31 July 2008

Why I don't give to Amnesty anymore

Idiot Savant blogs about "Freedom week" when Amnesty International seeks to raise money for its campaigns.

I wont be giving, even though Amnesty has done much good work in the past. Why?

1. Amnesty doesn't pay any attention to terrorists, organisations engaging in bombings in Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Spain, the UK or anywhere else. Its concern about governments is right and appropriate, but ignores how militia like Hamas, Al Qaeda and the like effectively take over, run and oppress whole areas of countries, and more importantly, wage war on others.

2. Despite the mountains of evidence of young children and pregnant women being enslaved by the state in gulags, execution of political prisoners en masse, starvation as a tool of political oppression, medical experimentation on political prisoners, chemical weapon tests on political prisoners, all in North Korea - Amnesty International spends mountains more effort on Islamists in Guantanamo Bay. The worst human rights abuses carried out by any government today are stark and plain in North Korea - Amnesty knows this, comments on it, but does not lead a major campaign against it. This is at best negligent, at worst deliberately evasive.

Its biggest campaigns are to control arms (which in some cases has caused more deaths than it has saved, e.g. Bosnia Hercegovina), concern about civil liberties eroded by what it calls the "so-called "war on terror"", implying terrorism isn't a problem, and to stop violence against women (which is often neglected and which I fully support).

It's about time that its biggest campaigns included eliminating political imprisonment. For that is, after all, what the organisation was once focused on. Until its voice is as loud on North Korea as any of the other issues, I'd rather give to organisations that fight for those in the most oppressed prison state there is.

As oil prices settle back

Will the Greens end their armageddon like cheerleading about "Peak Oil" which is simultaneously seen as disaster, and a wonderful opportunity?

Will the ease in the price, inevitable as the high price was choking off demand, mean the Greens will see it as a victory, but a disaster now? Of course!! Lower oil prices will be seen as "no reason to be complacent", and "fueling climate change" and "we still need to worship subsidised collectivised transport that isn't necessary more environmentally friendly than cars and trucks".

Winston's four legged friends?

Well, Dr. Michael Bassett has certainly thrown something new into the mix - NZ First's largely unknown support base from the racing industry, which appears to have done well through its "investment" in Labour's critical support partner. The Sunday Star Times journalist Tony Wall has made allegations of NZ First getting substantial financial support from the industry and meanwhile benefiting from many policies of the current government peculiar to racing.

If true, this surely has to hurt, except of course, the truth that easily 5% of voters are dumb enough to believe anything this snake oil merchant has to say. He'll claim the SST is a paper of foreign big business, and is out to get him - and people will believe it.

(Hat Tip: No Minister)

Zimbabwe sadly slips further

Well it had to happen, according to Stuff quoting Reuters, Zimbabwe has effectively redenominated its currency by dropping zeros. Ten of them. So that 1 billion Zim dollars will now be 1 Zim dollar.

Of course given that it may be rather hard to print the money given the end of the contract with the German suppliers of banknote paper. Meanwhile, the two-faced friend of murderers, Thabo Mbeki continues to meet Morgan Tsvangirai with the attempt to create a government of national unity, for foreign consumption, because - of course - it wont really mean a difference. It will be like how Joshua Nkomo was cauterised by Mugabe in the early 1980s, after Mugabe's goons butchered their way through his "allies".

I did note one point of unintended humour when the report has the phrase "Mbeki's spokesman Mukoni Ratshitanga" conveniently named because Mbeki is a master of ratshit.

MDC isn't relenting though, insisting that Tsvangirai lead a new government. ZANU-PF is insisting that the "election win" be respected.

It's very simple - if MDC compromises with ZANU-PF it will cease to be a credible or moral force in Zimbabwe. Compromise with evil is concession to evil - and conceding to those who would murder you means you lose.

Thabo Mbeki is part of that evil, the South African government and the ANC is part of that evil - and the so-called peace and human rights movement is turning a blind eye.

30 July 2008

Your taxes to feed child torturers

Yes Winston has announced NZ$500,000 to go to food aid in North Korea. Not a lot of your taxes, but your taxes anyway. It is to go to the UN's World Food Programme, known for being apolitical, you can be sure that North Korea will take the aid and ration it out as a totalitarian state does - with the army and the elite having their fair share, followed by essential workers.

Oh and if you think "well they are poor, we can't let them starve" then check one thing. Who is letting them starve? Let me show you where they live:

Meanwhile, here is part of the gulag with the clearly marked school for child prisoners under age 12.

Yes - you can be sure that New Zealand isn't to blame for the suffering of North Koreans.

Nats want to give local government more "tools"

Whilst central government is clearly the growing leviathan in our lives, one should never forget the petty fascists in local government. The ones that use the RMA, bylaws and your rates (if you're a property owner, sorry tenants you don't pay rates, your landlord does). Rates rise most years in many councils, and do so faster than inflation and faster than tax. Remember that these rates are nominal on TOP of years of increasing property prices. You might wonder why councils have to spend money at an ever increasing rate, and why your vote every three years makes little difference.

I put it down to many of those who stand for local government, they are busybody do-gooders who think if they have some statist power to regulate, tax and spend, they can do their little bit to "make the world a better place" rather than just leave peaceful people alone. Comparatively few people who want less government stand for local government - partly because they are concentrating on their own lives, jobs, businesses and families, but also because the ability to do much about constraining local government is relatively low. The recently elected Auckland City Council has started to be more frugal in some respects, but still there hasn't been a wholesale rollback of local government since central government reforms of the late 80s, early 90s.

Labour whilst in power reformed local government to give it more powers - specifically known as "the power of general competence", allowing it to do as it wishes on any area of activity, excluding a tiny handful reserved for central government. In other words, local government could provide welfare benefits, healthcare, schools, run restaurants, railways, racecourses, radio stations, whatever it wishes. So it is no wonder local government has continued to grow.

So you might think National could reverse that and at least limit local government to core "public goods". Well this is what John Key had to say to Local Government New Zealand...

"We want to give local government a broader range of tools that can be used to address the needs of local communities. These options could involve increased use of partnerships, charging arrangements, and longer-term financing."

OK so a generous view would be allowing private investment in infrastructure. Well fine, forget Public Private Partnerships and go for privatisation. However charging arrangements? What does that mean? Does he mean new taxes? Why not simply cut what local government does John? Get it out of the provision of services that can be done privately.

Then he says, not only will he provide new tools but:

"We will also look at more appropriate ways to ensure that local government knows what central funding and other support it would receive for undertaking new responsibilities. A National Government will not be looking for a free ride at the expense of ratepayers"

He wants local government to do more and charge taxpayers everywhere to do it!

Now he also said "we need to ensure that taxpayers’ money and ratepayers’ money is being used effectively and efficiently." This implies some central government oversight of local authority spending, which may be a rather bureaucratic way of saying "no".

However, there is a point where in his speech you think he MIGHT get it:

"People are struggling with rising costs and an economy that is going backwards. Households are tightening their belts, and in turn they expect that central government and local government – which take money off them through taxes and rates – should be tightening their belts as well, and should be striving to deliver them value for money."

but NOOOOO. He doesn't....

"This environment puts real pressure on politicians, both local and central. But it also gives us an opportunity to look at how we can most effectively provide the services that people expect from us. Over the next few years we will need to concentrate on the basics – on providing good services where people want them, and at a reasonable cost."

Concentrate on the basics MIGHT imply what I said earlier, so maybe he'll be honest with us - the ratepayers and say he wants to cut the size of local government.

What do you reckon? Does he record suggest anything will change? Here are some pointers about what SHOULD change.

Cullen has a point

You have to laugh at the Scoop website's Maoist depiction of John Key, and the inevitable press release from the government that "Key admits support for communism".

Dr Cullen said of Key:

“He attacked Working for Families as ‘communism by stealth’ and a ‘costly welfare monster’, then yesterday he said it was important support for families and affordable, and then said today that it was in fact ‘communism by stealth’ again.

Which really is bizarre. It IS a costly welfare monster, and it is, if you take it to its logical end, communism by stealth. However it is also important support?

Come on John - the truth is you can't face voters and tell some of them you'll give them their taxes back but not any more!

Dr Cullen concludes:

“How can anyone take anything this man says seriously? When you change your mind this often, you can always change it back again.”

Which is, of course, an occasion when I can wholeheartedly agree with Dr. Cullen. There are umpteen reasons why I disagree with him on many things, but one thing he is - someone who believes in what he says and what he does.

Now John, either give evidence that Dr Cullen has misrepresented you, renounce the policy on Working for Families or grab the red flag and fly it high!

29 July 2008

What do the Greens fear?

So the Greens have blogged about nuclear energy, typically using "we" phrases as if the Green Party speaks for what everyone thinks and does.

Its statement below is one I don't necessary disagree with in part, except it rather inanely draws a conclusion that means the opposite of what is Green policy.

"Given that it is easy, even here in NZ, to get private finance to line up and support renewable energy projects, without a penny of government subsidy, one has to wonder why we continue to buy into the hype that nuclear is the way to go. The economic rational simply does not exist. With peak oil and climate change breathing down our necks, it is time to take decisive action. Action that can stand the test of time, sustainably." (sic) (can't this lot use English properly?)

Well if the economic rationale for nuclear doesn't exist, then there shouldn't be any legal impediment to nuclear energy being developed in New Zealand should there? If the argument against nuclear is economic, then set that argument free to be tested.

Secondly. If "renewable" energy apparently is economically viable as the statement implies, why take action at all?

Of course the truth is that the RMA stymies the development of the most viable and renewable electricity source - hydro.

So what are you voting for?

Do you want a change because of the Electoral Finance Act? It is probably the single biggest reasons to remove Labour, but what comes in its place isn't promising or clear.

Do you want tax cuts? Well yes fine, but so far tax cuts are only clearly announced by Libertarianz, ACT and NZ First.

Do you want a radical change in how health care is delivered so that it becomes consumer centric? Well yes fine, but again only looks like Libertarianz and maybe ACT could deliver that.

Do you want education for your kids based on what you want them to learn, based upon you choosing where they go and funding following your kids? Again looks like Libertarianz, and ACT could offer that.

Do you want the welfare state downsized and reformed so that only those who are truly unable to earn their own way get some assistance, and others are incentivised to buy their own insurance and protection against misfortune? Again, Libertarianz and to some extent ACT offer that.

Do you want private property rights protected? Only looks like Libertarianz from here, ACT is not that clear on this one.

Do you want less government? Libertarianz are clear on this, ACT appears to want to at least stop things getting worse and at best cut government's portion of GDP to Australia's.

So why are you supporting National? Do you just like Labour's policies but fed up with Helen Clark and Michael Cullen? You see, that's pretty much what it looks like you'll be getting.

So your choices:

Labour or Labour Lite (Helen Key and John Clark, whatever).
Libertarianz or Libertarianz Lite (truly)
Nationalists for Winston First (and stop those bloody Asians ruining our country you know?)
Green socialists (and stop those evil foreign drinkers of childrens' blood ruining our country you know?)
Maori Nationalists for socialism first, well we think (and stop both of them)
Dunne and Anderton one-man bands (build Transmission Gully and renationalise what you can and put the word "Kiwi" in front of it).

Methinks half of you just are fed up with politicians, Clark and Cullen especially - but don't really want change. After all, if you did, surely Rodney Hide and Roger Douglas would be able to command the sorts of support Winston once did, such as 10-12%. However they're not. Neither of course are Libertarianz.

So you do like big government don't you? You like how politicians and bureaucrats ration health care for you, decide what your kids will learn and whether to pay failing schools more, you like governments buying airlines, railways and building telecommunications networks, you like more welfare for the middle classes, you like being forced to pay for leftwing TV and radio, you like separate race based seats and laws, you like environmentalism and the way local authorities can run roughshod over your property rights.

Don't you? That's what this is telling me.

China and India helping to derail world trade talks

Associated Press is reporting that China and India are calling for INCREASES in agricultural protectionism, wanting the powers to increase tariffs if there is a significant increase in imports. They ironically have been seeking higher cuts in subsidies and protection from the EU and the US, whilst not wanting to reciprocate in opening up their own markets for agricultural or manufactured goods sufficiently.

WTO Chief Pascal Lamy has been trying to negotiate a deal that would include significant reductions in limits of EU and US spending on agricultural subsidies, while developing countries would cut manufactured goods tariffs by 20-25%.

Meanwhile, the French, Italians and Irish farmers, piggies supping at the trough of the EU Common Agricultural Policy are objecting to the modest compromise proposals.

If ever there was a time when the world needed to open up trade, and get rid of inefficient cost-plus subsidies and barriers to trade, it is now. European farmers have lived long enough off the back of the European taxpayers and consumers. Export subsidies should end immediately, quotas and other barriers to imports should also end, and existing subsidies phased out in a three year transition. Then, and only then, can European farmers deserve to not be called bludgers.

German power company promoting a stereotype

Yes N-Power wants kids to become "climate cops".

Tim Blair calls it Baby Stasi, which is a bit strong, but really how keen are you for your kids to be telling you off for "destroying the world" or "shrinking the home of polar bears" as it is depicted.

At least it is a private initiative, and I don't use N-Power. However, it is curious how a big bad electricity company is encouraging people to not use the commodity that it is selling and encouraging children to do the job for them.

The state discovers the obvious

Lindsay Mitchell blogs on a Ministry of Social Development report that denies that colonisation is responsible for domestic violence among Maori families.

The truth is more a matter of inter-generational violence (children grow up being abused or seeing abuse, so are psychologically normalised to tolerate or use violence) and economic stress increasing the propensity for violence to be unleashed.

However, neither is an excuse. It is time for the welfare state to be tough against those who commit violent offences. It is time for those convicted of serious violent and sexual offences to be denied welfare, to be denied custody of children and to not be allowed to live in the same home as children under the age of 16. Tough? Yes. How else are we to stop vile scum who beat up their partners and kids from perpetuating this disgusting cycle of wasting lives? We can't save most of those who perpetuate it - but we can stop paying for them, and we can stop them from living in the homes of children.

Meanwhile, the collectivists who pine for the golden age of pre-colonial, pre-written language, stoneage civilisation can continue to do so, and contemplate whether their myth of a violence free blessed existence can have as much credibility as the claims that European society was the same.

UK government locked up typhoid sufferers in asylum

The BBC reports that women who were chronic carriers of typhoid were locked up in a mental asylum from 1907 to as late as the 1990s. They were locked up as a risk to public health (note it was women, not men). The hospital - LongGrove - closed in 1992. In 1956 there were 26 and it was reported they were "deteriorated mentally". Unsurprising as they were physically sick, locked up as if they were mentally ill and dangerous. Almost all were incarcerated and died there. By 1972, most surviving had been cured and were relocated in non-isolation wards in the same institution.

The women effectively had life imprisonment, and isolated in a mental institution, even though they were simply infectious, not with any psychiatric condition. In the TV report on Newsnight, one nurse said it was prison like, the patients were seen as "objects" and life was not good. She talked of the women she looked after, saying most were not mentally ill. The tragedy of this case is that the women are dead. Moreso, the UK Department of Health denies that there was any such policy, although there remain powers to incarcerate carriers of disease. The state, meaning good for the masses, destroyed the lives of a minority - not by isolating them in a medical facility but imprisoning them out of sight and out of mind. Nobody will ever be accountable.

Congrats to David Farrar

Well it is slightly late, but still well worthwhile giving David Farrar a cyber slap on the back for five years of good work and being the number one political blog in NZ.

Yes I know he's a Nat, but he is generally a more liberal one.
Yes I know he's a hardline leftwing statist on telecommunications policy, he'll see the light one day and stop wanting to thieve from everyone else eventually.
Yes I know the comments on his blog are a mix of conservatives, some bigoted, and socialists, some more bigoted.

However, Farrar is an astute political pundit and is no mere lapdog of the National Party. His blog isn't funded by the taxpayer, and is probably the most reliable place online for commentary on New Zealand politics.

My only serious criticism would be one shared by Not PC. It comes from his latest comment on Chris Trotter.

Trotter said:

Those charged with governing our country, hold in trust the resources – both natural and social – that are the common property of all our people.

Farrar said: "Can’t disagree with that."

Oh dear me. If there was one thing I'd really like David to post on it would be a statement of his own political philosophy and beliefs. It may lay him bare to criticism that he and the Nats are not exactly in sync, but he appears to be a man who thinks a great deal and has some degree of consistency in his philosophy (with major lapses).

So go on David, what ARE your core beliefs. Whether it be from religion/atheism, to individualism, the role of the state, and what drives you philosophically and politically? If that's too hard, describe what you DON'T belief in - it ought to be a long list.

Flying on a Boeing 747 is still remarkable and safe

While investigators continue to examine why the Qantas 747-400 from Hong Kong to Melbourne had to divert due to a hole in its fuselage, it's worth noting how remarkable and how safe the Boeing 747 really is.

ABTN notes
that three rather remarkable transport engineering achievements were unveiled in 1969. The QE2 was the largest, and it is about to be retired in September. The Concorde prototype was the fastest, and none of the 20 made have flown in five years. The 747 was meant to be a large military transport, then a cargo plane - and was built to be tough enough to handle those missions. Its life as a passenger jet design was expected to be short, as the Concorde (and the long defunct Boeing 2707 supersonic transport) were meant to be the future. Unfortunately for British, French and US taxpayers, they were wrong. Fortunately for Boeing, the 747 proved to be revolutionary.

Over 1,400 have been built. The QE2 by contrast was a one off, and instead of being the hallmark of a new generation of ocean liners, it became a cruise ship. A leisure vessel rather than transport, as the age of trans-oceanic travel came to an end in the 1970s. It wasn't the future, but the last gasp of the past.

Concorde whilst a remarkable technological achievement was more a national showcase than a commercial success. Whilst funded by taxpayers, it was politicians around the world, particularly in the USA and India, that stymied Concorde all because of - the environment. The sonic boom was hated by those living near airports where planes are half the noise today than they were in the 1970s. With supersonic flight banned over the continental USA (except, of course, for US military aircraft) and over India, most of the market for Concorde was kneecapped - with no chance of flights between Europe and the US West Coast, or with Asia at full supersonic speed. Its final years were profitable because BA got the debt for them written off, and could charge £13,000 (yes pounds) for a return trans-atlantic flight by Concorde.

So the 747, slow, and not altogether majestic, would be what would change travel. It carries 2.5 times what its predecessors carried, the Boeing 707 and DC-8. It would do it as fast as most subsonic airliners, would carry enormous loads of cargo, be two-thirds wider, and start making inflight movies (on the big screen for many years) easy for all. Most of all, it created most of the new capacity in economy class, and airlines had to fill these enormous planes, and the price of long haul air travel dropped - dropped not because of governments, not because of price control, but because airlines and a plane maker took risks, and it worked.

Consider the original 747 was designed in the 1960s:

"Some 4,500 people were involved in the original design with most of the work carried out on huge elephant-size drawing boards, not the amazing 3D CAD computers available today"

You see things have changed a lot, it's not just a longer upper deck, but engines have evolved, interiors have changed significantly, with entertainment systems, more luxurious seats in the front (and more in front), and less legroom in the back. However, bear in mind what the 747 represents. In less than a lifetime humanity went from the Wright Brothers to an airliner that can lift off with a maximum weight of nearly 334,000 kg (now 397,000), could fly non-stop up to 9,800 km with a full load (now 13,450 km), cruising at 895 km/h (now 913 km/h) with a maximum speed of 945 km/h (now 977 km/h).

Yes you take it for granted now, but consider that it was not long ago that the notion you could be sitting at 11km above the earth, breathing normally, eating a 3 course meal, able to choose between a couple of hundred movies to watch, travelling at just below the speed of sound for the price of anything of between 2-5% of the average annual income of a Western country, would be seen as fantasy. Now it is the norm.

The Boeing 747 wasn't the first plane, it wasn't the first jetliner, but it was the one that moved jet airline travel from being a luxury service to being a mass market service. 747s are built strong and the number of incidents as a result of aircraft failure have all, to date, been attributed to poor maintenance and in one instance flying with too little fuel. In the coming months the last of the second generation of 747s (a 747-400F freighter) will roll out of the factory, and the third generation (747-8) will emerge to ensure that the 747 will still be in our skies for another 15-20 years (albeit in passenger service less and less).

In recent years the airlines flying 747s into New Zealand have reduced to be only Air NZ and Qantas today, with Cathay Pacific occasionally dabbling with them. I don't doubt that within 5 years they will be the exception in NZ skies for passenger use, as smaller longer range more fuel efficient planes are better suited to the NZ market.

However, a winner it has been - and while Concordes and the QE2 both gather more attention, it is the 747 that has been the revolutionary, the strong, enormous workhorse of the skies. Qantas passengers on flight QF30 are alive today not because of luck, but because of a strong, robust design of 39 years (adapted and updated in the 1990s) that changed the world.

28 July 2008

Killing for religion is ok

So says almost a third of Muslim university students in the UK, according to a Yougov poll for the Sunday Times.

That in itself should give pause for thought. Pause to think about how the institutions that at best don't discourage and at worst catalyse such thoughts should be treated by the state.

The flipside is that "55% of nonMuslim students thought Islam was incompatible with democracy. Nearly one in 10 had “little respect” for Muslims."

Furthermore "Homophobia was rife, with 25% saying they had little or no respect for gays. The figure was higher (32%) for male Muslim students. Among nonMuslims, the figure was only 4%."

The obvious tension is clear. Whilst a significant minority of Muslims hold and express values that are contrary with those of Western civilisation, and fundamental British laws, serious questions will be raised about how much tolerance there should be towards those promoting such hatred and violence.

The UK has long been tolerant of Muslims and those of other (and no) religion, and rightfully so. It is a core liberal concept that people should be able to live their lives in peace regardless of what they do or don't believe in. This of course also includes racists, communists, Christian fundamentalists and the like. You shouldn't be stopped about going about your daily life, as long as your prejudices, desire for violence and the like remain expressed within your own four walls.

However, the state shouldn't be subsidising organisations or locations where you and your warped friends meet to share your malignant beliefs. Moreover if you and your friends plan to do violence or threaten as part of your collectivised irrationality, then expect that to be drawn to the attention of the state.

So what to do? Well first, non-private universities shouldn't be funding or supplying space for students of any religion to worship or meet. Religion and state should be separate, so the state shouldn't facilitate Islam. Secondly there is immigration. The UK ridiculously hands migrants rights to welfare, healthcare, education and housing. This simply should end. If you wish to migrate you should be responsible for paying your own way. Finally there is the most important point of all - it is the promotion of what liberal democratic capitalist British society is all about.

It is about respecting the rights of adults to make their own decisions about their lives and property.
It is about respecting the rights of adults to have freedom of speech, but not demand that others provide the means to express it.
It is about separating the right of people to hold their views, beliefs, lifestyles, as long as they respect the rights of others to hold different ones, AND CRITICISE YOURS.

It means the right to say Islam is evil, Christianity is evil, Communism is evil and Capitalism is evil - and to condemn those who hold these views, or no views.

Muslim students who believe in violence should be damned for the evil that they are, their stone age views should be criticised without fear, as the similar views of fringe fundamentalist Christians should be, as should Marxist-Leninists and neo-Nazis. Meanwhile, taxpayers shouldn't be providing places or funding for these views to be spread, they should be funding intelligence services to be watching and monitoring those who do.

27 July 2008

National's latest policy is Labour's - again...

Newstalk ZB reports "The National Party has moved to defuse fears it will dismantle the Working for Families scheme if it wins the election. Party leader John Key told this morning's TV One Agenda programme he is planning no changes to the system. He says a careful look at the way the scheme functions has shown it is not worthwhile changing it. Mr Key says it is important to offer people certainty during tough economic times."
Just think, you can vote Labour and get the same policy with different people - nice to have choice isn't it? Then whichever way the election goes you win - unless you think Working for Families is middle-class welfare thieved from middle to upper income taxpayers that encourages the majority of families to be dependent on the state, rather than granting them higher tax cuts. Given it didn't exist when National was last in power, it need not exist now. Or should National just concede that "a lot that Labour did when it was in power is worth keeping".

(Hat tip: Lindsay Mitchell)

26 July 2008

Iran going to murder some more

AFP reports Iran is going to murder some citizens in a mass execution:

"It said 20 of those on death row were convicted drug traffickers. The remaining 10, identified as "murderer thugs" were also convicted of "disturbing public security and disorder, beating up people, repeated robberies, having illegal relationships and showing up drunk in public"."

So having illegal relationships and showing up drunk in public are reasons to be executed? Or are they murderers who also did such things?

Nevermind, AFP also reports:

"Capital offences in the Islamic republic include murder, rape, armed robbery, drug trafficking and adultery. Earlier this month, it emerged that the Iranian parliament was considering a bill which could see the death penalty also used for those deemed to promote corruption, prostitution and apostasy on the Internet. Last week, an Iranian rights group, Volunteer Lawyers' Network, said that Iran planned to stone eight women and one man sentenced for adultery despite a moratorium on such executions."

Still, don't exactly expect the so-called peace movement, or those who call for the impeachment of Condoleeza Rice to protest the Iranian embassy or call for it to be expelled. No - Iranians aren't entitled to individual rights when they are opposing the great Satan USA.

24 July 2008

The price of freedom over the price of peace

Rick Barker, Minister of Veteran Affairs, is making a speech this Sunday, to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Korean War.

Now this is all very well and good. He talks briefly about the war, describing it as "a military peace enforcement intervention". It was, in fact, an action to repel the North Koreans from South Korea as invaders who were committed to abolishing the Republic of Korea government. "Peace enforcement" undermines what it was, a brutal war on the front line of the Cold War battling one of the first attempts by the communist bloc for expansionism (as North Korea had been given the nod by the USSR to invade).

He will commemorate the veterans, rightly so. Does some minor politicking which is probably inevitable. However what gets me is that he doesn't grasp the moral imperative of this war - this was a battle against tyranny. He calls it "the price of peace", I call it the price of freedom.

North Korea was already at the time a communist dictatorship in the mould of Stalin, China had fallen communist the year before and was threatening to overrun Taiwan. The strategy was simple, the weak (though authoritarian) South Korea government would be quickly overwhelmed (South Korea was largely a poor peasant country at the time, North Korea the well developed industrial centre) defeated and then Japan would be surrounded on three sides by communist influences.

North Korea was thwarted by the US and its allies because Douglas Macarthur landed at Inchon, cutting off the North Korean troops which had invaded almost all of South Korea, and so they were rolled back to the 38th parallel, and then the war went from being simply rolling back the invasion, to destroying the North Korean menace. This saw US/UN forces go as far as the Yalu River, but the topography and weather were against them, and Mao feared the US would invade China. So China poured in hundreds of thousands of troops to defend North Korea. China rolled back the UN forces to the 38th parallel once more.

So the war lasted two years moving the frontline a few miles back and forth.

New Zealand contributed bravely to defending South Korea from the evil Stalinist dictatorship to the North. There were two choices facing NZ (and the US and the other UN countries that participated in the Police Action):
- You could choose peace (which would literally mean just letting Korea go communist and then deter an attack on Japan, hopefully!); or
- You could choose freedom (which means ensuring North Korea does not take South Korea).

Had peace been chosen, the Republic of Korea may not exist today. Also to those who say the Syngman Rhee regime in Seoul wasn't free, they are right, but compared to Kim Il Sung, it was significantly more open and liberal -and since the late 1980s South Korea has been a thriving open liberal democracy, which puts the North Korean prison state in stark contrast. New Zealand veterans from the Korean War helped ensure that would be, and deterred the risk of an attack on Japan.

So while Rick Barker is doing the right thing remembering and celebrating the veterans of the Korean War, they were not fighting for peace first and foremost, although the end of the war was certainly a goal. That goal was meaningless without it being a fight against communism and for the more free alternative at the time. Had the primary objective not been to contain and keep South Korea free from Stalinism, then peace would've been easy - simply surrender.

You're named what?

The Taranaki Daily News (yep world class journalism here), has published an article that talks about "parents being branded abusers because of what they name their kids".

This is because of a single case of a couple naming their daughter "Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii". Now clearly they are mad, but really that's about it surely? No, the Family Court judge apparently "was so disturbed at the effect on the nine-year-old that he ordered her temporarily placed under court guardianship so a suitable name could be chosen".

Nice to see the criminal justice system protecting kids from - being teased. I mean, surely any boy named Richard Short could claim the same, indeed I am sure you can think of a few people you know whose names you're glad you DON'T have (and besides adults can change names anyway).

However what was actually somewhat incorrect about the article was that it listed a bunch of strange New Zealand registered names, ignoring the possibility that some of these may have been chosen by adults:

Chips (twin sibling of Fish)
Mower (twin sibling of Masport)
Yeah Detroit
Spiral Cicada
Cinderella Beauty Blossom
Twisty Poi
Keenan Got Lucky
Sex Fruit (which a commentator on the Stuff website says is actually "Count Lawrence Cinnamon Sex Fruit and he changed his name by deed poll as an adult")

Of course this ignores the fact that being named Helen Clark would be a problem for some, the name Lolita has been unusable since the 1950s, George Bush can't be entirely uncommon, let alone Gordon Brown, and let's not forget the endless number of trashy names around which imply "you're a bogun, you'll grow up to be a drug dealer or a stripper etc etc".

UPDATE: Well apparently the story is largely nonsense according to DIA (Hat Tip Not PC)

Weaning New Zealand off welfare

Check out Libz TV for Libertarianz welfare policy - and no it's not simply abolish all benefits tomorrow, but a practical and compassionate way to phase out welfare first from those who least need it, whilst retaining transitional provisions for those who are least able to make provision for themselves (e.g. Superannuitants, Invalid Beneficiaries).

Now imagine if National needed to negotiate a confidence and supply agreement with Libertarianz to govern.

(Hat Tip - Vigesimal Pundit)

Shower inflight?

Following Singapore Airlines introducing "Suites" as First Class on board its Airbus A380s (with real beds that aren't a conversion of the seat), according to ABTN Emirates have announced showers will be available in First Class on board its Airbus A380s.

A tonne of water is needed to supply the showers, hopefully this will be sufficient for the maximum load of 14 in First Class. For an airline that a few days ago was talking about eliminating inflight magazines and safety cards to save weight for fuel, it sounds more like saving weight for water!

Still a shower on board would be an experience, especially if the shower included the curious feature Lufthansa includes in bathrooms on many of its long haul jets - windows that aren't frosted!

I also wonder, as ABTN does, what happens during turbulence, you don't want to fall and hurt yourself in the shower on a flight due to a bump, and you can't exactly suddenly return to your seat when you're stark naked.

Of course it also offers a new opportunity for a couple to be playful, but then the UAE isn't too friendly on this sort of thing.

Anyway, Emirates will almost certainly be the first airline to fly the A380 regularly to New Zealand from early next year, so New Zealanders with around NZ$2500 to spare to fly First Class across the Tasman at least (not that much money for long haul First Class of that distance by world standards) could shower themselves mid flight. Me, well I'm happy to use decent lounges at either end, but it would be nice to have the option - and frankly I doubt airlines that are more fuel conscious than Emirates appears to be, will bother with this gimmick.

Oh and don't be fooled, many Emirates A380s WONT have this, because a whole lot wont have first class - they will be literally AirBUSes to ferry large numbers of cheap workers from South Asia to the Middle East.

23 July 2008

The evil of Radovan Karadzic

Hmmm nasty Santa?

For some who don't remember the Balkan wars of the 1990s, it's worth having a run down of what happened, step by step:
- Titoist communism was already in decline in the 1980s after he died, with the Yugoslav Communist Party splitting into factions, on largely federal lines, as all of the 6 Yugoslav republics (and two autonomous provinces of Serbia). The decline in the relative power of Belgrade over Yugoslavia was felt in Serbia. Serb nationalist Slobodan Milosevic started evocating nationalist racist rhetoric against Kosovo Albanians in 1989, and spread fear among Serbs in Bosnia and Croatia that they should feel threatened. Albanian was banned in universities and government in Kosovo, despite 90% of the population being Albanian.
- Slovenia and Croatia both were increasingly fed up with the old communist bureaucracy of Yugoslavia and how the national wealth predominantly generated in the north in their republics was redistributed south to Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro. Slovenia was led by non-Serbo Croat speaking liberals who saw Western Europe as the model to follow, Croatia increasingly saw the rise of a reactionary group of nationalists, led by one Franjo Tudjman, who spread the same racist filth about Serbs as Milosevic spread about Croats.
- Milosevic took increasing control of the Federal Yugoslav government and armed forces, and talk of a new Yugoslavia, which would be more centralised was countered by talk of a new looser Yugoslavia with very little federal role beyond foreign affairs and defence. Slovenia decided to declare independence, a minor issue as Slovenia was fairly homogeneous. Croatia swiftly decided to do the same, which was more disconcerting.
- Slovenia was led by a pro-Western liberal government, and beyond a short lived battle with Serb controlled Yugoslav Army forces, successfully seceded de facto and de jure, and is now an EU member state.
- Croatia was led by a fascist nationalist government which glossed over the appalling genocidal past of Croatia in the 1940s, when Ante Pavelic slaughtered and deported non-Catholic Croats with full backing of Nazi Germany. Pavelic's feared "Ustashe" would go from town to town seeking out Muslims, Jews and Orthodox Christians - with the full complicity of the Vatican - and ordered that one third be converted, one third be deported and one third executed. Franjo Tudjman saw himself as the heir of Croat nationalism.
- Serbs in Croatia understandably feared greatly a repeat of history, and Milosevic greatly exaggerated the risk of this, but the fear was real. Serb dominated areas such as Vukovar and the Krajina became the battlegrounds between the Serb dominated Yugoslav National Army and Croatia. Both sides murdered and applied their fascist bigotry to each other, but the worst atrocities were noted at Vukovar. However, the Croats also engaged in "ethnic cleansing".
- Following the independence of Croatia, Bosnia Hercegovina, which had been governed by a fairly cosmopolitan coalition of Croats, Serbs and Bosniaks, the withdrawing Serbian controlled Yugoslav Federal Army started a new mission, the carving up of Bosnia. The fairly tolerant open government in Sarajevo was an anathema to the nationalist fascists in Zagreb and Belgrade, and so carving up Bosnia into parts of greater Croatia and greater Serbia was the mission of both sets of forces.

- Under the lead of Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb forces (essentially the former Yugoslav National Army) secured areas of Bosnia and systematically embarked on its open policy of "ethnic cleansing"which predominantly involved going house to house and kicking non Serbs out of town.
- Under the lead of Karadzic part of the campaign against Bosniaks and Croats was to detain men in camps as POWs, and Bosnian Serb soldiers were given free reign to act as they wished. Many Bosniak women and girls were raped as part of the terror campaign to displace non-Serbs.
- The Srebrenica massacre was the culmination of this policy.

and today Bosnia remains divided between the "Republika Srpska" run by the remaining Serb nationalist parties and the rest of Bosnia, shared by Bosniak and Croat political parties. If Ratko Mladic can also be found and charged, and Croatia hands over its war criminals, then some great steps forward will have been made. Bosnia is the hardest though - for there are stolen homes, massacres and the need to rebuild trust and community among people infected with bigotry. The road to reconciliation in Bosnia will be a long and difficult one. Prosecuting and incarcerating the new nasty Santa will be a first step.

Nothing to see here either

National's Housing Policy

oh sorry wrong link, but close enough to get the picture.

(Hat Tip: Lindsay Mitchell who explains why)

The state the Police want

Will de Cleene blogs on the Police Association's wishlist for government.

It's a list that should pretty much frighten anyone who believes in personal freedom.

Unsurprisingly, the Nats are cheering them on, but then some supporting the Nats think freedom means tax cuts.

Here are some of the points:

The cops want ASBOs (Anti Social Behaviour Orders), which of course exist in the UK and have for some become a badge of honour. Essentially it means being charged, convicted and sentenced without going to court for nuisance, vandalism, harassment and other actual offences. It's a good way to simply bypass the court system, and anyone who has spent a good deal of time in the UK will notice how little difference it really has made.

The cops also want compulsory DNA tests for all SUSPECTS, so even if you are not guilty, then it goes on a database. Of course if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear, because after all, the state and the Police would never abuse this information would they? No. Big brother's warm embrace comforts us all. By the way the Nats like this idea.

Then there is requiring phone companies to keep a 6 month archive of all text messages - because, after all, the Police might want to read them. Imagine if NZ Post could easily copy and keep every letter you ever send in the mail, or Telecom recorded every voice conversation, and then ever email. Yes, nothing to fear though if you have nothing to hide right?

Like Will, I think on the spot domestic protection orders may be useful, because that is about protecting victims - but the rest is largely a recipe for the police to do as they please regarding innocent people. The focus of criminal justice policy should be on enforcing laws as they stand, and using punishment and rehabilitation (depending on the offence) to reduce re-offending and protecting the public from guilty people. Quite simply, the Police shouldn't set criminal justice policy - they have a view of the public that means they should have unlimited powers to do their job, and that people are guilty till proven innocent. Understandable on the job, but it isn't the basis for a free society that values personal privacy.

Idiot Savant agrees and says "It would be nice if we could get a police minister who remembered occasionally that what is convenient for the police is not necessarily desirable to society as a whole, and that police powers need to be limited and the police kept under constant scrutiny so that the rest of us can go about our business in peace." Indeed!

The bill starts rolling in

So according to Stuff $80.2 million for the newly nationalised railway, most of which is to replace the long distance passenger rail rolling stock. Now the $25.54 million for the Tranz Alpine is slightly odd, since it is actually quite a profitable service. I'm convinced if the damned thing had been sold this would happen anyway. The Tranz Coastal is profitable, but marginally so, and the Overlander is in the same category. So you might ask - why should $27.5 million be spent on a couple of passenger trains instead of raising fares so that the owner can borrow against future fare revenue? After all it is how bus companies and airlines work.

However, nooo Dr Cullen evades the truth about why this is "necessary". "The selling off our rail system in the 1990s was followed by asset-stripping and a failure to properly invest in the services" he said.

Well hold on. What investment was there BEFORE the 1990s? Well you only have to look at the age of the current rolling stock. The carriages currently used on all these services were built between 1937 and 1945. Their economic lives were coming to an end in the 1970s when it was state owned, and nothing was done except patching them up, much like the 1980s as well. I remember the services that are now the TranzCoastal and the TranzAlpine when they received oodles of state subsidies every year - and the rolling stock was not air conditioned, had no on board catering (trains stopped halfway at a station for people to rush out for the stereotypical pie and a cuppa), virtually no marketing, no on board service of any kind (unless you count asking the guard questions the odd time he walked around). The toilets dropped waste onto the tracks and were never serviced during the trip.

THAT was the state owned subsidised long distance passenger rail service on those routes. What changed this was Richard Prebble announcing, in response to pleas from the Railways for money to buy new trains, that there would be one final year of subsidies, bulk funded so the Railways could make the services profitable. Suddenly things happened, the station cafeterias on these routes were shut down in favour of on board catering, the trains were refurbished with new seats and suddenly marketing emerged. The Railways actually cared about attracting users, not attracting subsidies. The Christchurch-Greymouth express stopped being two trains leaving each town at the same time, passing halfway and finishing their trips in the early afternoon, and amazingly became one train in the morning one way, and returning in the afternoon, making it a plausible day trip for tourists. That train also got big wide panoramic windows, then air conditioning. It started making money.

Ah, you say, that was still under government ownership. Yes it was, government ownership to wean it off subsidies. So what happened after that? Well progressively over the following years, other services were refurbished, this continued after the Railways Corporation became NZ Rail Ltd (as an SOE under the SOE Act), and under privatisation as TranzRail through to 1994.

Oh so after privatisation it was run down? Well. Dr Cullen has announced taxpayers' money is to be used to refurbish a series of secondhand ex.British railway carriages to use on current services. What he hasn't said is that those carriages were purchased by the privatised Tranz Rail in 1996 for this very purpose, and to upgrade the Capital Connection service (which was done, without any taxpayer funding). 69 were bought, but the cost of refurbishment proved prohibitive at the time, as car ownership costs and airfares fell, and TranzRail was more focused on freight and monitoring the profitability of the long distance passenger rail services. Of course subsequently several services were cancelled due to lack of patronage (Southerner, Northerner, Bay Express, etc).

So the myth about how the private sector didn't invest in rail is largely false, as is the implied myth that the public sector did. The truth is that there hasn't been a brand new long distance passenger train put into service in New Zealand since 1972 - you'll see them swanning around Auckland now in their twilight years - the 3 bespoke Silverfern railcars. There is a reason for that - most of you have chosen to fly or put your money into owning a car, and the rest aren't in enough numbers to justify any more than bus loads, except for a couple of tourist routes.

Oh and you might ask why taxpayers have to pay for an upgrade of Picton Ferry Terminal, when the Interislander in all its guises has been clearly profitable for 44 out of its 46 years of history.

22 July 2008

Hurray, Radovan Karadzic arrested

According to CNN, this vile proponent of genocidal radical nationalist filth has finally been arrested, as it appears the Serbian government has decided that it better bring forth these blood tainted murderers from its past, in order to be considered for EU membership.

Karadzic was one of the opportunistic thugs, backed by Slobodan Milosevic, to carve up Bosnia-Hercegovina once it had declared independence. The Bosnian government, at the time made up of moderate Muslims, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats almost instantly faced war on two fronts. Karadzic was determined to carve out at least a third of Bosnia to be part of a Greater Serbia - and it wasn't a Greater Serbia than Bosnian Muslims and Croats would be allowed to live in.

With Yugoslav Federal Army weapons, the Bosnian Serbs went from village to village embarking on the policy, coined by Karadzic himself with the infamous words "ethnic cleansing". It culminated in the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Bosnian Muslim males, in this so-called UN safe haven. Karadzic was the embodiment of the filthy collectivist snake oil of poisonous fascist nationalism in the Balkans. He was convinced Bosnia should be carved up into Serb and non-Serb portions, and the Serbs were fighting for the biggest portion, and any portion they brought under control would need to be "cleansed".

Indeed, the misnomer of "ethnic" cleansing is such, it is tribal, and quasi-religious, as the Russian and Greek Orthodox Church both gave their quiet blessing to this project.

Karadzic of course deserves a bullet in his head - as does the vile Ratko Mladic, the general who directly ordered the massacres, the murders, rapes, and the evacuation of non-Serbs at gunpoint in Serb held Bosnia. Mladic is yet to be found, as he remains protected by the stoneage thugs who still think their tribe is better than the ones up the coast.

A trial will be apt though, as it is time Serbs faced up to the atrocities committed in their name - which fortunately, recent elections seem to indicate that many have moved beyond. Croatia too must respond in kind, as there the Roman Catholic Church closed both eyes and turned around to the atrocities committed in its name. Then when the bloody truth of the Balkans since the early 1990s is more honestly revealed and understood, the region might just move on another step.

The story of NZ First

Winston Peters has built a political career on scandal so much that it would be ironic if the latest one led to his downfall.

From the late 1980s as a National Party backbencher Peters tried muckraking while Labour was in power engaging in the reform process, with the alleged grounding of a Cook Strait Ferry one of his odd (and failed) attempts at getting attention. However, he didn't have to wait too long to get a new one.

Winston first fronted National Party policy as a reaction to Labour's Maori policy. Winston was railing against the Treaty settlement process with concern about how the benefits of it wouldn't reach grassroots Maori. However, the 1990 election gave more, much more.

National was elected partly on the promise to abolish the hated Superannuation Surtax - that element of Rogernomics that wasn't about liberalisation but about penalising the retired who had made provision for themselves. A throwback to socialism to cover a budget deficit. You see National promised to abolish it, but didn't - sending hundreds of thousands of outraged pensioners into the arms of?


You see around about this time Winston was developing a reputation as a maverick, after he got ejected from Cabinet, the likes of Winston, Michael Laws and more asinine individuals like Gilbert Myles and Peter McIntyre were moaning about the policies of the 1990-1993 National government, most of which were, to be fair, in National's manifesto. However, the betrayal over the Super Surtax hurt National bad. Core supporters looked for somewhere new to go, so in 1992 Winston Peters launched his own political vehicle with - NZ First. NZ First would be the party for pensioners, the party for those outraged by "special treatment for Maori", the party against "big business", the party against "crime". However it had another tinge, which you could see in the name - NZ First. It was nationalism.

Winston Peters railed against foreign investment (yes ironic given recent events), but most insipidly against immigration. He campaigned on the fears of white and Maori lesser educated New Zealanders that Asians migrants were "stealing their jobs" "bringing foreign culture" and "creating separate communities". Winston played his race card, and the votes came in. In 1993, Tau Henare joined him. From then, sensing Maori voters wanted an alternative to Labour, he stopped playing the "anti-Treaty of Waitangi" card and played anti-Asian, anti-foreign, pandering to the greedy grey grizzler vote, Maori voters and the talkback proletariat. He also went on endlessly about the "wine box" of evidence about allegedly dodgy financial arrangements to avoid tax in New Zealand - painting the picture of Winston against the big powerful corporates. Him the little man (apt when you actually encounter him in real life).

He did so well in 1996 saying "to get National out vote NZ First" in his campaign, he was able to play National and Labour like a tune, wandering back and forth between Clark and Bolger like a sleazy businessmen, wondering which prostitute he could negotiate the best price out of. Clark came with Anderton, which was less appealing, and Bolger offered him Treasurer, selling out his own Finance Minister Bill Birch (somewhat), so Winston went with Jim.

The result for Winston devastated his supporters. The Maori voters thought he'd keep Labour honest, and felt betrayed that he kept National in power. The greedy grey grizzler brigade who had a choice of Winston or the Alliance (offering Pam Corkery) aiming for the idiot "government can fix anything vote" also felt betrayed, because National was the great evil party of the "rich". Old people who genuinely felt betrayed by National on the super surtax (and rightfully so) were doubly betrayed by Winston, who went into bed with National.

They ignored that Winston actually ensured the Surtax was repealed in that government- it didn't matter, Winston's voters aren't smart enough to care about policies. He was tainted, and the antics of Tuku Morgan, along with many of his other MPs (remember Deborah Morris, Robin McDonald and the "Tight Five", all thought of as being wasteful and unproductive) hurt NZ First so much Winston nearly lost his seat in 1999 (63 votes between him and oblivion), and his party dropped below 5%.

However, while Labour won back the Maori seats, Winston in 2002 went back to bashing the Treaty of Waitangi, and back to immigrant bashing and crime. National did so badly in convincing voters that it COULD win, that Winston once again took protest votes with over 10%, but in 2005 faced the decline of the protest vote, as Winston offered nothing new. National sucked back half of his support, took his seat of Tauranga back from him, but Winston was wanted by someone.


Labour just made it in 2005, after rallying the Pacific Island vote in South Auckland to vote, but it also found that its partner on confidence and supply - United Future, had been hit rather badly by the election, with a halving or so of its caucus. So while Peter Dunne was a reliable partner, he wasn't enough. So Clark had three options:
- Maori Party. That would've meant surrendering on the Foreshore and Seabed - too much bad blood and too much fear for Labour that it would be unelectable the following election.
- Greens. Undoubtedly workable had the Greens not wanted anything more on GE, or increasing welfare payments or the like. Certainly the Greens may have compromised to get into power.
- NZ First. Well, give away some tricks for pensioners, promise a wider harbour bridge with no tolls and give Winston a serious Ministerial portfolio, and he's happy. NZ First is largely inert.

So you see, Helen Clark tied her government to a man who during his career has sold opposition to the Treaty of Waitangi, opposition to Asian immigration and a barely shielded racism against Asians, opposition to free trade and foreign investment, and an overwhelming emphasis on populism and the politics of envy. A politician who always talked frequently about the dodgy dealings of the wealthy, the likes of Fay Richwhite, the Business Roundtable and other demons he liked to stir for the sake of the great kiwi tall poppy syndrome.

Now Winston has been shown to be the sort of person he himself would have finger pointed at and muckraked. With his Maori constituency as good as evaporated, his semi-literate pensioner supporters dying off, and anti-Labour talkback brigade evacuating to National, what is left for Winston Peters? Nobody every writes him off, he may still struggle through with barely 5% again or the voters of Tauranga may have a rush of blood to anything but their heads again.

However whatever happens to Winston surely will have ramifications for the party who relies on him to remain in government. Labour is continuing to sit with Winston. A position that will surely cost it, unless, of course, Clark is willing to jettison him closer to the election for maximum effect.

21 July 2008

Something rather vile about this "purity"

For some time in the US, there has been a strong campaign by the Christian right to promote sexual abstinence among young people. Naturally, each to their own, and certainly abstinence is an option and choice.

However this report in Time has some rather disturbing overtones, overtones that at best smack of a pre-modern patriarchal ownership of daughter's bodies by their fathers, at worst a suppressed form of incestual slavery.

The Father-Daughter Purity Ball has girls as young as 4 engaging in dinner, dancing and testimony about the "pure life". 4??? What sort of psychological abuse is this that a little girl has to promise to her daddy to be a good girl?

The story of Kylie Miraldi, now 18, tells much of what this is all about:

"When Kylie was 13, her parents took her on a hike in Lake Tahoe, Calif. "We discussed what it means to be a teenager in today's world," she says. They gave her a charm for her bracelet--a lock in the shape of a heart. Her father has the key. "On my wedding day, he'll give it to my husband," she explains. "It's a symbol of my father giving up the covering of my heart, protecting me, since it means my husband is now the protector. He becomes like the shield to my heart, to love me as I'm supposed to be loved.""

So her heart is protected by her father (not mother no, and she can't be trusted herself can she?) until he decides it is ok to give it to her husband. Feminism anywhere? No. Like a piece of property this girl passes from father to husband.

Now I'm never going to decry the importance of fathers for daughters, or mothers for sons and vice versa. That is something sometimes ignored. However, for fathers to promise "before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the areas of purity,"raises many questions:

What if your daughter prefers girls?
What do you do if she disobeys?
Where does she go if dad disobeys?

Yes it is one thing for girls to grow up safe, secure, confident and happy, but another to do so only in the shadow of a parent who implicitly owns their body until authorising it to be offered to another man.

Freedom of speech defended in Australia

The Federal Court of Australia has shown the worth of a written constitution by throwing out a law passed by the NSW Parliament as "unconstitutional". That law was specifically designed to criminalise "annoyance and inconvenience" to those attending World Youth Day hosted by the Roman Catholic Church.

Appallingly, the NSW state Parliament passed the law to minimise protests during the Pope's visit. NSW is not a theocracy. It is utterly absurd to try to limit protest against an organisation against which there are so many reasons to protest. Germaine Greer in the Observer is supporting the Court.

Greer rightfully said: "Freedom of speech cannot be maintained in a society where nobody ever says anything subversive or inflammatory. Academic freedom is only real if academic institutions exercise it. Freedom of the press cannot exist if newspapers censor themselves. In order to keep freedom of speech alive, the citizens must keep saying things that offend people, often deeply. Agitated though we might feel by some of the things people say, we have got to go on defending their right to say them. If we don't, our freedoms gradually shrink."


"Every few weeks, the British get into a bate about what it means to be British and how we might teach the foreigners who keep on turning up in our midst 'British values'. The most important legacy the British left the old Empire, now the disappearing and despised Commonwealth, is the package of British liberties, of which most important is probably habeas corpus, by which no one is to be imprisoned without trial. The Australian Federal Court justified its action in striking down the NSW law against annoying pilgrims by reference to the 'common law', the most precious inheritance any Briton can claim."

What is more disturbing is that not a single MP in the NSW Parliament could even start to defend this. Labour, Liberal, National, Democrat? Useless, every single one of them.

Winston wants to waste your money

Oh dear, he's running out of tricks from his hat, so now Winston wants to force you to pay to buy back businesses you don't want to buy (after all, you'd have bought them by now wouldn't you?).

The Dominion Post reports that NZ First would create something called "the New Zealand Fund" instead of giving you tax cuts, to make you invest in businesses that are politically (the word strategic is used, but that is code for political) important.

Oh he also wants to be softer on inflation, use more of your money to give subsidies away to politically and bureaucratically selected "winners" (see the great results Jim Anderton has had in doing that?), oh and he's bashing immigrants again, blaming them for "gangs".

Are the foreigner bashing, talkback calling, shallow minded worshippers of this short man who peddles xenophobia every three years still around in enough numbers to make him matter anymore?

After all - a vote for Winston in 2005 got you Helen Clark and Labour (he'll ensure his supporters quietly forget he's Minister of Foreign Affairs and NZ First grants Labour confidence and supply to govern). Why would anyone who wants a change do that ever again?

Mugabe sells Zimbabwe to new colonialists

Following on from the disgraceful vetoing of a draft UN Security Council resolution by the energy rich kleptocratic quasi-fascist Russia, with quiet approval by the amoral People's Republic of China, comes a report from the Daily Telegraph that Robert Mugabe now has a £4.5 million mansion courtesy of Beijing.


Because this self proclaimed defender of Zimbabwe's sovereignty against "British colonialism" has happily signed over the mineral rights of the country he keeps under his jackboot to the People's Republic of China. Colonialism surely? EU Referendum blog tells more, you see policy on sanctions is actually not up to the UK government, but the EU as a whole.

So, Mandela has his birthday and calls for more to be done about poverty - whilst South Africa's neighbour Zimbabwe suffers under a brutal thieving fascist dictatorship that sells out its wealth to another dictatorship. The UN Security Council remains totally impotent while it at the behest of Russia and China, both murderous enemies of freedom. Africa does next to nothing. Mugabe enjoys his last years with unimaginable wealth.

Stories from the Sunday papers

The UK Sunday papers are always full of interesting articles. Here are some I found particularly worthy of note:

Ahmad Batebi flees into exile: The Sunday Times profiles Iranian dissident Ahmad Batebi, who has been granted refuge in the USA, after fleeing Iran with the help of a Kurdish underground group. Batebi "had been beaten with metal cables, suspended by his arms from the ceiling and taunted with mock execution and had had his head dunked in excrement until he was suffocating". He had been given a death sentence since his image appeared on the front of the Economist during protests in 1999 against the Islamist regime.

Slave children forced to perform lethal acts in Indian circuses: The Sunday Times reports on how hundreds of children are sold into slavery in India with circuses, and how charities are trying to rescue them.

The 1000 ways the state can break into your home
: The Sunday Times reports on the laws that allow central or local government officials the right to enter your home, business or car without warrant. Although to be fair, it only lists five and alludes to three more.

NHS spurns gift of free cancer drug: The Sunday Times reports on how the beloved National Health Socialists (NHS) refuses to administer a drug, which is safe and approved, because the pharmaceutical company producing it is offering it free. This is because it is against policy.

ETA bombs Spanish beach resorts
: The Sunday Telegraph reports on a series of small bombs detonating on the northern Spanish coast, as the Basque terrorist organisation ETA continues to operate. There were no injuries.

Iranian adulterers to be stoned: The Sunday Telegraph reports on how eight women and one man are to be stoned to death for "adultery" in the Islamic Republic of Iran. "A man is usually buried up to his waist, while a woman is buried up to her neck. Those carrying out the verdict then throw stones until the condemned dies."

However, I don't expect feminists and peace campaigners to protest about that of course.

The devil riders of Darfur: The Sunday Times publishes an extract from Tears of the Desert: One Woman’s Story of Surviving the Horrors of Darfur". You'll read about the atrocities of Sudan's Janjaweed militia, a situation aided and abetted and funded by Arab governments and the People's Republic of China.

Teenage soft drug use - so bad?

In this age of fear and incessant orders in the media about how to behave, the article from India Knight in the Sunday Times today challenges one taboo that no mainstream politician dare touch.

Drug use and teenagers.

The mainstream media today is confused about teenagers. On the one hand they are to be cosseted and protected from the evils of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and sex, gentle fragile beings they are, on the other hand they need discipline, they need to learn what's"right from wrong", and they need to learn the consequences of their actions. Coincidentally the media loves them, for being where the fashion industry seeks when it wishes to portray beauty, where the music industry finds image and style to throw onto the soporific soma it calls music. As it so wishes, the media treats teenagers as a group (not individuals) who we need protection from and who need protection, who are reviled and feared, but also (secretly) desired and worshipped.

India Knight's article taps into your desire to protect them, by telling her own story about drugs as a teenager.

Before you type your outraged comment about "not understanding the devastation drugs can cause" etc etc, let me make it clear. Despite my position that drugs should be legalised for adults (but only along with some radical changes to tort law/ACC, state health provision and clarification of private property and contractual rights), I do not believe they should be legal for children, and that supply to minors should remain an offence.

So what does Knight say? Well you should read for yourself. However here are some choice quotes to get you thinking:

"I know we’re all supposed to tremble in our boots at the evil of recreational drug-taking but experimenting with drugs just seems to me normal – banal, really. Teenage binge-drinking is another story, because soft drugs don’t cause you to get cirrhosis when you’re still in your early twenties, or render you so out of it that you get raped, or leave the streets of Britain awash with vomit"

"By the time I went to university I had grown bored with the druggy scene and had evolved enough to get over the sense that drugs were exciting and naughty"

"All of which makes me think that a bit of teenage soft drug-taking is, for the vast majority, simply a rite of passage. Just as having underage sex doesn’t turn you into a nymphomaniac, so underage drug-taking tends, in the vast majority of cases, not to turn you into a tragic junkie"

"A clean-living friend recently spent a weekend partying (without artificial help) in Ibiza and couldn’t help noting that although every person he came across was on ecstasy, they were all smiling, kind, polite, courteous and friendly.

Compare and contrast, he said, with trying to walk through central London on a Friday night, when every other person is loud, obscene, aggressive and trying to start a fight and there’s always some poor sod on the night bus with a bleeding face, to say nothing of crumpled girls who are either crying or comatose with drink. “I know which I prefer,” he said, and so do I."

Now I know some die from drug use, and I know some have permanent damage from drug use, which of course is the same for alcohol, and the same for driving, adventure sports, diving and other activities. However, has prohibition made dying from drug use more or less likely? Is it more or less likely that drugs obtained in a criminal environment will be tainted or diluted by poisionous third substances? Is it more or less likely than teenagers will confess to parents about drug use if it is criminal? Is it more of less likely than teenagers will approach Police or go to hospitals if they fear being arrested rather than looked after if drug use goes wrong?

People will take drugs. Drugs if used too much, too regularly or inappropriately (e.g. with alcohol, other medication) are dangerous. People with dire lives due to inadequate, negligent or downright abusive parenting will be prone to drugs, alcohol, crime and reckless hedonism generally. Turning your back against drugs isn't going to make them go away. Those who call for zero-tolerance rarely mean what they say - they wouldn't have the Police raid every teenage party they could sniff out, and then use the means of intelligence and surveillance available to hunt down those who might use, so they could then execute search warrants on teenagers' bedrooms. Carefree liberalism also ignores the truth that drugs can be very dangerous.

That's why there needs to be a dialogue about change, part of that change is taking this out of the criminal justice system, but it is also about not treating all drug use as devastatingly destructive. Many young people use drugs, as they use sex, responsibly and without serious long term consequences. It is called experimentation and learning about life - but the lines between abstinence, responsible experimentation and reckless hedonism scare parents, understandably so. That fear is the reason to talk about it.

OH and while you're at it, read Barbara Ellen's column in the Observer "A little bit of sex education never hurt anyone". Her quote to stir up the middle classes must be:

"There is a point in your child's life when trying to stop them 'knowing stuff' is a bit like trying to put out a bush fire with a water pistol. And, short of dressing your kids in Amish gear, educating them in an underground cell at home, perhaps strangling them when they hit 13 or, indeed, guarding them like Cerberus at the mouth of Hades, there's not an awful lot one can do about it."

Liberal Democrats call for tax cuts

After years of being to the left of Labour, in calling for higher taxes and being the party worshipping the religion of ecologism, the Liberal Democrats have made another swing now - closer to the "Liberal" roots of this unusual third party in British politics (which once had a proud tradition of being more classical Liberal/less government, but which merged with a centre-left faction of Labour disenchanted when Labour went Marxist/Trotskyist in the early 80s).

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (nicknamed "Cleggover" after telling tales about the number of sexual conquests in his life) announced on Thursday that if elected, the Lib Dems would cut government spending by £20 billion to fund wide ranging tax cuts for low to middle income earners. Although he'd raise tax on high income earners, and assuming I'm bizarrely in this category, then there is no way in hell I'll vote Lib Dem. However, still announcing less state spending is at least new among the big UK parties, although the ways to do it are unconvincing. I doubt £20 billion will be saved by scrapping ID cards, cutting the number of MPs and not expanding nuclear power.

Sadly this rebranding is still dripping with the envy of the left, and full of green taxes which wouldn't be so bad if there was any substance to the call for less state spending. The truth is to cut state spending the Lib Dems have to be tough on the whole state sector, that means slashing subsidies for all sectors of the economy, tightening welfare and encouraging people to make their own choices for health and education, not the current statist behemoths. The Liberal Democrats in the past decade have become the party that many of old Labour have gone too, and it is full of busybodies whose views are given free range in The Independent, as the paper of the ecological finger pointer. Unless the Lib Dems can show a consistent vision of less state and less government in peoples' lives it wont be anything more than a younger version of new Labour. Meanwhile, nowadays it just looks like the 3rd playing political whore, ever looking for a market that the two dominant parties isn't looking after - but straddling the far left against the war in Iraq and the liberal right for lower taxes isn't going to cut it.

Taxpayer can bear no more!

So says no less than UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling!

In an interview with The Times he has said that UK taxpayers are at the limit of what they are prepared to pay for "public services". Well, that's not going to stop him taking more money from my pay packet assuming I get another pay increase this year and a bonus. Nope, can't see my taxes being capped.

Of course what this is about is that the UK Treasury is in a rather dire state. On the one hand, the British government continues to be profligate with its state sector, the most recent profligacy being the nationalisation of Northern Rock, a building society that had clearly loaned too much to too many who couldn't pay them back. It also is running a substantial budget deficit, £24.4 billion in the three months to June alone. National debt (government debt) threatens to rise above 40% of GDP and there is now talk of borrowing to pay for current spending, not just capital investment in hospitals, schools, defence and transport. On top of that tax receipts are down, as the economy slows down.

In short, the newLabour reputation for fiscal prudence is looking badly damaged. The solution it chooses? Borrow more.

During the good times, the UK government didn't run budget surpluses - which it could have to lower debt and build a buffer of financial capacity to borrow during bad times. No, it continued to pour money down the enormous fiscal black holes of social spending, subsidising more housing, little used (and extraordinarily well used) railway services and the every hungry NHS.

So, whilst the Keynesians out there aren't worried - they always advocated borrow, spend and hope, the truth is that more borrowing is going to hurt.

Borrowing more means the UK government is competing with others for credit - given how tight credit has become for businesses and homeowners, this will only exacerbate the problem. In short the state sector will be competing with the private sector for credit. This only makes sense if you think the state sector can spend money better than the private sector, which is dubious at best. So expect interest rates to rise, further hurting businesses and mortgage holders (and so further dampening down house prices).

Secondly, borrowing more, particularly from offshore, will be inflationary, as it pumps more money into the economy.

There is, of course, the demographic timebomb contained within the UK national debt. The £640.5 billion of national debt consists of 44.2% of GDP, and this is at a time when the population is progressively aging, putting a higher strain on an already undercapitalised "national insurance" fund (which is no more a fund than any other Pay As You GO tax funded system) for pensions and the NHS.

So with credit tight, housing prices (and much of the private sector savings) heading downwards in most of the country, fuel and good prices soaring, the trade union movement is also starting to be restless. Calling for state sector wage increases well above inflation, naturally not giving a damn about the rest of us who would be forced to pay for them.

The Daily Telegraph editorial on Saturday
does suggest a different approach, which is simply to do what householders and businesses are doing in a recession. Look for efficiencies in government spending. When the government spends money it is taken from elsewhere, taken from consumers and businesses. So when it is spent on wasteful activities that generate little return it is destructive to the economy.

For far too long the answer to problems in the UK has been to ask the government for money, and the new Labour administration has obliged. It is time for the Conservative Party to out the waste of government, and to wage war against it. Some simple questions could be asked of all government spending by those in control of it:
1. Will the spending genuinely generate more money for taxpayers than was taken away?
2. Would taxpayers voluntarily cough up funds for this spending if given the choice?
3. What harm would happen if this money wasn't spent at all?

Those are questions politicians of the British Labour Party seem unable to ask, it's about time they were.

Free trade could ease global recession

In a couple of weeks time the Doha round will stagger on. If the governments of the EU, USA, Japan and poorer countries were rational actors they would treat this as an opportunity, a huge one - to inject some growth into the world economy. The Daily Telegraph tells how important this is.

It would be a chance for the price of food to be relieved by multilateral agreement to abolish agricultural export subsidies, to end non-tariff barriers on agricultural trade, and move towards decreasing tariffs and domestic subsidies. That requires the EU, Japan and the US - whilst Barack Obama seems distinctly unenthused.

It would be a chance for developing countries to respond in kind by reducing their tariffs and non-tariff barriers to manufactured goods and services. That requires India, Brazil and African states.

However there isn't much chance for optimism. In the US, the Democrat led Congress is in protectionist mode, and in the EU Nicolas Sarkozy as EU President is really not interested at all. Meanwhile, the Observer reports how Oxfam and ActionAid are showing their socialist colours, with little interest in the Doha round. It also presents Haiti as an example of how liberalising agricultural trade can go wrong - which of course, ignores the truth that without EU, the USA and Japan liberalising as well, and without the rest of the economy opening up, then Haiti was only going to be half successful.