31 May 2008

Why has Amnesty forgotten North Korea?

Amnesty rightfully calls on governments to address the worst human rights crises, though I question when it says "There is a growing demand from people for justice, freedom and equality" as to what the hell "equality" is. Creating equality can damn people more than letting things be.

It lists countries where it is clearly has the highest concern - China, Myanmar, Russia, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq and the territory of Gaza.

However, what of North Korea? The only country that imprisons children as political prisoners, that runs the entire country as a prison - that condemns entire families when one speaks out of line. It is an Orwellian horror, but no it first mentions China - yes a place with many concerns, but which has also improved considerably over recent years. North Korea hasn't. It mentions the USA, and as much as modest torture by a Western liberal democracy is unacceptable, it is light years away from North Korea. Russia is getting worse again, which is a genuine cause for concern. It raises the issue of EU complicity with rendition.

This is all small fry compared to Zimbabwe, which itself is small fry compared to Darfur- perhaps the only instance comparable in scale to the North Korean prison state horror.

Amnesty says nothing, although deep in its website it does note North Korea. The Green Party remains absolutely silent about it, like it remains silent about human right abuses in Vietnam, but jumps on the China/Tibet bandwagon because it is popular - even though abuses of freedom and individual rights in China look like a holiday compared to North Korea, but are similar to Vietnam.

So how about it? Who the hell is going to stand up against the child torturing slave state run from Pyongyang? I'm convinced Amnesty doesn't support it, I'm also convinced the Greens don't, so why don't they bother? The more this is publicised, condemned and outrage is expressed, the sooner this will stop.

30 May 2008

Labour to let Kedgley damage NZ trade policy

Sue Kedgley, hysterical hyperbolist, according to the Greens "is attending the High Level World Food Security Conference in Rome next week, as a member of the New Zealand delegation."

She is paying her own way, but by what measure does she have the right to be a member of the official delegation? Especially since she will be talking in a way that sabotages and undermines New Zealand's long standing (and bipartisan between Labour and National) call for the liberalisation of trade in agricultural commodities. New Zealand has argued for many years at the WTO that trade in food should be free from export subsidies (like manufactured products), free from trade distorting subsidies and free from non-tariff barriers to trade (that are not genuinely about biosecurity), with tariffs on food imports being capped and negotiated downwards.

Now Kedgley is going to mouth off nonsense like "We need to challenge the doctrine of free trade and accept that people's right to food, to be free from hunger, must have priority over an ideological fixation on allowing market forces to prevail at all costs."

For starters, there is no free trade in food, secondly why DO we need to challenge it? How do you guarantee this fictional "right to food", proposing a global social welfare scheme are you? How do you propose food production increase unless prices increase to encourage it? How about the boondoggle of subsidised biofuels, which Labour is continuing with, the Greens are supporting and which is contributing towards higher food costs worldwide? Diddling with the market doing wonders there isn't it? Thought of attacking the EU, USA and Japan for grossly distorting agricultural subsidies and protectionism which has stifled agricultural production in other countries?

No - you're a vapid idiot.

SO why the hell has Labour let this banal control freak loose on the world when she says "I expect there will be intense debate between the free trade marketeers and those who believe the free trade agenda is one of the causes of the present crises"

Yes New Zealand is the free trade promoter, and by no stretch of the imagination can anyone outside the manufactured propaganda laden hysteria of Kedgley can honestly assert free trade is to blame for higher food prices - because it simply doesn't exist in food.

Kedgley is a vapid control freak who has for years sought to ban what she hates, make us do what she likes, make us pay for what she thinks is good for us and tax what she doesn't like. She distorts, peddles hysterical unscientific nonsense again and again, and has been the snake oil merchant for opposing genetic engineering, and concern about "safe food".

This woman shouldn't be let near any conferences claiming to be speaking on behalf of New Zealand. At best her views are economic nonsense, and as shallow as the rhetoric in her press releases, at worst she will provide succuour to the agricultural protectionists in Brussels, Washington, Tokyo and Paris who want to continue undermining world trade in food, world food production and currently strip around 1-2% GDP growth p.a. from the NZ economy.

So why is Labour letting an anti-free trade nutcase argue against government trade policy at an international forum?

Maori Party defends constitutional racism

The Maori Party unsurprisingly condemns the Business Roundtable calling for the abolition of the racially determined Maori seats, because without them, it may not be in Parliament.

It says "A recent Business Round Table report tries to rein in the resurgent political power of tangata whenua. It recommends abolishing the Maori seats out of pure self-interest, and definitely not for the good of Maori"

The Maori Party isn't self interested in defending the Maori seats? It never polls over the 5% threshold for party representation, and would fight to get maybe 1 or 2 electorates if the Maori seats were abolished (Maori votes changing the dimensions of general electorates like East Cape and Northland).

Parliament is not about representing races, it is about representing the views of individuals who vote. It does so in two ways, by representing communities defined by location and by representing parties that people want represented in Parliament. The Maori seats balkanise the country into Maori locations and non-Maori.

They are racist, they have no place in a modern 21st century liberal democracy, and no collectivised mumbo-jumbo can disguise that they are racist. The Maori Party wants to entrench this racism, rather than let Maori stand tall as people, as individuals with a shared national/ethnic identity, that don't need to be treated differently from everyone else. It could embrace the opportunity for electorates with high Maori populations to have Maori MPs, but no - it wins out of the current system, and will defend it to the end, and call anyone opposing it to be selfish and racist - which is so ironic.

Lorries protest fuel tax

Thousands of lorries blockaded streets around London this week, most notably parking on the A40 Westway (one of the short pieces of incomplete motorway scattered round London) reducing it to one lane. The reason? Fuel prices.

You see in the UK governments have for some years regarded the road transport sector as a light touch for taxation. Fuel taxes have been increased year on year to match inflation, and absolutely none of it is dedicated to roads. They are taxes, pure and simple. As a result UK fuel taxes are the highest in Europe. The reason for the high taxes?

  1. Fuel tax is easy to collect and hard to evade (although having different coloured fuel for road and offroad use with different taxes is a problem);
  2. Increasing fuel tax looks like it’s environmentally friendly, although if the fuel tax was only charging for CO2 emissions it would be far lower, and it does not reflect exposure to emissions. You pay the same whether you drive round the Highlands of Scotland or if you drive in suburban London;
  3. Increasing fuel tax has a modest effect on congestion by keeping the cost of using cars up. However, given this has paralleled a paucity of road building, the UK now has the second highest levels of road congestion in Europe.

Fuel tax in the UK is 50.35p per litre for both petrol and diesel. To put that in context this is NZ$1.27 per litre in fuel tax alone, before VAT of 17.5%. In NZ petrol tax is NZ$0.42524 per litre before GST, ACC levy and a couple of minor other taxes.

One problem faced by trucking companies (road hauliers as they are called in the UK) is that trucks from continental Europe enter the UK with large fuel tanks full of diesel taxed at lower rates. So there is unfair competition.

The UK government twice looked at measures to address this, but doesn’t know how many foreign trucks enter the UK. It looked at an electronic distance based charge for all heavy vehicles and rejected it, and then looked at the vignette system, commonly used in Europe, whereby foreign vehicles buy a licence to operate for a certain number of days in the UK and are checked at the “border”.

So what SHOULD it do? First it should define why it is taxing fuel at all. If it is about paying for roads then part of the tax should be dedicated to funding roads (and there should be an independent non-political funding agency set up to manage that). The UK Treasury hates hypothecation because it fears waste, and loses control, but it has worked in New Zealand for many years. Indeed NZ is seen in some quarters as a model for how to manage road funding (shows you how bad the rest of the world is). If the tax is environmental, then have an honest debate about why, how effective it is and how fair it is at all? If it is revenue, be honest that road transport is being pillaged to fund social welfare and education, and see how the public taks that.

Sadly the UK is stuck in a bureaucratic arrogance that “nobody else in the world does it better” and wouldn’t look to NZ, or even to France and Italy which run motorways as private and government run businesses (with tolls). It taxes bluntly, it runs roads as political driven bureaucracies and decides road funding on a loose economic appraisal approach, whilst funding roads barely higher than it subsidises rail transport. The cost this underfunding of roads and blunt overtaxing of road users upon the UK is considerable, and it hides the true cost of the UK leviathan state – as it keeps income taxes down. It’s about time this was reversed and road use was charged on an economically efficient basis.

Tax on fuel is only justified as a transition to proper road pricing. It should be capped, roads should be privatised, and motorists able to contract with road providers for road use, and opt out of paying fuel tax in exchange. It is technically feasible, the problem is the political instransigence that treats roads as special. Roads are a network that needs maintenance and investment, and provide an economic good. Is it any wonder people complain about them when their management is subject to the appalling incentives of politics and bureaucracy, rather than investors, producers and consumers.

Kedgley's latest brainless rant

Give me strength! The same woman who constantly claimed the two-lane one way street in Wellington called the Inner City Bypass would be a “motorway”, now claims that letting existing trucks carry 50 tonnes instead of 44 tonnes (when their design weight allows it) will be juggernauts (they are the same trucks as we use now you dizzy bitch) and “endanger lives”.

According to the government's own study in 2003, 5.5% of road accidents are the fault of trucks, a rather more relevant figure than Kedgley’s unsourced claim that they are involved in 23% of crashes.

She claims that you have less chance surviving a 50 tonne truck crash than 44, well Sue much like you have less chance surviving a bus hitting you than a car, but it doesn’t stop you promoting buses does it? However, trucks baaad, trains good.

The proposal is simply a trial existing trucks that are designed to handle heavier loads filling up their capacity to carry 50 tonnes instead of 44. In other words the truck will be more fuel efficient, and more productive, but it’s a truck – and in the faith based world of Green transport policy trucks are baaaadd like brainless sheeple worshipping a religion.

She bleets out the discredited “rail is five times more fuel efficient” piece of history ignoring the fact that rail and road freight have similar environmental impacts on average per tonne km, because it doesn’t suit her creed of truck baaaaad, train good. She then argues that "We need to get freight off our roads and onto rail where it belongs, and invest in building more track to places not currently serviced." What Sue? All freight? Why does it belong on rail, what would YOU know, you don't consign freight, you don't operate any sort of business involving goods or trading? What the fuck do you know about transport in the real world instead of your maniacal ramblings like some sort of fundamentalist worshipping at the side of a railway track? When was the last time you consigned 100 tonnes worth of goods?

What's this abuse of the term "invest in more track to places not currently serviced"? What everywhere? Nelson, Kaitaia, Waimate, Queenstown, Taupo, Havelock North, Raetihi, Akaroa, Te Anau, Roxburgh, Alexandra, Murchison, Opunake, Foxton, Miramar, Takapuna, Kerikeri? You mean like roads?

She is either seriously unhinged, or just a purveyor of manipulative hysteria, trying to scare families into thinking enormous trucks are going to bear down on their children? Either way, she ought not to be in Parliament -

29 May 2008

Apologise to Vietnam

Both Idiot Savant at No Right Turn, and Catherine Delahunty, a Green candidate believes the NZ government should apologise to Vietnam for the Vietnam War.

Such a suggestion is morally bankrupt.

The Vietnam War came about after the decolonisation of the country by the French. The Geneva conference was meant to see elections held throughout both north and south Vietnam, but as the north set up a communist one-party state and started purging political opponents. "Land reform" saw peasant revolts put down in the north. Meanwhile, the south also refused to hold elections. From this Vietnam became a frontline for the Cold War, with the communist north backed by the USSR and China (despite long standing ethnic rivalries and mistrust), and the non-communist south backed by the USA. They started fighting.

Both sides were corrupt, and abused human rights. By no means was the Republic of Vietnam (RoV) regime in the south a great example of freedom and democracy. It imprisoned political opponents and executed some, whilst of course the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) in the north did the same. However, for the US and its allies, including Australia and NZ, there was a fear of what was underneath the "Domino theory" that if Vietnam was communist, then it would spread to Cambodia (correct), Thailand and the rest. So backing was given to the RoV government against the communists. The DRV spread insurgency in the south flagrantly, and found supporters amongst those hurt and affected by the incompetence and repression of the RoV.

The war ensued and the US slowly escalated its support for the RoV. Americans saw the first war televised, saw body bags come home, saw its young men getting conscripted for a war to defend a corrupt autocracy. Life in the communist north was not televised, nobody ever saw the brutality of the DRV insurgency, its oppression of political opponents.

New Zealand became involved because of the belief in the domino theory, genuine fear that communism needed to be fought in our backyard and a belief that it was better to defend the bad but anti-communist RoV regime than let all of Vietnam become Marxist-Leninist. That is not something to apologise for.

The Paris Peace Accords which were meant to end the war, and allow free elections in South Vietnam were breached wholeheartedly by the DRV. The US withdrew and the DRV forces ignored what had been negotiated, and with the backing of the USSR and China (Western opponents of the war claim it was a US imperialist war ignoring the massive Soviet and Chinese support given to the DRV side) Vietnam was taken over by the DRV and it declared the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
2 million people fled communist Vietnam, hundreds of thousands dying in boats as they did. 200,000 officials from the RoV government were sent to "re-education camps", a brutal experience for some and many died. That was the legacy of letting Vietnam go.
Today Vietnam has no freedom of speech, it imprisons those who criticise government policy, there is no room for human rights organisations to operate or prisons to be inspected.

So what of that which Idiot Savant says? "Vietnam was an unjust war, fought for America's imperial aggrandisement. It caused the deaths of over a million North Vietnamese soldiers and two million civilians - over 10% of the North Vietnamese population. We should not have participated, and that fact needs to be formally acknowledged."

No, Vietnam was a just war fought to prevent the spread of Marxism-Leninism, an evil, murderous and debilitating political philosophy. The North Vietnamese soldiers were no angels, and many civilians died due to the DRV side, as well as the RoV side. Yes the war was fought badly, yes the support for the RoV regime was grossly mishandled, and in retrospect it was a disaster. However it was moral to try to stop Vietnam being communist. How this was done was a mistake, and so many actions by both sides were appalling.

Yet nobody on the left ever criticises the communist forces, never mentions the brutality and cruelty inflicted by the communists on civilians. It is always a US imperialist war, yet the heavy involvement of the USSR and China in funding and arming the communists, and sending small numbers of troops (and air cover) is ignored. Russia always has a "well that was the Soviet Union, it's different now" card that excuses all of its past atrocities.
We owe the Vietnamese communist government nothing. It is morally bankrupt to apologise to a authoritarian government. We should be encouraging the promising reforms of opening up the economy to go further, and for political pluralism and free speech.
What is particularly morally bankrupt are those who purport to be concerned about human rights and freedoms who say nothing about the Vietnamese communist regime. The Greens would rather apologise to it, but (rightfully) criticise Burma and China. Presumably the Greens think Vietnam becoming communist was a good thing. Idiot Savant has fallen into the same trap.
The Vietnam War was a mistake in strategy and tactics, it had half a goal - to stop communism, but its other half - what to have in its place, was absent and what was in its place was nothing to be proud of. However, there is no reason to celebrate communist run Vietnam, and no reason to apologise for trying to stop it.

28 May 2008

Castro endorses Obama

There's Florida gone to McCain.

Given Castro at one time was cajoling Khrushchev to launch a nuclear strike against the USA, this can't give Obama comfort. Whilst you can't control who supports you, you might ask why someone who has operated a dictatorship, who locks away and executes political opponents, and wanted to wage war against your country, thinks you're the best man for the Presidency.

(Full article at the Daily Telegraph)

Meanwhile, Castro's brother is implementing modest economic reforms that seem to have made a positive difference. Now if only Cubans were free to express what they really think...

What post-modernism does to the mind

Two children die, due to serious head injuries, inconsistent with accidents and consistent with murder, manslaughter and a family environment of neglect and hedonistic irresponsibility.
However in the world of the Marxist post-modernist, "colonialism and capitalism" are to blame. So presumably there shouldn't be a Police investigation, violence towards children is simply the fault of "the system". Smashing an infant's head is, not the fault of the person doing it -no - it's what you do when you're a loser who blames everyone else for your problems or when the state doesn't give you the life you think you deserve. She's said it before. "It's part of a bigger project to blame people in poverty for making bad choices on an individual level, rather than seeing the structural issues which leave people so broken that they torture a three year-old"
So if she had a child, and a "person in poverty" tortured that three year old, she could point a finger at all those business people and blame them. It's rather like accusing the Jews of ruining Germany's economy in the 1920s, or educated people for the war in Cambodia. It denies people have conscience choices, and justifies doing violence to another because of "structural issues". One could argue such issues might "make a man rape a woman", except the post-modernist identity politics type classify people, like Leninists and Nazis did, into powerful and powerless, so that women by definition have less power than men DENYING that it varies enormously by individuals.
You see when you're infected by post-modernist relativism, individuals are irrelevant to your grand theory of the universe- the theory that says it's not the fault of Maori people who abuse their kids, for example.
Oh and don't forget that when she says "capitalism and colonialism played a large part in those babies deaths" (sic) no alternative is offered. Certainly not the alternatives of communism, Islamism and post-colonial nationalism which have blighted much of the world for decades, although she shows some sympathy towards Islamists fighting for Iraq to be another Iran.
Of course I wonder that if "capitalism killed Mrs Muliaga" (despite the evidence of her family having at least made multiple mistakes along with herself, the evidence of multiple warnings of disconnection of something that hadn't been paid for), why Maia didn't pay Mrs Muliaga's bill herself? In fact why don't those who "blame the system" use their own money to help those who "suffer"? For indeed if you are going to blame "the system" for the reason why some people abuse kids, then you should blame yourself for not doing enough for the victims. Her death is sad, but frankly I care about people I love, not some stranger dying because she and those who loved her didn't pay her power bill, didn't call the hospital and didn't follow medical advice.
Then you can say "The idea that we can all control our own health, if we have the right 'lifestyle' runs strong in our society" which is true, because to some extent it IS true. If you smoke and take drugs it will more than likely shorten your life, if you are a vegetarian who exercises it will probably lengthen your life. If you don't exercise, eat a lot of saturated fat and sugar, then it will probably shorten your life. It's medical fact, but then if it doesn't suit a post-modernist, she will evade this as being "culturally inappropriate" or whatever new means there is to be wilfully blind. However then to accuse the public hospital system, taxpayer funded, of being culturally insensitive and claim this is "capitalism" requires even more contortions of reality. How is a compulsory state funded hospital's poor advice to the Muliaga family the fault of capitalism? Might the hospital have been more responsive had the family been paying it?
So does one book therapy when your mind suffers from the contradictions that:
- People who commit crimes were "forced to" by the system;
- People who neglect their own welfare or that of their family have no responsibility to themselves or their families;
- Those that have not the slightest link at all, on any measure of evidence, causality, intent or responsibility, ARE to blame for the crimes, neglect or simple foolish irresponsibility of "victim groups" (defined by race, sex, class and whatever other silos make you a powerless victim of the oppressor groups);
- Parents who abuse kids are not responsible for it, but policemen who rape women are responsible, but while neither should go to prison, there is no alternative given?
Maybe I'm being a "right wing idiot" (another banal simplistic generalisation that there is just a left and right) but when do people become responsible for their own lives, their own actions and their own families? Why are people to be collectivised like sheep in the minds of the post-modernist collectivist, instead of being judged by their actions as individuals? and when do post-modernists ever recognise that, applying their own philosophy, everything they think is coloured and biased by their own experiences and so is, relatively speaking, not applicable to anyone else?
I'd simply like to know what the alternative to capitalism is and how it doesn't involve initiating violence against others.

Addressing the Police

Blair Mulholland calls the New Zealand Police a disgrace. In many respects I agree. In my encounters with the Police on a public policy level I wasn't surprised that the prevailing view was "give us more powers", "you can trust us", "it's us against the scum". You don't look for protection of privacy and individual rights by asking the Police what to do.
Policing is a core role of the state. There is a fundamental expectation that government will supply the public with an agency you can call upon to respond to crime, to deter crime, and to put in place order when people act disorderly or in a threatening manner. It is, quite simply, protecting our lives, liberties and property from those who threaten it. In that respect we should be grateful for the Police and they should be considered our friends, the so called "thin blue line" between anarchy and peace.
Having the authority to arrest people, to use violence against people and the culture and training needed for people to undertake what can be a dangerous and threatening job does bring with it enormous risks. The obvious one is corruption, as badly paid cops can be "paid off" by organised crime to turn the other cheek. Even well paid cops can be tempted by luxury items and all sorts of goodies, you only need to look at Australia to see a policing culture endemically malignant with corruption, albeit efforts to reduce this have been somewhat successful.
Another risk is the ability to use violence to threaten and intimidate to engage in criminal behaviour. When those who are meant to protect you do the opposite then where do you go? It is rather akin to parents who abuse their kids.
More common is the way the Police can be politicised. Clearly the Police have not acted when there may be reason to do so against the PM's high speed cavalcade in the South Island a few years ago, or under the Electoral Act. The mere fact of concern about this should concern the Police, but it is a closed shop - and this is the most fundamental problem of all - accountability.
The Police operate as a quasi-military hierarchy. Questioning those above you is difficult and unpopular, but more importantly actually getting the Police to respond to incentives on performance is tricky at best. Holding back funding and the Police know exactly how to pull the heart strings of the public by cynically reducing Police Station hours and saying there will be less cops "on the beat". They could do less traffic work, or be more administratively efficient, or target less victimless crimes, but no - they always want more money, and they are more popular than teachers and nurses.
You see to have a Police strike worries people, and if you think performance pay for the Police is easy then think again. If a Minister says the Police get nothing more, they strike or rally for public support, and the incumbent government looks "soft on crime" or "mean to the wonderful Police".
Police performance is a huge issue. It's not just that having a car stolen is almost not worth reporting beyond insurance purposes, but that if the Police don't respond what can you do? Take the matter into your own hands and they don't like the competition. The legend that if you call the Police concerned you have an intruder they'll respond quicker if you say you have a gun is more fact than fiction. Indeed, the Police will go for drug offences more than any property offences. Who knows why they seem keen to prosecute cases of consensual adult incest?
So what to do?
First, review all criminal law to eliminate victimless crimes. This will, at least, stop the Police from pursuing people who hurt no one. This means changes to drug laws, to focus attention on supply to minors, and away from personal use in the home where there are no children.
Second, contract out those activities that the Police need not do. This means community support and many traffic activities (including directing traffic at accidents). The Police could bid for such work, but the role should be confined to law enforcement.
Thirdly, split the Police into local authority controlled entities and a central crime intelligence agency (to handle organised crime and cross border crime). Put local Police into democratically elected control, so that communities can monitor performance, with elected commissioners. Commissioners and Police subject to independent pay reviews, so they are driven by performance not political pressure. The central agency works for the local ones, and is judged by them.
Fourthly, review the right to self defence of body and property. The laws are adequate, but it is worthy reminding the Police of these rights.
Finally, a fuller review of sentencing and the approach to recividist offenders. Repeat offenders who should be in prison for life are set free, receive benefits and raise children. It's time to no longer tolerate those who, having committed a crime and given a chance to rehabilitate, hurt more people. They should be removed from circulation if they are repeat violent or sex offenders. This should reduce the workload of the Police.
There is no simple solution, some argue privatising and opening the Police to competition may help. While it may be helpful for direct action against offenders, it is unlikely to be so when undertaking major investigations or dealing with organised crime. However, I am happy to hear from those who think private competitive policing could work, and avoid the risk of police being bought and sold by wealthy criminals, or politicians.
This is an issue that will be central to political debate when a libertarian government has shrunk the state to its core roles.
UPDATE: Forgot Trevor Loudon's recommendations to improve the Police, they are worth looking at (Hat Tip: Not PC)

Don't forget the Maori Party is a Marxist Party

Lindsay Mitchell rightly points out the socialist nonsense of the latest Maori Party policy. Increase benefits, increase minimum wages, cut some taxes but find new ones.
None of this should be news, it is a party of collectivism, that believes in the use of the state to achieve collectivist goals. I blogged some time ago about the Marxist leanings of the Maori Party, and how it is a mismash of conservatives and socialists basically seeking to compete with Labour in the Maori political sphere.
Sadly it offers Maori nothing more than another form of statism, a more extreme and naive one. It is statism that has failed many Maori, and the Maori Party seeks simply more state dependency rather than setting Maori free.

Not too sick to bully

The Dominion Post reports today that some GPs are being bullied by "sickness" beneficiaries particularly in smaller provincial areas, as they seek medical confirmation they can't work:
Dr Van Herck said... "He had seen one woman who had been on a sickness benefit for 19 years because of asthma but smoked a packet of cigarettes a day. Work and Income had offered her several quit programmes. "She admitted she was too lazy to go." Another sickness beneficiary's documented reason for not working was they "could not be bothered".
He continued..
"On the day he saw the asthma sufferer, he also saw a man whose leg had been amputated above the knee and who worked full-time, despite pain. Another woman continued to work after a stroke."
Here is a simple solution. State that as from a certain date, there will be no new eligibility for the sickness benefit, but that people can then buy sickness insurance from insurance providers. The sickness insurance no doubt would reward healthy lifestyles, and penalise smoking, lack of exercise, high cholesterol and the like.
Of course taxes would be cut to allow people to afford this.
Existing sickness beneficiaries would be given a year to get well, by that time they would either be deemed invalids or be transferred to an insurer, which would manage the government's liability for the person. Clearly anyone who continued to engage in destructive behaviour (e.g. smoking with asthma) would no longer be paid.
Of the political parties, Labour supports the status quo, the Greens want to increase benefits, National might have a policy and ACT wants to shift the system to compulsory insurance. Libertarianz would abolish the sickness benefit.
Of course some of us wonder how so many people are never too sick to commit crimes.

Advice on travel to Istanbul

In the absence of time to do a full review, here are some tips:
1# Istanbul is well worth visiting. You can stay at the Sultanahmet, Taksim or in the Bazaar district to be close to those things worth seeing.
2# Taxi drivers are mad, wear your seatbelt.
3# Don't stay at the TashKonak Hotel unless you are paying no more than about US$100. The rooms are pokey, electricity unreliable and breakfast is a complete rip off. Staff friendly and good location, ideal for top end backpacker side of the market.
4# Turkish Airlines is actually not bad. In economy class choice of hot meals which are pretty good as far as economy class goes and reasonable range of drinks. That plus headsets and a movie means it is ahead of most airlines in Europe on a regional flight. Legroom still bad but online checkin allows you select seats 24 hours in advance, so I got an exit row on the way back, and as it is Star Alliance you get Air NZ airpoints, and those with Gold status can use the rather opulent lounge at Istanbul (although the food there is nothing special).
5# Be prepared if your hotel is located next to a mosque, the first call to prayer is 5am and last one after 10pm. It's everywhere at Sultanahmet, but mosques are all over this city of 11 million.
6# Take time, there is a lot to see. You need a day to do a boat trip up the Bosphorus or hop over to the Asian side.
7# The tram is dirt cheap, air conditioned and a very reliable way of getting between certain places as it is largely separate from traffic (yes and light rail enthusiasts can see the density of housing in Istanbul to see why it works there and wouldn't in NZ).
8# NZ passport holders don't need to buy a tourist visa at the airport. Australian, British, US and umpteen others do. Gloat away.
9# Locals stare, especially at Western women (given few local women bare legs and arms, although maybe half of the younger ones do in trendier shopping areas), it isn't considered offensive.
10# Go see the Basilica Cistern, it is right in the heart of Sultanahmet. Istanbul was once the centre of the Roman Empire, there is much history to be seen here.

23 May 2008

Bank Holiday weekend

Which means 3 days without any time in front of a computer - because I'm off to the Bosphorus. Back late on Monday BST.

Don't spend all weekend partying away your imminent tax cuts on ... a kebab, a pint and, oh yeah that's about it isn't it?

Tories await victory

How do you turn a 7000 vote majority into a defeat? Ask Gordon Brown. The Crewe and Nantwich by-election is happening as I type, as a result of the sudden death of long standing hardworking Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody, a leftwing battleaxe who didn't put up with much nonsense (except her own socialist leanings) and was an MP since 1966 (sad to die while an MP at 77, I mean, why not have a life?).

Crewe is solid working class Labour territory, being a famous railway junction with major railway workshops. Nantwich is solid Tory, but the seat has never been anything but Labour since it was created, and its previous inculcations have been Labour since 1945.

Labour is about to get punished. This fairly solid Labour working class seat is going to go Tory. The BBC is already reporting 2 hours before the results come in that Labour is quietly conceding. Labour's campaign has been shocking though. Dunwoody's daughter is the Labour candidate and the Labour campaign claimed the Tory candidate is a top hat wearing toff with a large landholding with horses who doesn't even live there. Well he doesn't, he lives 30 miles away, but the landholding he is accused of owning is next door to his home, and he is no toff. However the Labour candidate has an entry in Burke's Peerage and Baronetage, and lives 130 miles away.

It's going to hurt Gordon Brown assuming Labour loses. The next likely by-election should be Henley, assuming Boris Johnson resigns given his new job! However Henley should be a pushover for the Tories. Quite simply Labour looks as tired in the UK as it is in NZ, but then it's awfully hard to please people when house prices are going down in most places, fuel and food prices are going up, unemployment is creeping up and the government finds money to nationalise a failing bank. Old Labour voters are fed up (and are too stupid to not know that more government doesn't work), New Labour voters have been seduced by the new vapid Tories, and that's it. Gordon Brown may face a leadership challenge after tonight.

One welfare recipient wanted more

The NZ Herald has a headline "Beneficiaries angry as they watch pay relativity slide". Yet the article quotes one, before quoting socialist academic Susan St John (what's stopping her paying more) and the Salvation Army.

The one woman quoted was once President of something called the Combined Beneficiaries Union. You might wonder why people who don't sustain themselves financially, who don't have to concern themselves with employment conditions, would need to belong to a Union - well, it is a leftwing lobby group. A bit like the infamously named Unemployed Workers' Union, an organisation that I thought as a child was contradictory. No one is a worker if they are not doing work (and let's avoid the stupid Marxist concept that anyone who isn't some blue collar employee ISN'T a worker). They exist to essentially lobby the state to make other people pay them more money, as crude and self interested as that.

However, wait there's more. The Combined Beneficiaries Union isn't privately funded - YOU pay for it. According to a Parliamentary Question from National MP Judith Collins, this "union" is 40% funded compulsorily by you. About $60,000 a year. Enough for someone's salary.

So you are forced to pay for an organisation lobbying to force you to pay its members more.

But wait, there's more. The woman interviewed was involved in a scandal regarding the firing of someone allegedly making expense claims for personal items. The story is here. To be fair the woman concerned, Helen Capel sounds like she has been treated badly.

However, that is by the by. The bottom line is that beneficiaries have been given nothing - you see they always vote Labour, but that means they don't need to be given anything by Labour. Of course those who care could always take their tax cut and any more, and give it to beneficiaries they know, or can find. However that would involve really giving a damn, and far too many talk about caring about the poor, but wouldn't go near actually helping them directly.

22 May 2008

So what should National do?

So after accusing the Nats of wanting to borrow to pay for tax cuts, that’s what Dr Cullen is doing. Going into deficit to give modest tax cuts that STILL mean more tax is collected per person in real terms than was the case than when Labour was elected.

You see, if Dr Cullen had merely spent more to compensate for inflation since he held the Treasury reins, he would have increased spending by only 24.7% according to the Reserve Bank’s own inflation calculator. Now I know it’s a Labour government, you could say, well maybe he could have increased it by double that. No, government spending has increased by four times the amount necessary to make up for inflation since 1999.

Now what should National do? That’s what everyone is wondering. After all will it borrow more than Labour to give back more. Will it cut spending?

I don’t expect much from National, and it typically ensures that I have overestimated that. However , here’s an idea. Let’s say that National had remained in power in 1999. It is a fair assumption that National would have continued pretty much with the policies it had then. If we are to believe the Nats about efficiency in the public sector, then there is little need to grow spending beyond inflation is there? Yes population grows, but spending shouldn’t need to grow beyond that either.

Population growth since 1999 has been 6%, and with the inflationary factor of 25% on top of that, that means in order to maintain a steady state of spending, with no efficiency gains, government spending since 1999 should only have increased nominally by 33.2%. It has increased by 69%.

So National, if it was honestly maintaining the status quo of its policies, should be cutting spending back to where it would have been had it stayed in power.

National’s last full year in power saw total Crown expenses of $33.939 billion. It is now forecast for 2008 to be $57.364 billion. Had spending kept pace with only population and inflation, it should be $45.2 billion. National should be announcing spending cuts of around $12 billion.

What does that mean in tax cuts? Well using the Treasury handy calculations which are admittedly inexact as they don’t take into account the dynamic effect of lower rates generating increasing amount of revenue, this is what you could do:

Implement Dr Cullen’s new thresholds in full immediately ($80k for 39%, $42.5k for 33%, $20k for 21% and the new base rate of 12.5%). That’s $2 billion back in people’s pockets straight away, but that’s hardly enough.

Cut GST to 10%, providing modest relief on fuel and food prices to everyone. Another $1.7 billion

Abolish the 39% envy income tax rate introduced by Labour and cut the 33% rate to 25% along with company tax. A whopping $4.2 billion back to individuals and businesses.

Drop the 21% rate altogether down to the new lower 12.5% rate. Another $3.3 billion.

All up a tax cut of just short of $12 billion. You’d have company tax below Australia’s level at 25%, you’d have a two tier income tax structure with a rate of 12.5% up to $42,500 and 25% above that. GST would be down to a simpler 10%. Think how much more competitive that would look, think how kiwis in Australia and elsewhere may go, hmmm keeping 75% of my income instead of 60%. By the way ACT advocates might note that this goes beyond ACT tax policy from the last election , which advocated 25 and 15% as two tier rates, and no cut in GST.

That’s just if National had been prudent and spent no greater than inflation and population growth since 1999.

So do you think National will get that? Or is it addicted to pork as well? Was the government underspending in 1999 so much, or would you rather it spend like it was then and give you back the surplus? Are you getting value for money that means you'd rather pay the tax you spend now, rather than 12.5% on the first $42,500 and 25% on every dollar above (and a little less on goods and services)? Oh and don't mention roads, I haven't even touched fuel tax.

Cullen really is still taxing you more

So after accusing the Nats of wanting to borrow to pay for tax cuts, that’s what Dr Cullen is doing. Going into deficit to give modest tax cuts that STILL mean more tax is collected per person in real terms than was the case than when Labour was elected.

You see, if Dr Cullen had merely spent more to compensate for inflation since he held the Treasury reins, he would have increased spending by only 24.7% according to the Reserve Bank’s own inflation calculator. Now I know it’s a Labour government, you could say, well maybe he could have increased it by double that. No, government spending has increased by four times the amount necessary to make up for inflation since 1999.

So Dr Cullen has introduced a new bottom tax rate (for up to $14,000) of 12.5% (to please his supporters). A drop from 15% (after the low income rebate).

The raising of the 33% threshold from $38,000 to $40,000 is well under the rate of inflation since 1999. Had he inflation adjusted it, the new threshold would $48,000. The 39% threshold adjustment from $60,000 to $70,000 is also below inflation since the rate was introduced in 2000. The new threshold should be $74,000. So Dr Cullen is still taxing those people more than they were in 2000.

So why? What's the pork? Well the long list is in Dr Cullen's speech here, but here's quite a bit of it:

# Middle class welfare hiked up in the form of Working for Families (looking at National pointing at it to find something to get rid of in exchange for tax cuts). Recycling tax money so thousands of families are grateful they get “given something” from the state that was taken from many of them in the first place. Truly vile stuff.

# More subsidies so people in rural areas (who Telecom is forced to charge below cost for telephone line rental) can get broadband that they would otherwise get if they lived in cities (yet somehow people in cities don’t get the cheap rent, free parking and uncongested roads in return).

# More money to reduce class sizes, but nothing to link performance of the teachers to what they are paid (you can’t you see, because the teachers’ unions support the Labour party and are hard working people who work equally as brilliantly and nobody knows what a bad teacher is like).

# More subsidies for home owners and landlords to increase their property values by installing insulation and clean heating (South Island vote presumably).

# Rail pork, Dr Cullen wants to build the Marsden Point port branchline, a line that the profitable port company wont pay for (even though it apparently is wonderful for it) and which economic appraisal says is not worth the cost. He is Think Big man for rail, wanting a multi billion dollar underground rail link, a rail link to Auckland airport (even though most airport trips don’t start or end anywhere near the city) and one to the North Shore (even though that doesn’t stack up either), admittedly over 20 years. Of course it is a bit too much to expect users to pay even half the cost of that.

# Continuing the $30 million a year Jim Anderton transport pork for Gisborne/East Cape and Northland, essentially subsidising the roads used by forestry trucks (because charging them like is done overseas is clearly out of the question). Jim Anderton promised that forestry would generate jobs galore in those regions, although the share of the vote his party gets there doesn’t show they are grateful. Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay still has the highest rate of unemployment, so that’s worked a treat clearly.

# $27.8 million to the people living the dream of TV programme making with a Screen Production Initiative Fund (wonder why they can’t just borrow or spend their own money on filmmaking, I mean it’s such a difficult and gruelling profession). I’ve mentioned before how that lot are hand in glove with Labour.

# More money for the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, which of course does education, healthcare, immigration… oh no that’s right, it produces nothing but bureaucracy.

# $10.9 million so state radio can keep operating supporting statism . You be the judge as to whether a wide range of views on the budget and the role of the state get broadcast on it.

# $72 million to bribe the Winston vote elderly by giving them free off-peak public transport use.

But I'm not surprised. This is after all a Labour government, it believes in growing the state and in Nanny State. A tick for Labour is a tick for more government, all Dr Cullen has done is reduced how much he has increased the real tax take in future years. A tax cut? Hardly.

Why voting for Libertarianz can make a difference

It's rather straightforward. Assuming the Nats don't completely drop the ball and Labour can't be Santa Claus, the Nats will be the largest party in Parliament after the next election, by a reasonable margin. I'm expecting the 56% or so in the polls to be more like 45-46% on election night. Anyway, National wont need your vote to do this, hundreds of thousands of people know only that to get rid of Labour they vote National.
So National will be looking to coalesce with who? Like Labour it will prefer to go to the centre, like NZ First, United Future and, dare I say it, the Maori Party. That's what you face, none of that will scare the electorate at all.
ACT is proposing 20 changes in policy that are frankly no more radical than the sort of policies that were around in the late 80s, early 90s, IF that. A tax free threshold almost double that of NZ First, dropping the top tax rate (was National policy in 2000). Education vouchers was National policy in 1987 and more market oriented health care from 1990 to 1993 (but got seriously curtailed by lack of courage). ACC competition in 1999. Labour market freedom was 1991. Privatisation was policy from 1987 to 1999. The ONLY Act policy that is a shift beyond that is to shift social welfare to an insurance based model.
So what happens if ACT gets a sizeable vote, and National needs ACT to stay in power. Well ACT's policies get compromised. You get a smaller tax cut, you probably don't get education vouchers (but get bulk funding), you get ACC competition, but not insurance based welfare. You get RMA reform, but nothing too serious. In other words, you get what is already not that ambitious being less ambitious. Now if ACT pushed the 20 policies I suggested a few days ago instead, then you might get the compromise looking like ACT's CURRENT 20.
Ah, some may say a more moderate position gives ACT more room to say its policies are reasonable. Well shifting the goalposts to the left means the destination point remains closer to the left too. Rather unambitious for a party putting up the man who pioneered privatisation, proposed flat tax and shifting the entire social sector to insurance based models.
So how about Libertarianz? Ah your first point is "it's a wasted vote". Well let's just see how important your vote is. Don't forget, for all the hype your head is being counted along with a lot of others - it is a tiny influence, National isn't winning a seat just because of you, neither is anyone. What it SHOULD be is an extension of what you want. If you worry about what other people vote then you're making the influence of others important on your own decision.
Then you might say "well the policies are lunatic or too extreme". That's your judgment, but let's assume you want a lot less government and want some serious tax cuts and reform. Who is more likely to send the signal that there should be? The party calling for abolition of GST, the first $50,000 tax free and a flat tax, or the one calling for $10,000 tax free and getting rid of the 39% rate. The party wanting an end to state welfare, health and education or the one wanting to reform it with insurance or vouchers? The one wanting to cut it to core functions of law and order and defence, or the one wanting to cut it to - the level of Australia?
Imagine if there were 6 MPs who always voted no to more government spending on non-core activities and no to higher taxes and no to more regulation of people's day to day lives. Would you rather them or some National MPs? Even if Libertarianz fail to get 5%, imagine if 2% of the vote was for freedom. Other parties would start wondering why they didn't get the 2-3 seats those votes would entitle them too. ACT would certainly be more bold, and the next election more would notice they could vote for freedom too.

Look at the Greens. They influence government and policy considerably, with a core 5% of the vote on the hard left, and they certainly wield influence beyond that number. Shouldn't they be countered by a party of principle on freedom? ACT has had a chance to show it could be as radical as its founder once was, and as radical as it was in 1994. It doesn't seem to want to do that, although if the polls continue to show little change, it may change tactics closer to the election.

So voting for Libertarianz can make a difference, it wouldn't mean Libertarianz would be in government, and it might not mean it is in Parliament, but it does mean you've voted for individual sovereignty over your life, body and property, and for the state to exist to protect not to initiate force. So many people believe that, many vote for second best, and many more vote for third (?) best.
As the election campaign rolls on, we will see how all the parties perform and for now, I wont be making a final judgment, as much can happen. It is time to be bold politically and stand up for beliefs and philosophies, not pander to fears and prejudices. Your vote is a very small influence, so it should be one that says what you believe in - and that should be more than simply "I want rid of Helen Clark".

Sky defends itself against state broadcaster's whining

Sky Television's Chief Executive John Fellet has mounted an excellent defence of his company up against TVNZ's bleeting moaning and whinging about losing sports rights because it couldn't bid enough for them. Fellet is reported in the Dominion Post saying:
"a TVNZ submission to the Culture and Heritage Ministry calling for Telecom-like reforms to be imposed on pay-TV was "so incredibly filled with misrepresentation" that Sky intended to file a cross-submission to "jog their memory"."
He claimed that forcing it out of the market for sports programming saying:
"All the major sporting codes would go bankrupt if the Government prevented Sky from buying exclusive rights to sporting events"
Probably not all going bankrupt, but they would lose more players to overseas teams and codes because they would lose a lot of money, then you'd wonder why people might want to watch. You see after all, pay TV is a way for people to see games they may otherwise visit if they lived near the venue (or may prefer to sit in their own homes than go out to a match).
And to TVNZ's claim of being outbid by a broadcaster that people choose to pay for:
"Sky had been outbid by TVNZ for television series made by Warner Bros and Disney and had dropped out of the bidding for those made by 20th Century Fox. "We haven't won anything, we keep getting outbid, and then they are complaining they are paying too much for it - I don't know what to do."
Well indeed. He also points out that TVNZ opposed Sky buying Prime TV because it wanted Prime, a free to air competitor, to fall over. TVNZ naturally will never fall over because it is government owned.
One of those entities that have enjoyed suckling off the state tit, the Screen Production and Development Association is also concerned about Sky. No doubt because Sky doesn't think it is worthwhile to pay for the overpriced programming that it produces, even though it benefits from state subsidies. That association has long lobbied for the government to force broadcasters to screen local content and lobbied for taxpayers to pay for more programmes they may not wish to watch.
I'm sure it isn't looking forward to the Labour party led gravytrain becoming a bit less generous under the Labour-lite party. (though to be honest, who knows what National policy is?).

The thing is you don't have to pay for Sky TV, you are forced to pay for some programming on TVNZ and you are the taxpayers underwriting the risk of the business (and its devaluation under Labour in recent years).

Now you're going to subsidise coastal shipping

Not satisfied with having paid over the odds for the right to run trains on its own network, and the rolling stock. Not satisfied with that including a coastal shipping service (the interisland ferries), the government now wants to spend your money to prop up, wait for it, the competitors to the railways and the ferries, the coastal shipping companies.
It's not much money, $10 million a year over the next three years. Why?
Coastal shipping has not been subsidised in New Zealand since the 1980s, when the fourth Labour government cut the subsidies to the Stewart Island ferry service (which was operated by the Ministry of Transport) and the Chatham Islands shipping service. Funnily enough both islands still have services of course. Before that the Kirk Labour government propped up the Wellington-Lyttelton overnight ferry run by the then Union Steamship Company with the ferry Rangatira. The subsidies ended by the Muldoon government because of poor patronage and because competing rail and air services were profitable.
So what's changed? Well for starters, NZ First's Peter Brown is a shipping fanatic, he thinks it is the answer to many of the nation's transport problems. Harry Duynhoven is into it as well. So personal political missions sound like a good reason to make a decision don't they? So hey, why not prop it up. The goal is to double the amount of freight going by coastal shipping, which is because it is more fuel efficient, but here's the rub.
You see other than the ferries, coastal shipping is about moving containers and trucks. It competes with rail because rail doesn't feed those ships, trucks do. So the government buys one mode on the pretence of the environment and fuel efficiency, while subsidising another on the same basis, but it also insists on running the roads on a non-commercial basis.
The irony is if the amount of freight on coastal shipping doubles it could be largely at the expense of rail. You can barely wonder at the brilliance of paying over the odds for a business that you then undermine by subsidising its major competitors. Can transport policy get more stupid?

21 May 2008

UK debates abortion and fertility.

The House of Commons has debated and rejected a private members bill to reduce the 24 week limit for abortions to 20 weeks. It has briefly fired up the debate on abortion in the UK (it's permanently fired up in the USA). The BBC reports it was rejected 332 to 190, now the debate is about cutting it to 22 weeks.
Now as I tentatively dip my toe in this issue, libertarian views on this vary. Some take the feminist view that the foetus has no rights until it is born, others believe it has rights as an independent entity, my view is that abortion should not be allowed except to save the life of the mother, once a foetus is theoretically viable outside the womb, but also abortion should not be state funded (as it is wrong that those who are against it should be forced to pay for it).
On a related issue, the House of Commons has also decided that IVF clinics should not consider "the need for a father and mother" when granting women IVF treatment. The change is that they should only consider "supportive parenting", which according to the Guardian essentially opens for lesbian couples to have IVF treatment. Now as libertarian as I am on these things, in that I don't want the state being involved, I do firmly believe that IVF children have a right to know their genetic identity, unless the supplier of sperm or egg is explicit about blocking that information, and that one of the core problems for many young people today is not having a good father figure/male role model. How to deal with this? I don't know, but ignoring the issue is not the answer.

UK grants Iranian gay teen asylum

I blogged in March about Mehdi Kazemi "Mehdi Kazemi is Iranian, and came to London in 2004 to learn English. Mehdi Kazemi is gay. In April 2006 his boyfriend in Iran was executed. Under interrogation Kazemi's name was mentioned as a partner, as his father informed him by phone. Kazemi feared he too would be arrested, charged and executed - so he claimed asylum in the UK. He was refused in late 2007. As a result he fled to the Netherlands. He now faces a court in the Netherlands where he is also claiming asylum. If he fails, he will be deported to the UK - and there he faces almost certain deportation to Iran - to his certain persecution."
I pleased to note the BBC reporting that Mehdi has been granted asylum in the UK, according to the UK Border Agency "We keep cases under review where circumstances have changed and it has been decided that Mr Kazemi should be granted leave to remain in the UK based on the particular facts of this case." Anything else risked his certain death.

Just say no

The NZ Herald reports on Auckland local government "Former North Shore Mayor George Wood and former regional councillor Wyn Hoadley called for a collective approach on economic and social issues to tackle issues such as health, housing, job shortages and education."
In other words a mega council to extend itself into social policy.
Care for a 100% rate hike anyone? As a start?

Lunatic left rabidly against private roads

According to the NZ Herald, Citizens Against Privatisation, a far left ginger group linked to the Alliance has suggested it would blockade a new tunnel built through Avondale if it was build using (shock) private money and built privately. Apparently the fact they wouldn't be forced to use it and pay a toll isn't enough for these fanatics. One Marxist claim is "This PPP is aimed at putting more of the load on to the poor and the working class". Actually if done right, it will be privately funded, private enterprise will operate the road and yes nobody will be forced to use it (absence of force is an alien concept to socialists who believe in forcing everyone to pay for things).
These nutcases, who presumably also claim to be environmentalists sometimes, would rather NON road users pay for it through income tax, than it be tolled. So a new road is built by subsidies from those who never use it. Great!
Now I DO have criticism of the Waterview extension of SH20, mainly because it is overpriced gold/greenplated and should only be built if the benefits exceed the costs or tolls can fund the road. I doubt either are true, which means it shouldn't be built for now. However, I'm happy to let the private sector buy the land and build it and toll it, if it thinks it can make money from it, but I doubt it is true. However if it could, the leftwing lunatics would stop it, because to them "private" is evil. However, they will no doubt align themselves with the equally lunatic Residents Action Movement (who have conspiracy theorists about road policy) and the "make everyone else pay for my water" Water Pressure Group.
Don't tell them there are private cul-de-sacs all over Auckland, they might blockade them with their dribble when they realise how they have existed for decades without them noticing - the outrage, those bloody World Bank IMF international military industrial complex banker types screwing the proletariat again (I'm only half kidding, one of their activists talked with some of that language to me once).

Simple way to cut spending

Here you go, don't spend money subsidising the racing industry, for the reasons Sue Bradford says "there will be many others who will feel mortified at the bad name their industry is getting through Government sponsored handouts to the rich". Ignore he call for spending the money on the losers in the racing industry, but hell - how many examples like this can just be dropped? Shouldn't the Nats be fighting this?

Green party voodoo economics

Green MP Sue Bradford has put out a press release advocating regional development specifically by asking Dr Cullen to invest (read - spend your money without your consent on something that wont generate a return to you) "in promoting more diverse economies, rather than each town putting all its hopes on one industry. Each of our towns and provinces needs a range of successful primary industry and manufacturing businesses providing diversity and strength to our local communities"
So she wants subsidies for business in effect, but she also says "It is obvious that benefit levels must rise" so she presumably wants to tax them more too. How putting up the price of labour and taxes for businesses in the regions is good for them is beyond me, and it's a bit much to hope that Sue's years in Maoist China before it reformed might have taught her something, besides Mandarin.

Shallow academic gets pay cut

The Melbourne Age reports that public transport evangelist Paul Mees of Melbourne University has had his pay cut after saying " the authors of a 2007 report on privatisation were "liars and frauds and should be in jail". It's called defamation you lunatic. He says it is an "attack on free speech". He claimed "the comments were not "insulting or derogatory"". What planet does he occupy?
Well it isn't earth. Mees has long been an environmental evangelist's pinup boy eager to damn any road building and cheerlead on rail and especially light rail projects (you know the sort of people who when talking about this sort of thing sound like they are engaging in foreplay), with rather appalling economic analysis. He's had a pay cut of A$8,000 a year as a result. I wouldn't hire the man for A$8. Tim Blair pointed out that Mees persists that cars are no more fuel efficient today than they were in the 60s and no more cleaner burning, both of which are ludicrous claims.
This same man claimed on the ABC once that the Melbourne Citylink toll road, which has been a roaring success, would be a failure and need taxpayer bailout.
Of course the Green Party quotes him, for their anti-road fanaticism, so beware - the media often thinks academics on a subject don't have a barrow to push. Paul Mees is a leftwing, environmentalist car hating light rail enthusiast. If you ask for his opinion, I'd approach Wendell Cox for a rebuttal - and watch the sparks fly.
Hat Tip: Tim Blair

The ex.monopoly moaning about the competition

Imagine if you had a statutory monopoly on your business since your sector came into existence, in other words for a total of 29 years. Imagine if your first competitor was required to tell you, four years in advance, all of its products and the timing of their release, so you'd know when it started exactly what to do to ruin its chances. Imagine then that when the market was opened up, you bought extra capacity to compete with your new competitors and allied yourself with one of the emerging players.
Now some 17 years after the market being fully open, it's all a bit hard and you're moaning to the government that one of the new players is so successful, it's unfair.
Of course I forgot to say that the company in question is 100% state owned, that the government since 1999 has had no interest in privatising it and stymied a plan to directly take on its competitor shortly after it won office.
I am talking about the arrogant self styled guardian of "kiwi kulture" TVNZ. TVNZ, of course, gets some money from the taxpayer to pay for programmes that viewers wouldn't otherwise pay for. Sky gets nothing. TVNZ inherits its rights to broadcast, Sky had to bid commercially for its UHF frequencies and now pays commercially for satellite broadcast frequencies. Sky's customers CHOOSE to pay to have its channels available, and Sky offers around 60 channels plus radio. TVNZ offers 4. Sky started from nothing in 1991, with 3 pay TV channels and lost money for around the first decade of its operations. TVNZ was government funded and enjoyed milking NZ TV advertising monopoly until 1989.
Do I smell the whiff of loser? Now TVNZ could have performed better had it been privatised as it could have invested in pay TV, more channels, and spent money on programming people wanted rather than being the Prime Minister's plaything (it is rumoured than when TVNZ dropped BBC World from TV1 overnight because of the high price the BBC charged, the PM rang the TVNZ CEO and demanded it be reinstated - of course Sky offers BBC World 24/7).
TVNZ wants the government to ban Sky from bidding for the broadcast rights for certain sports events, presumably so TVNZ can pay the sports event operators less so it can attract customers to watch it for nothing (even though hundreds of thousands are willing to pay). It can't seem to convince advertisers to pay enough for the programming compared to how much Sky can convince subscribers. Too bad TVNZ. It calls Sky subscriptions a "sports tax". No! It's not a tax because it is voluntary, but then the socialists at TVNZ maybe don't quite get that, having been friendly to statism for many years.
However it goes further. No doubt buoyed by Labour's decimation of Telecom's property rights, TVNZ wants Sky forcibly split into two businesses; one to buy and manage programming, another to operate satellite transmissions and set top boxes. What?
This is the same TVNZ that once owned BCL (now Kordia). This is the same TVNZ that holds the two highest rating commercial TV channels, and for years dominated the free to air broadcast market because it advertised its own programmes for free on its own channels. I guess the inherited monopoly benefits have been eroded by the market.
Sky was one of three pay TV businesses that have had a reasonable presence in the market. Telstra Clear is second with its cable TV operations in Wellington and Christchurch, and Telecom was a third with the long defunct First Media cable TV operation in parts of Auckland and Wellington. Ihug also briefly ran a pay TV operation. TVNZ could have done so too, but government has prevented it from doing so.
TVNZ wants a "level playing field". What, you mean having a 31 year head start wasn't enough? It wants "media diversity", when it spent several years in court in the 1980s fighting a third TV channel, and itself bought one of the seven nationwide UHF TV frequencies when they were first sold (and had a 25% interest in SKY which bought four others).
You see 720,000 households subscribe to Sky - that's people choosing to pay for TV. Unlike the hated TV licence fee which people DIDN'T choose to pay, but which predominantly benefited TVNZ.
Quite simply TVNZ are moaning losers, it has milked TV advertisers for decades, milked taxpayers and the TV licence fee paying them by force for what people wouldn't otherwise choose to buy. Sky comes along, offers programming people want to pay for, and TVNZ thinks it is unfair.
It should be privatised, in full - it is an arrogant broadcaster that specialises in vapid oversimplification of issues, "to make them relevant for the viewer" by treating news like a sports match "good vs bad". It has overpaid so called "stars" that it creates, and almost never challenges the statist status quo, and warmly embraces those who want more government or government to fix problems.
So go on TVNZ, charge subscribers for your content, and see how well you go or maybe just ask your masters to sell you to someone prepared to invest in developing your business. Don't get upset because the relatively new boy on the block is outdoing you right left and centre.

Libertarianz announce mammoth tax cut

Well, following on from ACT taking the Libertarianz tax policy from the last election of making the first $10,000 of income tax free, Libertarianz have announced a new tax policy with its alternative budget. All the details are here on Pacific Empire, but the key points are:
- First $50,000 of income tax free;
- Abolish GST;
- Public expected to buy healthcare, education, superannuation and insurance against misfortune if they so wish;
- Privatise hospitals and schools by giving away shares in them to the public;
- Privatise other state assets not essential for law and order and defence;
- Proceeds of privatisation to fund residual national superannuation, ACC and invalids benefit obligations, and a three year phase out of the DPB;
- Significantly increase defence spending to rebuild blue water navy and strike capabilities.
So there you go, if you want to send a message to politicians that you want your money back, vote Libertarianz. Although I'd like to know the rate of income tax about $50,000 (it was 15% in the previous policy I believe). Now I'd fiddle a bit with some of these policies, but they represent a bold message of cutting back the state to its core functions.

20 May 2008

New blog rankings

Tim Selwyn has kindly published his latest NZ blogosphere rankings, for March/April. No point in going through the results, but I am glad to say that my ranking is up to 34 (from 51) and Not PC from 6th to 4th place, knocking back Frogblog and No Right Turn (two of the leading leftwing blogs).
The rankings are interesting for listing some blogs I never new existed. Others than have significantly gone up OR down (by at last 14 places) in the top 50 are as follows, with the previous ranking followed by where they are today according to Tim. Inastrangeland (gone from 41 up to 26), Silent Running (16 to 30), Craig Foss MP (81 to 31), Hot Topic (68 to 35), Maia (23 to 38), Big News (29 to 47), Aotearoa a wider perspective (69 to 48).
I know I'll be looking at the blogs I've never seen before to check if they should go on my blogroll or my regular feed, just to see what is interesting.