the largest communist party that was not ruling, with over 2 million members in the 1960s. Sukarno announced an axis of Jakarta, Peking, Hanoi, Phnom Penh and Pyongyang, posing a clear threat to Malaysia and Australia. While the suppression of communism was excessive and saw many many thousands of innocent people die, it is difficult to see what would have happened had Indonesia become a large communist state on our doorstep.
While speculation of what might have been may not be easy to justify, the aggressive suppression of rebellion, the military incursions into Malaysia tell that a pro-communist Indonesia was unlikely to be friendly towards an independent East Timor, and certainly not Singapore. A country led by a man supporting an axis that includes Maoist China, itself a state that had murdered and starved over 50 million, and totalitarian North Korea, was unlikely to remain peaceful, and was very likely to kill more than the thousands that already suffered under it. For saving Indonesia, south east Asia and maybe Australia from that, Suharto deserves at least some credit. Cold comfort to those caught up in the massacres, and is no excuse for the tyranny and corruption that followed.
So I wont be mourning Suharto - he was the last of Indonesia's bloody dictators. Sukarno was the one before, and oft ignored. He was better than Sukarno, for peace and for the economy, but he was only one step better. He was better as Park Chung Hee was better than Kim Il Sung - which is not an endorsement, but a realistic evaluation.
The obvious question is was he on balance good, or bad. The truth is that he was overwhelmingly bad, but had he changed after overthrowing Indonesia's emerging communism he would now be a hero. He may have saved (based on proportions killed in China) 10-20 million people by overthrowing communism, but he killed around a million doing so. Just as the string of South Korean dictators were all better than Kim Il Sung, it wasn't a high threshold to cross. A smaller positive to note is that he fought against the Japanese occupation in World War 2, and the Japanese treatment of the Dutch East Indies was far from honourable.
Bye Suharto, you dictator, murderer and thief, at least you were better than Sukarno and the inevitable communist dictatorship - but that one victory does not excuse decades of misrule.

24 January 2008

Avoiding offence against Muslims again....

The BBC reports that Becta, the UK government's educational technology agency (yes, I know, what the hell does the government need one for?) has turned down giving an award to a digital book retelling the Three Little Pigs fairy tale because "the use of pigs raises cultural issues". In addition because it is called "Three Little Cowboy Builders" (who are pigs), this is seen to "alienate parts of the workforce (building trade)".
Sorry? Quite simply, the rest of the world would laugh at how pathetically simpering the UK government can be in defending culture. Can you imagine this in China (which has a toothpaste brand called "Black Man Toothpaste", the Middle East, Russia?
Those who argue this need a slap in the face, or at the very least to be told to grow up and get some balls. Sadly this sort of attitude also encourages support for the BNP.
Besides the need to abolish Becta (ever a useless quango), the pandering to avoid insulting people is tragic and revolting - it shows total disregard for those who hold values of free expression, good humour and modern secular Western civilisation.
Quite frankly, if you can't handle such stories as this, then don't read them - that is the value of free modern secular Western civilisation. If you don't like it, then leave!


Ken Livingstone has long been a darling of the left, and supported as Mayor of London, so it surprises me to see the Channel 4 documentary dispatches, presented by New Statesman Political Editor Martin Bright - himself fairly left wing. The documentary is on demand on the Channel 4 website and is very damning indeed.

Some of the claims include:
- London maintains "embassies" in Brussels, Beijing and India costing between £300,000 and £400,000 each per annum. A new one is being opened in Caracas. Ken claims it is to encourage investment and trade, because, of course, nobody has heard of London, and London needs to have a "foreign policy";
- Many of Ken's chief advisors were members of Socialist Action who openly talked of London being a "city state" of socialism;
- Ken's trip to Beijing cost £140 000 for the whole delegation, including £605 of room service for him personally;
- Ken said that Tiananmen Square was like Trafagar Square in that their histories had many parallels;
- In welcoming Hugo Chavez to London, he said "It is not that socialism has failed, but socialism has yet to come". Of course his deal for £15 million of cheap diesel from Venezuela is in exchange for transport advice. He didn't consult Transport for London on the deal, and part of the contract includes promoting the Chavez regime on the sides of London buses. The Chilean socialist PM rejected a similar offer for a deal because it would "not be fair to Venezuelans";
- Ken welcomed Muslim cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi to London personally, even though Al-Qaradawi said on the BBC "Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do". Ken's response to criticisms of his warming to Islamists is to call them Islamophobes or being in the pay of Israeli intelligence;
- Ken's office spends £23 million p.a. on PR, double that of the Scottish Executive and more than Microsoft's UK advertising budget;
- Ken's office asked staff of the GLA to assist with his re-election campaign including raising money for his campaign. In short, using London taxpayers' funds to fund his campaign (familiar?);
- The well known episode of him calling Jewish Evening Standard reporter like a concentration camp guard;
- The London Development Agency which spends £575 million p.a. (!) spending £1.8m over 3 years to companies struck off or liquidated, this includes companies that liquidated the year they got funding. Includes wonders like £10,000 for a company developing a jetpod powered by vegetable juice. LDA is referred to as "Ken's moneybox" and it has been called as transparent as a mediaeval secret society;
- Ken's chief advisor on transport, Raymond O'Neill rarely talks to the Transport for London Board or the London Assembly;
- One of his key advisors, John Ross, was a member of the Soviet Communist Party in the 1980s.

So when the left attacks this unaccountable wasteful nutter, what future does he have?

23 January 2008

Socialist electricity failing in South Africa

For ages I've been infuriated at the almost complete absence of serious journalism about South Africa - a country with a shockingly high murder rate, growing HIV and AIDS problem, and slipping more and more towards corruption and autocracy. The reason for this absence of serious journalism is a result of a fear of criticising the black majority ANC government and being branded as "racist". The truth is that the ANC, as a socialist party, which once aspired to lead a one-party state ala Zimbabwe, believes it has a right to rule - and those within it who have ruled are, in many cases, seeking to enrich themselves with little real accountability. This being because the huge black majority continues to be grateful for the abolition of apartheid, until they are murdered, raped or die of HIV. Meanwhile, when South Africa pursues a mixed set of economic policies (reducing import tariffs but keeping electricity in state hands) it has mixed results. At the moment South Africa is benefiting from high commodity prices.

You see electricity in South Africa is all state run and provided, the government aborted its privatisation exercise for political reasons, but also banned Eskom (the state monopoly) from building more power stations. Meanwhile, it has subsidised extending reticulation to more and more poorer districts (clearly without charging sufficiently for using electricity). South Africa generates most of its electricity from coal, for obvious reasons and has now stopped exporting electricity to Zimbabwe (at last, given reports it was subsidised), Botswana and Namibia because of shortages.

The Daily Telegraph reports "Hospital operations have been interrupted, restaurants cannot cook for customers, traffic lights are regularly off and angry commuters set fire to six trains left immobile in Pretoria. Managers blame the problems on years of under-investment that have resulted in capacity failing to keep pace with a growing economy. Poor maintenance was also a factor"

Yet still there is no interest in privatisation or private sector investment.

22 January 2008

Sue Kedgley calls for the regulation of..

yes it's 2008 and she wants something else controlled - now it is the tanning industry.

Consumers are too stupid to know what is best for them, and Sue can't be arsed spending her own money (does she have any that doesn't come from the state?) convincing people to not use them, so it is "pass a law, that'll fix it" from Sue.

Is there something that doesn't move that she doesn't want banned, regulated or made compulsory? Oh yes, "natural medicines" - she likes that being free, that is about it.

Freedom inches forward in Turkmenistan

Last year I praised the death of Turkmenbashi, (Saparmurat Niyazov) the lunatic former leader of Turkmenistan, who had a personality cult with the weirdest oppressive laws of any country on earth. Turkmenistan was looking like a second North Korea, until he died.

Now the Times reports that his replacement, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, who in one of his early moves legalised the internet, has now decided to remove bans on cinema, opera houses and circuses. He also would revitalise libraries. Opera, circuses, cinema and libraries were all either closed or starved of funding in the totalitarian state under Niyazov.

There is hope in Turkmenistan as the screws gradually come of, whilst it is far from being a bastion of freedom, the lunacy of the Niyazov era is over.

Voting on sex and race is mindless

According to The Times Oprah Winfrey is getting hounded by the US leftwing feminopia for being a "traitor" to her sex for backing Barack Obama. Oh how funny and outright vile and abusive the left can be.
Esconsced in their closed circle of ideology, believing that identity politics come first, and competence, reason and achievement come second - they, like the racist nationalists or misogynistic bigots they are first to decry, judge based on sex and race.
Hillary Clinton should be supported by women because she shares their genitalia - simple as that. Women who don't support her to be President are "traitors" because it is more important to have a President that shares the same type of organs as you have than one that shares your political philosophy or policies you prefer. Of course I forgot Hillary is a Democrat, which automatically means she is "good". You see nothing is more important to the control-freakery of the left wing feminocrats than to get a woman President. Pakistan had one, and she was a socialist and corrupt, but hey it was more important she was a woman. Therefore, supporting Barack Obama is "wrong" for a woman, because genitalia matters more than politics, or race. Of course they think Hillary wont get votes of too many men because they think men think like they do - that men vote on sex, not policies. They can't comprehend that identity politics is their own little narrow minded cult of bigotry.
Here's the rub. Those who claim African-Americans should support Obama because of his race are equally narrow minded. If someone is the same race as you, suddenly you would be more likely to support that candidate. Again, the identity politics practitioners of the left think that race is important to people.
Of course I am not entirely right about this. The truth is that the identity politics socialists turn their back on anyone who is a woman or of an ethnic minority if they DON'T support the main party of the left. A Republican woman or African American would be scorned, like Margaret Thatcher was scorned - the ultimate betrayal. The idea that a member of an oppressed group, a (defined by the left as) victim would believe in the politics of racism, sexism and oppression (the turnkey descriptions of the left for any believing in individual liberty) appals them.
So to those who call Oprah Winfrey a traitor - look at yourselves, you petty vile little purveyors of bigotry and hatred. Oprah doesn't think with her genitals, or maybe not even with her skin colour - maybe she believes in Obama's politics. Maybe, just maybe, most people don't go for race and sex when they vote - except you and old fashioned (and old) racists and other bigots.
The far left and the far right are all just the same after all.

Freedom slips back

The Economist this week reports on the Freedom House report on 2007, and worryingly notes that 2007 is the second year in a row when freedom appeared to slip back.
Freedom House classifies countries into "free", "partly free" and "not free" based on their civil and political freedoms. You can see this in its map of freedom which usefully summarises the state of the world.
Good news came from Thailand and Togo, which saw rankings improve from "not free" to "partly free". Other improvements came from Cote D'Ivoire, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Haiti and Rwanda.
Bad news came from an unfortunately long list including Iran, Russia, China, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, Azerbaijan, Kyghystan, Georgia, Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Palestian territories, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia, DR Congo, Chad, CAR, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, Congo (B), Nicaragua and on and on.
The "worst of the worst" are Libya, North Korea, Myanmar, Somalia, Sudan, Turkmenistan, Cuba and Uzbekistan. Leftwing academics criticise Freedom House for being too closely aligned to US foreign policy, although this would not explain Israel's relatively poor ratings in recent years and Iran not being in the "worst of the worst" category. China's continued low rating reflects how wealth and prosperity are no replacement for individual freedom.
For me what is most notable is how so many of the poorest countries in the world are rated so badly in freedom terms. East Timor, one of the great cause celebres of the left is only rated as partly free, partly because the police and military are not apolitical or independent. There is much to be done, note how South Africa's rating has slipped a little, it being no coincidence that Thabo Mbeki is mates with Robert Mugabe.
So remember to appreciate the freedoms you have, and support others having them - the world is freer than it was twenty years ago, when half of Europe was in chains. However, the story looks bad more than good - it should be a warning to all those supporting state aid of oppressive governments - why should you be forced to pay aid to a government that is not free?

Cuba has its election fraud

So Cuba has had parliamentary elections, with a reported 95% turnout, and of course, as it is an election in a state governed for the people - there was only one candidate for each seat.
Great stuff, I am sure the New Zealanders who are prime felchers of the Cuban system will be cheering, and look forward to when New Zealand has a workers' party that can do away with the waste and conflict created by multi-party elections in a liberal democracy. Where are the protests for human rights in Cuba?
Oh and here is Ken Livingstone, the dictatorship admiring Mayor of London, is one of Cuba's greatest fans. Here's hoping Londoners take the chance to give Ken the boot at the ballot box.

Chavez continues the madness

What does a socialist do when he is concerned about poor people not being able to afford food, well he makes it illegal to sell food at the market price so they can afford it. It is a childlike response "price too high, make it low or else". Don't laugh too hard, Rob Muldoon wasn't much different for a few years. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the latest pinup boy of the "New Left", and mate of London Mayor Ken Livingstone did just that. What was the reaction? Well Venezuelan farmers weren't too impressed by having their livelihoods cut, so they started exporting their produce to neighbouring countries to get the prevailing market prices for what they grow. Venezuela is a net food importer as well, but then few want to sell to a country unwilling to pay market prices.
So shortages have appeared, you know like bread queues in the former Soviet Union - shortages are the stock in trade of socialism, because incentives to produce are completely schewed by central planning and prices not being an equilibrium between demand and supply.
So what is Hugo Chavez's response? According to the BBC, he has called for the nationalisation of farms that export their produce. He is willing to "call in the army" to do this. By saying this, he effectively is nationalising the farms, and the next thing you can be sure of is that the farmers will cut back spending on their farms. A low price means reduced production.
Shortages will simply grow. He also threatens to nationalise banks that don't give low interest loans to farmers. Again though, this is something else he has meddled in. With inflation reportedly at 22.5%, interest rates are capped at 15% - so banks can only loan money at a loss. So maybe there will be loans available on paper, but in reality none will exist.
Sadly for the Venezuelan people what we have now is a textbook example for all students of socialism at work. Pay close attention kids, watch what happens next and ask yourself how a country that is rich in oil, at a time of high oil prices, has shortages of basic commodities, and why it is led by a man whose response to those who don't do what they like is to steal their property.
It goes a little something like this:
- I want to make poor people wealthy;
- I take money off of wealthier people, take a little for me and give the rest to the poor;
- They stop making money or working so hard, and complain;
- I take over the rich people's media so their complaints don't demoralise the poor;
- I get less produced by the wealthy, threaten them more;
- There are shortages;
- I blame the wealthy people and take more off of them;
- They try to leave or stop producing altogether;
- I stop them leaving, blame them for economic sabotage;
- Shortages get worse, starvation occurs, unrest develops;
- I use the nationalised media to calm people's fears and point out that poverty is being eradicated, everyone has jobs, and to show the hell that is life in the USA for the poor;
- I blame the USA, IMF, World Bank and international banking for impoverishing my poor hard working people;
- Further economic collapse.
Zimbabwe is at the final stages of this... and you hear John Minto say what about Venezuela?
Maybe you might ask about those who are supporters of it? Like those who may promote this film, former Jim Anderton ally Matt Robson being one of them. What do they say to Venezuelans facing food shortages? Will they be prepared to admit their own economic illiteracy has been tested once again, and give up cheerleading bullies who keep wanting to repeat the failed experiment of socialism?
Look at the list of failure:
- Mongolia
- Yugoslavia
- Albania
- Czechoslovakia
- Hungary
- Poland
- Romania
- Bulgaria
- east Germany
- China (pre 1978 - can hardly be seen as socialism now)
- Cambodia (Democratic Kampuchea)
- Laos
- North Korea
- Cuba
- Zimbabwe
- Angola
- Benin
- Congo (B)
- Mozambique
- Somalia
- Yemen
- Ethiopia
- Tanzania
- Afghanistan
- Myanmar
or hasn't enough blood been spilled yet?

19 January 2008

TUANZ - socialism in telecommunications

Ernie Newman has been head of the Telecommunications Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) for some years now. TUANZ has been one of the leading lobbyists for the so called "rights" of telecommunications users, rather than producers. It has supported the government's decimate of part of Telecom’s property rights over its infrastructure, and compulsory funding of telecommunications infrastructure. Of course, TUANZ, you see, produces absolutely nothing.
As an association of users, it seeks to represent their interests. Now this isn’t in itself a bad thing. There is always value in consumers having product information, and to inform suppliers about demand and what they are interested in. However the agenda of TUANZ is a bit more than that. TUANZ demands that the state ensure that suppliers provide it with what they want.
Imagine a FUANZ for food. FUANZ would demand that the state regulate the price of food, guarantee a certain variety of produce and foods be available across the country at a similar price, and probably would want supermarkets which had no competition within a certain area to open up parts of their property to competing retailers. FUANZ would be ridiculous, so why isn’t TUANZ?
TUANZ talks as if competition in telecommunications is new, just because Telecom is forced to allow other companies to use its property at a price dictated by the state. It largely takes for granted the vast reduction in prices for many basic telecommunications services, such as national and international calls, internet provision, mobile phone services, which all arose without local loop unbundling. TUANZ would say it wasn’t enough- but did you see TUANZ investing a dollar in a network? Well it might argue some of its members did, as TUANZ has been supported by many of Telecom’s competitors for years. At one point if I recall correctly, Telecom gave up on membership of TUANZ, because it was sick of helping funding a lobbyist that was so against it, and was effectively representing the interests of its competitors.
TUANZ has long supported local loop unbundling, which is now compulsory in NZ (as it is in many countries admittedly, but then so is a state monopoly on postal services). It is predicated on it being economically unviable to duplicate Telecom’s twisted copper pair local telecommunications network, and therefore the provision of broadband internet capacity.
Funnily enough, it hasn’t been predicated on competition in local phone services, largely because the price of these has never really been seen to be too high. Besides, with the Kiwishare Obligation, Telecom has been required to grossly cross subsidise rural phone consumers from the cost of urban phone consumers.
Ironically, having achieved the effective nationalisation of the local phone network of Telecom (though not the duplicate one of TelstraClear in central Auckland or suburban Wellington and Christchurch – one rule for one), Ernie Newman is not yet happy. Decimating Telecom’s property rights of course decimate its interest in investing in that network, something dismissed by Newman and the Labour regime as being of less interest than competition. You see, it wasn’t seen to be reasonable to simply sit back and let competitors invest in a duplicate network. Telecom's competitors wanted access to Telecom's network to resell its services under their brands.
Somehow building duplicate networks was deemed uneconomic even though:
- Bellsouth, then bought by Vodafone, virtually duplicated Telecom’s entire mobile phone network within five years;
- Saturn/Telstra-Saturn/ Telstra-Clear duplicated Telecom’s residential phone network with a combination twisted copper pair/hybrid fibre coax network in most of suburban Wellington/Hutt Valley/Kapiti Coast and Christchurch;
- Satellite based broadband (high speed downloads not uploads) has been available nationwide for around nine years.
Don't forget the barriers that local authorities through the RMA have imposed on this network duplication, but that is an aside.
Now Newman in the NZ Herald is saying”
As telecommunications increases its role as a dominant force in our lives, a small country like New Zealand has a vast amount to gain in productivity and lifestyle terms from taking the extra step to be an early adopter.In the 21st century this means replacing copper wires with fibre optic cable”.
Words of a sector seeking protectionism or subsidies if ever there was one.
To which I say – what the hell was the point of decimating Telecom’s property rights in technology you now deem obsolete? He talks of it bringing great benefits, with high speed video, voice and data services – great. You might ask yourself what else you might like at home, like a jacuzzi, home gym, you might like more overseas holidays, so bear this all in mind.
Newman continues:
In total, the cost of digging up the nation's footpaths and rose gardens to replace copper with fibre looks daunting.”
Surely not Ernie, if after all, everyone wants what you say they want, they’ll pay for it! He says it will work this way:
Fibre to the street cabinets is the job of the phone companies - they've already started.”
The “they” are interesting, I would have thought it was all the job of the phone companies, but then Newman wants to make it easier for them and for his members. He goes on:
From the street cabinet to the letter boxes should be a job for local authorities or power companies - provision of infrastructure services is work they excel at.”
Should be? Why did Telecom do this in the 90s, why did Telstra Clear? Since when did local authorities “excel” at provision of infrastructure services? Has he seen how water/sewer infrastructure in some rural districts is in a crisis? Roads in Auckland? The great days of municipal electricity companies underinvestment and regular power cuts? What’s stopping power companies now Ernie? What has been smoking? Either he wants to force them to do it, or with local government force us to pay for it – given what he says in his next statement – it sounds like a bizarre string of payments.

And the letter box to the living room should be the customer's contribution - once I have fibre running past my letter box I'll gladly pay to get it to the house to improve my quality of life and ability to work, and add value to my home.”

Well Ernie good for you, surely you would pay the phone company for the lot directly or through the fees you pay for the services you think everyone wants to improve their productivity.

You see, Mr Newman sees telecommunications like roads – except roads are paid for by users of course, and he ignores the tragedy of the commons of roads – which is congestion, gross overpayment by some users (trucks on rural Canterbury state highways) and gross underpayment by others (car commuters on most congested Auckland routes).
He says:
Broadband is infrastructure - the "roads and railways of the 21st century". Investment in infrastructure is inter-generational and has an economy-wide payback.”

Complete rubbish of course, as broadband infrastructure hardly has a depreciated life anywhere approaching a road or a railway line. It doesn't justify why those who DON'T use it should be made to pay for it. It is easy to physically duplicate telecommunications infrastructure, and it can be done wirelessly as well as by cable. Roads aren’t quite as easy. The “economy-wide” payback is the same sort of socialist nonsense that farmers, motor vehicle manufacturers, and ever other featherbedded industry put forward for state protection and subsidy. The truth is that state investment in infrastructure has been incredibly wasteful in many many cases. Why should it be any better now?

You see governments tend to invest not based on commercial returns at all, but on a combination of economic appraisal and political imperatives, because they are not spending their own money, but other people’s for which they are not accountable fundamentally.
He goes on about fibre networks being “common roadways” so everyone uses and no one takes responsibility. He calls for public investment in broadband – which to get rid of the euphemism is forcing you to pay for a network you may or may not use. He wants a sharing of the cost between public and private sectors.

TUANZ is now the telecommunications subsidy association of New Zealand. New Zealanders should tell Newman to get the hell out of the wallets and that if he stopped lobbying for government to hamstring the largest investor in telecommunications then he might get more investment in new technology and networks. Newman might ask Telstra Clear why the hell it doesn’t roll out a competing network and if it isn’t economic then he might ask his members to invest in one themselves. Newman might wonder why the hell he thinks the people he represents are more important than consumers of books, music, shoes, air travel, antiques or the like, or why telecommunications providers are more deserving of taxpayer support than farmers, manufacturers, restaurants, trucking companies or others?

Or maybe why people need to be forced to pay for something? Maybe people don’t really want the “triple play” of high speed services he says are so compelling, or rather they wouldn’t choose to pay for that over a new car, overseas trip, new shoes, reducing their mortgage or a nice bottle of wine. He uses the arguments of a socialist, and does no service to users or producers in doing so.

18 January 2008

NZ's own insurgency

Hat tip to Not PC for pointing out Phil Howison's excellent article about the Urewera 17, you know that group that far too many have excused.

Phil has gone through much detail to demonstrate what a credible threat they posed, and does help you think what nonsense is behind those who think the arrests were some sort of Labour party manipulated political targeting.

Read it, it is one of the best researched articles so far on this incident, and all Maori and Green party candidates this year, in particular, deserve to be grilled about what they think of the views expressed by the Urewera 17.

Battle of values: Part One

Much of the political and philosophical debate around policies, ideas, practices and even the use of language surrounds values - in other words, what is someone declaring is more important than something else. While it may seem obvious what "commonsense values" may be, they are not - indeed, you'd be hard pressed to find universality about values across major civilisations around the world. What is the chief value of Islamists? Arguably it is submission during life and pursuit of death (and the believed afterlife). What is the chief value of an environmentalist? Arguably it can be other species, or even simply matter. What is the chief value of a Marxist? The so called "working class". The values actually believed in may not be expressed explicitly, but they do guide philosophy and speak volumes about how philosophers and politicians (indeed everyone) see the relationships between human beings and the universe.
Without going into a long, and potentially turgid explanation of values and philosophy, I'll state what my highest value is - human life. Sounds self evident, but in valuing life I am rejecting the worshipping of an after life as an end in itself, or that human beings should be sacrificed for other species, or indeed that human beings should be sacrificed at all. Human beings have a rational faculty which they must use to survive and to prosper and be happy. In order that they can use this they must have the freedom to apply their minds and its greatest tool, their bodies to the universe. However, the initiation of force is the denial of reason and the denial of another person's rational faculty. That is why I reject the use of force, except in self defence.
So coming from that, I believe that government and more importantly, societal values should respect reason and as a corollary of that, individual adult autonomy and freedom, and reject violence except to defend that. Human beings should be able to interact voluntarily, and can choose what they do together or for each other, or in exchange. From that human beings can maximise their own life and the lives of those they care for.
There are plenty of people and philosophies out there that reject this, in fact none of the political parties in the NZ Parliament accept this, although ACT come closest in its rhetoric (and in the last three years has said the least that is inconsistent with this). So this post, and the series to follow over the next week or so will be focusing on the battles of values which i see as being most pernicious to confront in the 21st century.
I see them as being:
- Islamism;
- Environmentalism;
- Christian fundamentalism;
- Nihilism (or rather a lack of values at all);
- Nationalism/racism
- Marxism.
I hesitated to add the last two. Nationalism/racism and Marxism are less of a problem in the 21st century compared to the 20th, but they are still a problem, infect minds with an evasion of thought and reason, and both are harbingers of bigotry. Nationalism is bigotry by location and origins, Marxism bigotry of property ownership. So they both need to be covered, imagine if US politics was devoid of the politics of nationalism and Marxism - what would the Democratic Party do without Marxism?
The most urgent battle is against Islamism - because Islamists are waging war against us, against Western civilisation. Unfortunately environmentalists along with Marxists are appeasing it and Christian fundamentalists want to replace Islamo-fascism with their own. The others are, by and large, not waging an orchestrated campaign of war.