27 December 2008

Yes I am returning soon

Basically it's like this - I was in New York - and that is reason enough not to sit behind a laptop, then I had a lot of work, then my laptop became virtually unusable, now I'm in New Zealand.

and I'll be damned if I'm going to spend long periods behind a computer until I return to the UK early in January.

So I hope you all have fun, it is cleansing to spend a month or so away from politics - because you soon realise how empty headed almost all politics really is. However the big political battle of our generation has started, it is NOT an election, it is the battle of ideas. It is free market capitalism against those who point at what is not and proclaim it is a failure, whilst offering nothing besides the failure of the past.

The new US Administration is highly unlikely to embrace open markets and less government. The UK government has already decided today is about mortgaging future taxpayers, more.
The NZ government is saying little, which means, I hope, that lots of hard drives are having "deleted files" recovered to dig up the dirt on the last government. However, you wouldn't have noticed much change - but I'm giving this lot till Parliament sits again, because New Zealand shuts down over summer.

Oh and on that note, it was damned annoying not to be able to go to the supermarket on Christmas Day. That is one law that could do with being gutted - prohibitions on when shopkeepers can open for business. It isn't your business, or the government's, and if you don't want to work there, don't. If you treat it as a religious festival, then good for you, respect that - don't force others to shut down because of your beliefs.

So let's see if any shops get prosecuted for opening on Christmas Day, and if so, what this government's reaction will be. That will tell you a little about how little has changed.

Don't spend time thinking too much about it, it is time to spend this period with loved ones, to enjoy their company and life. I come back this time of year for a reason, and it is obvious when I see the sun, clear skies and the space, and see those I love. The UK this time of year is bleak, enjoy what NZ has.

Have a Happy New Year.

17 December 2008

Part privatisation of Royal Mail

While New Zealand's new National/ACT/Maori Party/United Future government continues to reject privatisation, Lord Mandelson, Gordon Brown's Industry Secretary today announced that the British government is part privatising the Royal Mail.

The Royal Mail, for anyone used to NZ Post, is a dinosaur. The list of problems it has is long:
- Complicated tariff structures that encourage use of counter staff, not simple stamp purchases;
- No sale of overseas postage outside Post Offices;
- Manual mail sorting;
- Chronic queuing at major Post Offices;
- Limited opening hours, and very limited hours for parcel pickup (often at fairly distant locations);
- Some locations with only cash payment available.

This all with the ever ubiquitous regulator (Postcomm) and government funded consumer representative body "Postwatch", neither of which exists in New Zealand, which maintains high standards of service, without subsidy AND state owned. The UK persistently believes that open markets need regulation, and consumers can't look after themselves. Just small examples of millions of pounds of unnecessary waste.

So a "strategic minority partnership" is sought from the private sector, to restructure the Royal Mail. Taxpayers would take on the £7 billion deficit in the Royal Mail's pension scheme, because those people work so hard for it don't they? It makes a profit, but loses money on its core letter business. It hasn't helped that it lost its statutory monopoly two years ago. New Zealand Post lost its statutory monopoly in 1998 - at the time Jim Anderton leading the Alliance, predicted mayhem.

Funnily enough, standing in a painful queue at a post office recently I was commenting on how it needed to be privatised.

Gordon Brown can do it - yes his leftwing loser backbench waxed on moaning with their northern accents - you have to ask why it can't be done in New Zealand.

15 December 2008

Best train food in the UK (and better than Selfridges)

Yes, I know that sounds potentially like the best hotel in Myanmar, but no - it exists, it is very very good, and so, is about to disappear.

It is on National Express East Anglia - between London Liverpool Street and Norwich. Not all trains, but around every second train at peak times during the week, including the middle of the day, there is a restaurant car on the train - available to all classes, serving excellent food with fantastic service. I've had breakfasts twice and dinner once on this service, and will have it for the last time later this week. You see National Express East Anglia has decided it can make more money replacing the restaurant car with a carriage with seats - not surprising - but it is sad for those who use it.

You see it has been full the three times I have used it. Last time I got on the train 10 minutes before departure, got one of the last seats, and the Christmas menu dishes had already been ordered. So it is popular.

and the food and service are worth it.

For £14.95 on the 0800 from Norwich on Monday 8th December, I got hot porridge, with an unlimited supply of toast and croissants, and selection of preserves including marmite. Well cooked and delicious. Apple juice and bottomless cups of coffee. Then came the eggs benedict, with two eggs, fresh smoked salmon with lemon on fresh soft buttery muffins and lashings of hollandaise sauce. I have had eggs benedict in restaurants in several countries, and this is seriously one of the best I have ever had. Better than the one I had for hotel breakfast two weeks before. The eggs cooked to perfection, the muffins lightly toasted and melting in the mouth, smooth lemony hollandaise and delicious salmon. It was decadently delicious, and with the coffee and juice, was quite a start to a day. There are plenty of hot choices.

Dinner lived up to standards as well, on the 8.30pm from Liverpool Street on 11th December, with a starter of lobster tails on rocket, a mains of grilled salmon fillet with beans and potatoes, and dessert of white and dark chocolate torte. Fresh ingredients, beautifully prepared and cooked. Salmon that melted in my mouth, a delicious sweet professional chocolate torte, as good as any I've ever had. All up £22 including drinks, complementary rolls and butter. I have had far too many meals in restaurants that aren't a patch on this food - cooked by a chef in a 20 year old train going at 100mph. All with silverware, crockery, and a total of six staff working in the carriage. For 30 patrons.

The service from the waiting staff can also show up those in many restaurants. Friendly, constantly helpful, grateful to be serving. I tipped them on the last trip generously as a result. It is only sad that apparently 40% lose their jobs with the change to the uninspiring "cafe bar" service. Clearly the price of the meals, given popularity, could've been popped up a bit to make more money - but tis a sign of the times - only one meal serving could be made in the carriage for the trip.

The restaurant car is removed for the last time this Friday - 19 December. I will be having my last dinner this Thursday evening on the service. It will be sadly missed.

By contrast, other food on trains in the UK deserves the reputation it has earnt. Virgin Trains between London and Manchester offers free food in first class, it has to be, you wouldn't pay for it. Breakfasts comprise a choice of orange and grapefruit juice, a couple of packet supermarket cereals, and then some cold toast, fried eggs, overcooked bland sausages and bacon, or slivers of toast with a small pile of (if your lucky) reasonably cooked scrambled eggs and a couple of slices of salmon. It is almost barely worth the effort AND the staff service ranges from the quite good to the utterly indifferent. Seriously - Virgin Trains should hire those National Express East Anglia catering staff that are made redundant, to teach its staff some simple courtesies - like looking like you give a damn about customers being happy.

However, I've used Virgin Trains so much my expectations are so low. £180 one way first class London-Manchester gets you 2 class service. The London-Norwich restaurant car isn't part of the fare, but anyone first or second class ticket holders, can use it. Beardie could learn something from NXEA. Virgin Atlantic in Upper Class is good, Virgin Trains has all the signs of a lacklustre monopoly.

So could Marco Pierre White. You'd think a restaurant carrying his name would carry his reputation for first class food, but Frankies in Selfridges (yes Oxford Street) was an ep


Ahh been too busy, with work, planning trip home, buying presents, got a new digital camera, and really been enjoying Christmas. So there! Not going to be too much politics for now, because really it is time to forget the control freaks who think making the world a better place is telling people what to do. Bask in the joy of the mismanaged US car companies panicking like scared children begging for the Federal Government to thieve from others to save their "essential industries", when the better outcome would be to let the least competent fold, and be taken over by others. Bask in the joy of remembering Helen Clark is no longer Prime Minister of New Zealand, and think momentarily of how bloody lucky you are that you don't live in Zimbabwe, North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, Cuba, Myanmar, Turkmenistan etc. Remember that - and that it isn't really luck - but the wise choices of your forebears, and those who fought tyranny elsewhere.

On a minor note I will miss one minor luxury - the best train food in Britain.

10 December 2008

The new government's plan

Pardon me if I am unenthused. Not PC has a detailed run down of what has been announced, and his views pretty much match my own.

So is there anything to be grateful for?
- Tax cuts (modest though they will be) will be welcome, wont be enough to make a difference to the economy, and the unions will cry that the efficiently run first class service state sector wont be able to function properly without the largesse;
- Tougher bail and parole laws. Something positive here, a step towards the core role of the state actually doing its job. Protecting us from serious criminals.

Meanwhile, there is:
- More state welfare to "help people out" in the recession, when it would be better "spent" in giving people bigger tax cuts, instead of giving people another excuse to NOT be frugal;
- Think Big for the 21st century. Doing what Barack Obama has already indicated, throwing money at "infrastructure". Road projects that aren't worth it, subsidising broadband for those who want to watch more video online and can't be arsed paying for it and more. Not the slightest indication that economic efficiency will be at the forefront and squeezing out the private sector to be avoided.
- DNA testing for everyone arrested of imprisonable offences. Screw the presumption of innocence, the state will treat you as a "likely suspect" for the rest of your life whether you committed the crime or not. Of course nice card carrying members of the National Party and their families don't ever get arrested, so the only people who should fear this are probably guilty of crimes we never caught them doing right? Utterly vile - and the European Court of Justice recently ruled the UK government couldn't keep doing this either.

NOTHING substantive to address the deficit of quality and consumer influence over education or healthcare. Wealthy parents who vote National, of course, will keep paying for a private education (and paying taxes for someone else's kids' education too), middle income parents will be forced to pay for state education and can't afford to pay twice. The teachers' unions will still have the government by the windpipe on pay, the absence of performance pay and the education system will still have a centrally controlled syllabus, full of collectivist, anti-reason dogma. Education will still be the cornerstone of how the left maintains control over the minds of so many New Zealanders. ACT (and the UK Tory) policy of the relatively modest Swedish voucher model, is totally absent.

Healthcare? Likewise - not even a chance that there will be fundamental reform of this queuing based, producer/bureaucratically driven system.

Now you will have noticed tinkering, such as a conference proposed by the Families Commission being canned. Looks like a great saving doesn't it?

Why not can the whole damned thing? Oh I know why, because John Key decided, even though ACT gave him a clear majority, and the Maori Party could too, to enter into a confidence and supply agreement with Peter Dunne.

Peter Dunne, who has kept Labour in power for the last two terms.
Peter Dunne, who voted for the Electoral Finance Act, but now "regrets it" conveniently.
Peter Dunne, who IS a party of one, who couldn't have given National a majority, who has been the biggest political whore of the country since Gilbert Myles (albeit Dunne has 10x the intelligence of Myles).

I await the first bureaucracy to be completely scrapped - and I don't mean having its functions all shift into a new one, or bloating an existing one. I mean abolish it.

Families don't function any better with the Families Commission than they did before - let Dunne throw his toys out of his cot. The only people who care about this bureaucracy are Dunne and its employees.

Zimbabwe's Christmas

You wont be surprised. The cholera epidemic, the kwashiorkor, the continued harassment of MDC politicians and advisors, and Mugabe's continued lavish thumbing of his nose at the world and his people.

and South Africa's blood stained repulsive support for him. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called for Mugabe to be removed by force if he wont resign. The ANC continues to provide succour to this murderous corrupt autocracy, and you have noticed the mass protests against both the Mugabe regime and the ANC by those who once fought apartheid - seems that dictatorship is only worth fighting if it is racist. President Bush has called for Mugabe to go - a good Christmas present for Zimbabwe would be to arm the MDC, for Zimbabwe's neighbours to isolate it completely, except for humanitarian aid.

How many have to die before military action by Africa will save more lives than it risks?

Another year goes by and Mugabe hasn't had a bullet through his head.

So you are a Minister now...

You’ll already have had a briefing from your departmental chief executives. They will be hoping to train you, it is your job to make sure they don’t only talk to you like you are their boss, but treat them that way. There are twelve things you should make sure you do in the next two months, with whatever department you have charge of:

1. Buy, rent or borrow copies of all episodes of Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister. Yes there are differences, but you absolutely, completely cannot understand how officials can treat Ministers without watching this programme. You should have seen all episodes by the time Parliament returns in the New Year.

2. Read up on the roles and responsibilities of your departments, so you know which one to ask about what. Few things will show up ignorance more than not knowing what government agency looks after what activity, because then agencies can play each other against one another.

3. Ask for all Bills in the House that your departments are servicing, seek briefings on why they were introduced, why they should proceed or be amended or defeated. Prioritise defeating those which are contrary to your policy.

4. Start negotiating what you want on the Order Paper for the New Year to get legislation introduced. Even repealing Acts requires this, so start understanding what you need to change through legislation, regulation or by your own executive decision. Legislation obviously takes the longest time, so get focused on that early.

5. Ask every official you come into contact with where the money comes from for what they seek approval for – if the answer isn’t “it is taken from taxpayers” then teach that official a clear lesson about how government is funded and the attitude that should be taken about that money.

6. Make sure you seek analysis of “do nothing” as an answer to any problem crossing your desk. Think of how “do nothing” might change behaviour by allowing people to face the consequences of their decisions.

7. Follow your instincts when you think “why does government do this”. Ask the officials why, ask what would happen if it stopped and what it would take to do this, if you don’t get a clear answer, ask for a briefing within a week.

8. If your department is full of relatively incapable and incompetent people (you ought to figure that out quickly), then seek advice from elsewhere. Treasury is a good start, but by no means enough in many cases. Generally speaking if your department can’t send you an economist or a sharp thinking analyst, it is a lost cause. Bypass it for advice, tell it what it should be doing.

9. You’ll get Ministerials (letters from the public) in droves. You’ll get officials to write responses that you’ll sign. You would save taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars annually by giving this up, and letting a secretary screen letters for most of them which are from cranks and idiots. Those from people who you need to consider can be responded to, the rest should be sent a standard letter saying “Thank you. The Minister wont be responding to your letter, please direct your query to the relevant department or the private sector”.

10. You’ll get Official Information Act requests. You can’t ignore them. You have little to fear from these while you haven’t made any decisions, but it will become a check on all papers your receive on topics. Labour used to have adhoc meetings of Ministers and “non-papers” to avoid having to reveal what it really wanted briefings on. This is why you should quickly learn how to use the OIA and how it can be used against you. Learn about LGOIMA too – the local government version. You can use this to get information from local government.

11. Get an IT consultant or someone in the know to recover ALL documents from the hard drives of all computers in your new offices. Demand it, because it is the only way you’ll easily get copies of documents the last government had produced that it has shredded and not saved. Remember most Ministers have no damned clue how to clear this. Don’t hesitate on this one – you’ll find lots of nonsense, but get someone in the party to trawl what is found.

12. Decide early what agencies should go or be merged. Remember Labour restructured the state sector in its image, you need to do this as soon as possible. That includes getting rid of functions.

Go on, it's your honeymoon period. Don't waste it.

By the way, you'll have countless parasites seeking money and favours from you in the coming months - treat them as you would similar creatures at home.

08 December 2008

What's wrong with Britain? Welfare culture led by the state

I'm constantly astonished by the belief held by all three main political parties in the UK that local government somehow could ever have sufficient competence to manage everything from education to law and order and welfare. This case in the Daily Telegraph, demonstrates the complete disregard local government has for the money it gets from taxpayers.

The Saindi family has seven children. The mother approached Ealing Council for housing assistance in July, and according to the law the council was legally required to find a seven bedroom property for this family. Yes, seven bedrooms. So it did. The family gets £400 a week in benefits/tax credits, but taxpayers are also paying £12,458 a month in rent to the private landlord for this property. In other words the landlord is making a killing from taxpayers - because the Labour government forces councils to find accommodation for families, regardless of cost.

On top of that the system "enables landlords to find out the maximum amount of money available before a price is agreed", so it allows them to completely screw taxpayers. So this one has, and has no shame about it. "Landlord Ajit Panesar, who is acting within his rights, fixed a value for his Acton property so that the Rent Service – an executive agency of the Department for Work and Pensions - could advise the council what it should pay. It came up with a figure of £12,458 a month." An estate agent said that similar properties typically attract half that.

The mother's eldest son 20 said "It's not that we wanted this big house - my mum is not happy because she has to clean all of it. The first day we moved in here we got lost because it was so big". So the family would have been content with less, but no, the warm loving embrace of the Labour government, and its compliant council, is throwing taxpayers' money for people to live in a £1.2 million house - the same taxpayers struggling to pay mortgages.

Central government sets rules to force generous welfare on councils, it sets rules that allow landlords to rip off taxpayers at extortionate rates, even beyond what those receiving the benefits would seek themselves.

So the winners are:
- The Saindi family which gets a large house but pays next to nothing towards it;
- Ajit Panesar who is ripping off the taxpayer by playing with the rules;
- The bureaucrats who are paid and aren't the slightest bit accountable.

The losers are:
- Future British taxpayers who will face higher taxes or less government supplied services to pay the debt for this largesse.

Socialism is wonderful isn't it?

NZ made? so what, promote it yourself

Unless you have the intellectual breadth of a young child, the idea that taxpayers should be forced to pay for a promotion to buy New Zealand was always banal. There is no more good reason to buy a product made in New Zealand over one made in Australia, Austria, Albania, Angola or Antigua because of where it is made, than there is for someone from Karori to buy Karori made over Khandallah made. The rational consumer should trade off price and value from any commodity. That may also include an element of preferring one producer over another, for moral reasons. This is exercised by consumers across the spectrum, because of concerns over environmental, political, religious or philosophical underpinnings of producers. Governments can't predict nor should they interfere with these billions of choices that influence producers to meet what people want. It certainly shouldn't make you pay for a campaign that is about convincing people that where something is made should influence whether it is bought - rather than price and the product itself.

So, it is positive that the new government has abandoned spending any more money on the "Buy Kiwi Made" campaign. A campaign the Greens strongly pushed, as part of their own economic nationalism agenda. Believing it is moral that all New Zealanders, consumers, producers (including importers) should subsidise advertising for New Zealand made products, on the misguided notion that buying more New Zealand made goods is good for the economy.

The truth is that buying a New Zealand made product is good for the producer - it isn't good for the competitors of that producer, or producers of other things you may have bought, or even where you may have invested or saved the money. However, to create value the money you paid for that product should be worth slightly less than the product you bought. Why buy something New Zealand made if it costs more and is poorer quality than the alternative, or simply doesn't meet your needs? After all, why is the producer of the foreign made good - who used initiative to produce something that DOES meet your needs less deserving of your dollar? The only conceivable answer to that sort of discrimination is racism. After all once you have a product you like at a good price, it is up to New Zealand producers to attract business from the foreign producers - which of course, would be easier if there was free trade.

Oh yes, the Greens oppose that too, indeed have actively supported nonsense like "food sovereignty", the latest leftwing campaign against free trade in agriculture, warmly welcomed by the bleeding parasites of the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy, and Sue Kedgley.

However, stepping back from that, this s not to say that New Zealand producers should not, voluntarily, fund a "Buy NZ Made" campaign if it wins them business. Which they do, and have done so for many years. Air New Zealand, for example, makes a deal about being from New Zealand. However, I'm not flying it back home this Christmas simply because of price - I got a better deal in business class with Scandinavian Airlines (not quite as good but I wanted to spend the extra £1,500 on something else).

You see the government campaign was "Buy Kiwi Made" and has duplicated the privately funded "Buy NZ Made" campaign. Yes there already was and still is an industry led campaign to "Buy NZ Made". Labour and the Greens duplicated it.

Sue Bradford, well renowned economic genius, could put her money where her mouth is and financially support that campaign, and leave everyone else's bank accounts alone.

However, I somehow suspect Sue Bradford's degree of direct support for the privately run "Buy NZ Made" campaign will match the regularity of Green MP's using the train to go between Wellington and Auckland.

06 December 2008

Why women don't need to be funny

Christopher Hitchens wrote an insightful piece in Vanity Fair called "Why Women Aren't Funny" and got an expected reaction. His point is simple, men need to make women laugh to attract them - women don't need to do that. Men use humour as a technique of seduction (you all know it, the guy making the girl laugh is a prelude to "let's go back to my place", no girl seduces a guy with humour). An interesting observation.

So watch below as he defends his position.

05 December 2008

Hitchens on Obama - prepare for disillusionment

Christopher Hitchens, who supported Obama in the US election (predominantly because the McCain/Palin campaign so infuriated him that he could not support it - despite supporting Bush in 2004) has written in Slate about the delusion of so many that everything will be better now merely because Obama has been elected:

"Those who think that they have just voted to legalize Utopia (and I hardly exaggerate when I say this; have you been reading the moist and trusting comments of our commentariat?) are preparing for a disillusionment that I very much doubt they will blame on themselves. The national Treasury is an echoing, empty vault; our Russian and Iranian enemies are acting even more wolfishly even as they sense a repudiation of Bush-Cheney; the lines of jobless and evicted are going to lengthen, and I don't think a diet of hope is going to cover it."

His concern is that the threats to the Western world aren't going to go away, and that it is time for some sobriety. He worries that Obama's victory emboldens our enemies and that his supporters don't understand that more than a belief that he can make it better will make it so:

"many Obama voters appear to believe that the mere charm and aspect of their new president will act as an emollient influence on these unwelcome facts and these hostile forces. I can't make myself perform this act of faith, and I won't put up with any innuendo about my inability to do so."

Indeed - it is time for those Obama supporters who did so out of thought not blind following of a superstar to recognise the same. The USA, and the entire Western world deserves to be led by substance. The idea that he will be tested by those who wish to observe weakness in the USA remains a concern. Don't forget, Bush remains President for now.

03 December 2008

When is Cindy Kiro going to be fired?

This woman sought to nationalise children under Labour, she continues to collectivise everyone, blaming everyone for child abuse (hat tip: NZ Conservative).

She is an authoritarian, she wants the state to monitor all children, and she engages in the philosophy of collective blame and collective responsibility.

The Commissioner for Children has been abundantly useless in its task, children are NOT safer than they were when the office was set up. It should be abolished, so parents can get a few more cents back in tax cuts to spend on their kids. Cindy Kiro will undoubtedly become an academic and continue to live suckling off the state tit, but her doggerel can be treated for what it is - the ravings of a Neo-Marxist academic.

Abused children suffer because of their parents, guardians and families that abuse them - they are predominantly on welfare, disproportionately Maori and that is not the fault of society - society is forced to pay these people to breed. It is time to focus on the offenders, not some generic nonsensical use of "we".

Seven random or weird facts

Annie Fox, Not PC and Elijah Lineberry have both tagged me for this sort of doggerel (no it's not doggerel, but I love using the word - look it up). So here goes:

1. I once was told by a previous employer to look for pornography on the internet to find out how easy it was to find, including illegal material, because her boss wanted to know what all the fuss was about from conservatives in the early 1990s.
2. I once sat on a plane next to Winston Peters. I was in business class from Wellington to Christchurch, and the only other occupant of that cabin was Lockwood Smith (on the other side of the aisle). Air NZ cheekily sat us all side by side, even though all other seats in business class (3 rows) were empty. After take off Winston grumpily moved into the front row. I wasn't unhappy with that, he didn't even say hello - none of his voters, except fellow MPs, ever flew business class.
3. I have committed at least 4 criminal offences in Malaysia given that, the first time I visited, I was with my girlfriend (2 aren’t offences if the couple is married). All of these activities are legal in New Zealand.
4. I went to school with a girl who became Miss New Zealand, although at the time I must have annoyed her intensely as I followed her around a lot (must have been about 7 or 8).
5. I was twice a telephone Santa for Telecom, which was great fun, tempered by rude kids, sad kids (wanting a sick relative to get better) and excessively flirty teenage girls.
6. I was once strip searched at a departure gate at LAX before flying to NZ shortly after 9/11, the reason being that boxer shorts with a small stainless steel button would trigger off the hand held metal detector.
7. Radio Sweden once contacted me to participate in a Q&A programme about welfare policy when I was 22, as it wanted someone from New Zealand to talk about “radical” policies.
8. I spent 10 days at a nudist club when I was 12 years old, as I arrived at night, I didn’t know what it was until I walked out of the bach one morning and noted the tall bearded man with a chainsaw, naked.

Yep I can do 8 too, and since I have not read blogs for weeks I wont tag people who I don't know haven't been tagged. I am resisting reading too much because I know if I read Frog Blog I'll get annoyed, and life is too short to get too wound up too often.

It might be my New Year's resolution - to not get wound up as much :)

Sluttiest land in the west?

Yep I'm in it. The UK according to an AAP report in the NZ Herald.

The study by Bradley University Illinois reports:

"An international index measuring one-night stands, total numbers of partners and attitudes to casual sex also put Britain ahead of second-placed Germany, with the Netherlands third, the Czech Republic fourth and the US sixth.

Researchers behind the study say high scores such as Britain's may be linked to society's increasing willingness to accept sexual promiscuity among women as well as men."

So when your son or daughter embarks on the great kiwi OE to the UK they may be in for a a bit more than sightseeing, although perhaps if they could throw together some rude phrases in Finnish going there could have more success on that front as:

"The country with the highest average score was Finland, while Taiwan had the lowest." in terms of how sexually liberal people are in thought and behaviour.

That itself is telling. If there is some truth to this, is Finland swimming in a morass of social problems any worse than many others? It has the third highest per capita reported crime figures in the world (don't be cocky, New Zealand is second) according to the UN, which of course shows that Yemen, South Africa and Zimbabwe are all safer - which of course may simply reflect that most in those countries never bother reporting. It does top suicide stats, which is interesting and sad (but may also reflect the latitude, with very long dark winters). Its high stats for rape may reflect higher levels of reporting (who can know) in a culture that is quite liberal towards women.

and Taiwan the most conservative? Hmmm.

The ACC hole?

So an apparent NZ$297 million deficit in the ACC non-earners account for this year has appeared since the election according to the NZ Herald. What is that about then?

Well let's remember what ACC is - a state monopoly on basic accident insurance that replaced the right to sue for personal injury by accident. Employment based accident insurance is covered by levies on employers, motor vehicle based insurance is covered by a levy included in the motor vehicle registration and licensing fee (and part of fuel tax), but non-employment based accidents are funded by taxes.

Virtually none of this actually reflects risk as conventional privately provided insurance does. You see the ACC principle is no fault - it by and large doesn't matter whether or not you actually were negligent or not in injuring yourself, or whether someone else did it, you all pay the same and get the same type of payments. It is egalitarian through and through, so it is unsurprising that the Kirk Labour government implemented it.

However that does pose some problems. You see, employers are readily levied, although the monopoly means levies are set at types of employment not individual employers. Risky employers don't pay more, neither do good ones pay less. Motor vehicle accident cover being part of your annual licensing fee isn't entirely unreasonable, but again the safest drivers who drive the least pay not much less (if you take fuel tax into account) than the most reckless ones. Socialism at work - everyone pays the same.

It gets worse with all other accidents. You see nobody pays any levies for that, except you do through tax. So the wealthy book reader pays far more than the poor rugby player, although the relative risks are obvious. In New Zealand you don't worry about accident insurance because your employer does it, you do it through your car and it comes out of taxes - so what do you get? A monopoly that delivers monopoly service and can't manage its own finances.

The solution is simple, get rid of the monopoly and give you back your taxes. Whoa that means you have to buy accident insurance. Yes, like everywhere else in the world.

Now it is ACT policy that all of ACC be opened to competition, that doesn't mean doing away with the compulsory aspect (if that didn't exist then the right to sue would have to be reinstated, and sadly the appetite for investigating that is very low). I think it would be a relatively simple process to change this:
1. Eliminate taxpayer funding of ACC and require everyone to pay an ACC levy for themselves and their children annually, reducing taxes by the appropriate proportion. That levy would provide the cover ACC can afford with such a levy, you could of course purchase additional cover from whoever you want. This at least exposes people to realising that this cover isn't "free" or "hidden", the real cost of accident insurance is apparent. However, it doesn't reflect risk so...
2. Open up provision of this cover to any company willing to offer it. It would remain compulsory initially, and at this point based on your risk to yourself - not others. So what happens if you don't buy it? Well you don't have any cover and you can't sue. So at least you'd have some choice and choice of service quality, but insurance companies bearing the cost of people who suffer accidents that aren't their fault will want to pass that on to those whose fault it is. After all, why should you pay a higher premium because you suffered an accident that wasn't your fault? So...
3. Insurance companies set premiums based on total risk, the risk you pose to others as well as yourself. However, in order to recover from those with inadequate cover or none, the right to sue is reimposed. What about those it isn't worth suing? Well your own insurance will cover that risk, because it is a reality of life - such people pay next to no tax now so are effectively out of the system anyway. What about those without insurance? Well they have no cover, and face being sued. Those with insurance let the insurance company cover their own injuries and injuries they cause others.

However don't expect any of this to be even raised by the current government. At the most it will challenge the ACC employer account monopoly (which National scrapped last time). So we continue with the most socialist accident insurance system in the world - a system which pay quickly, but pays poorly. You don't want to have an accident in New Zealand without additional accident insurance.

North Korea congratulates Key and Mecully

From NK News:

Congratulations to PM of New Zealand
Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- Kim Yong Il, premier of the DPRK Cabinet, on Nov. 21 sent a congratulatory message to John Philip Key upon his assumption of office as Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Expressing the belief that the relations between the two countries developing on good terms recently would grow stronger thanks to their joint efforts, the message wished him success in his responsible work.

Congratulations to New Zealand FM
Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- Pak Ui Chun, DPRK minister of Foreign Affairs, on Nov. 21 sent a congratulatory message to Murray Mecully on his appointment as New Zealand foreign minister.

Expressing the belief that the relations between the two countries would further expand and develop in the interests of the peoples of the two countries in the future, the message wished the foreign minister success in the performance of his new job.

and you might expect this....

Congratulations to New Zealand Environment Minister

Pyongyang, November 23 (KCNA) -- Dear Leader Kim Jong Il, General Secretary of the Workers' Party of Korea, sent a congratulatory message to Nick Smith on his appointment as New Zealand Minister for the Environment.

The Dear Leader expressed the belief that both countries could learn a lot from each other, and said that Dr Smith could learn much from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea's (DPRK) treatment of private property rights, which were designed to suit the interests of the nation and the people. The General Secretary invited Dr Smith to visit the DPRK and learn how a low carbon economy can exist in the 21st century, with the lowest aviation footprint of any country, lowest private car ownership and minimal waste of electricity (with unnecessary lights turned off at night). He earnestly believed that the sagacious wisdom of Dr Smith would be valued in the DPRK, and looked forward to meeting him and sharing views on regulating land for environmental purposes. He wished the minister success in his responsible work.

Alright then, how angry and disappointed I am

Yes I've not been motivated to do this. I have returned from the high of being in New York to oodles of urgent work, and meanwhile there is too much negative to even start on.

Obama has demonstrated that change means trusting Hilary Clinton to look after foreign relations. Wise politically, and Clinton is more of a hawk than Obama, but change? Hardly. However, I should wait until he actually gets into office.

The UK government is making Lenin grin with more nationalisations, RBS now being majority government owned, and new Labour embarking on a borrow spend and hope plan that includes minor tax cuts (VAT from 17.5% to 15%, yes go out and spend big) and signalling future tax rises for the evil rich. The Brown government showing it lacks any imagination and has no answer to its past fiscal recklessness but more of the same.

and NZ? Oh please. The broad church government John Key has cobbled together, using three parties when one would have done nicely, is not about serious reform. ACT has effectively been neutralised by the Maori Party, which it itself has also been neutralised. Sir Roger Douglas wont be getting his second chance, and the Maori Party will, of course, face the next election with Labour being the clear alternative if its supporters aren't satisfied.

What is especially disappointing is how willing Rodney Hide appears to have backed John Key, almost unconditionally. He could have granted support as long as Peter Dunne - creator of the Families Commission, and supporters of two terms of Labour - was shut out. He could have granted support demanding the Environment portfolio to rebuff Nick Smith and as a reaction against the Greens. No.

What you've got, which makes me more angry than anything, is the despicable Nick Smith looking at reforming the RMA so that the private sector can take your land, as Not PC has already posted.

I read this days ago, and frankly I'm too livid to say anything - other than how damned pleased I am that I didn't vote for this. Has Nick Smith said he was misquoted? No. Has John Key sacked him for seeking to erode private property rights further? No. Has Rodney Hide threatened to pull support from the government if it proceeds with this? No.

National, you see, has put in place a Green Party Minister for the Environment in drag, one that doesn't pretend to care about private property rights.

You see somehow those of us who opposed Labour are supposed to be basking in the glow of the change in government. Except, you see, Labour is no longer in power, neither are the Greens, Anderton or Winston First. Peter Dunne still is - funny that. He plus three other parties I didn't vote for.

So maiden speeches will come next week, which I will comment on - and perhaps this angry lack of interest in politics will subside over the next few days. I'm thinking of Xmas and New Year, relieved that Bangkok's airports are finally cleared of protestors (see I'm flying SAS and Thai changing at Bangkok to get home for Xmas!), noticing the cold and thinking more of myself than you lot who voted for a disappointing government.

My question will be this. In three years time, will you say that National or ACT met, exceeded or failed to meet your expectations? Would you vote for them again just to keep Labour out? Do those who vote Labour and the Greens do so just to keep National out (and if so why??)?

I hope I'm wrong - I hope Rodney Hide introduces a new Local Government Bill which reverses the power of general competence, and specifies the activities councils cannot do. I hope that taxes continue downwards, and that the promised "line by line" review of spending sees at least NZ$1 billion p.a. in spending cuts. I hope some government agencies are closed and their functions NOT transferred elsewhere - because they are NOT needed. I hope the welfare state is tackled head on. I hope the government refuses to approve any new spending for at least three months, so it can have some sense of sobriety about things.

In other words I hope, in three years, that I'm saying things are better. Not just not as bad as they would have been under Labour, but that there has been an improvement positively, with less government, better managed government concentrating on what matters, and then to offer a vote for Libertarianz as a vote to accelerate this.

On top of that will the so called "centre right" blogosphere (which I am NOT a part of) be content with what the government does? Will the left just plead like children "more of other people's money" for what it cares about - without actually coughing up money itself?