30 September 2009

Iran or Israel, how are they equals?

I fully agree with the sentiments of Not PC on the simply brilliant speech by Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu.

The video is here (in 4 parts)

However, the text is here.

He refutes the ridiculous Holocaust denial claims of the dictator buffoon Ahmadinejad, he describes the Islamic fundamentalism of Iran correctly as follows:

"Though it is comprised of different offshoots, the adherents of this unforgiving creed seek to return humanity to medieval times.

Wherever they can, they impose a backward regimented society where women, minorities, gays or anyone not deemed to be a true believer is brutally subjugated. The struggle against this fanaticism does not pit faith against faith nor civilization against civilization.

It pits civilization against barbarism, the 21st century against the 9th century, those who sanctify life against those who glorify death."

He points out the wonder of human achievement, the application of free minds to the world:

"The allure of freedom, the power of technology, the reach of communications should surely win the day. Ultimately, the past cannot triumph over the future. And the future offers all nations magnificent bounties of hope. The pace of progress is growing exponentially.

It took us centuries to get from the printing press to the telephone, decades to get from the telephone to the personal computer, and only a few years to get from the personal computer to the internet.

What seemed impossible a few years ago is already outdated, and we can scarcely fathom the changes that are yet to come. We will crack the genetic code. We will cure the incurable. We will lengthen our lives. We will find a cheap alternative to fossil fuels and clean up the planet."

He describes how Israel withdrew, unilaterally from Gaza, in the hope it would bring the advancement of peace but:

"In 2005, hoping to advance peace, Israel unilaterally withdrew from every inch of Gaza. It dismantled 21 settlements and uprooted over 8,000 Israelis. We didn't get peace. Instead we got an Iranian backed terror base fifty miles from Tel Aviv. Life in Israeli towns and cities next to Gaza became a nightmare. You see, the Hamas rocket attacks not only continued, they increased tenfold. Again, the UN was silent."

Meanwhile, far too many think Iran can't be pursuing nuclear weapons, or if it is, it is "ok", because Israel has them. Israel has had them for some years, but hasn't threatened to ever use them, except in retaliation for use against Israel. Iran's recent military coup and election rigging is "ok", because after all, it has to be better than the USA, what with George Bush invading Iraq (another "legitimate" state perhaps) and Afghanistan. The very same cover their eyes when told of the execution of political prisoners in Iran, the second highest execution rate in the world after China, and ignore the execution of homosexuals or minors for sex crimes - being consensual sex. The very same people ignore the persecution of those who want to choose to reject Islam, and ignore the systematic oppression of free press and media.

The same who claim to give a damn about freedom of speech, about womens' rights, supporting gay and lesbian rights, but are happy to let Iranians live with none of the above.

It reminds me of the wilful blindness of the old left who wanted to "listen" to the men who rewarded snipers who shot desperate East Germans trying to cross the Berlin Wall, or "understand" what Nicolae Ceausescu's new way for Romania, without Soviet troops, or recognise the advantages that the Soviet Union brought for education, employment and in housing. The same lickspittles and sycophants who regard Western claims of militarism and human rights abuses with disdain, so denying the victims of dictatorial regimes the legitimacy of their experiences.

In which case I say this.

If you think Iran has a legitimate government with rights, then why do you not endorse a similar government for your own country? If it is good enough for Iranians to get political candidates chosen for them by a theocratic council, to have election results gerrymandered by the incumbent, for political protests to be put down by a state security agency that arrests and imprisons, for newspapers, radio and TV to be fully state controlled to prevent messages "unwelcome" to the regime being distributed, and for bloggers and others online to be persecuted and arrested for criticising the regime, then why not for YOUR country?

If you think it's ok for a theocratic dictatorship to acquire nuclear weapons, then presumably you embrace widespread nuclear proliferation.

If you think it's ok for a theocratic dictatorship to call for Israel to be erased from the map, then presumably you think so too. So go on, explain how you'd propose that be achieved? Explain how little bloodshed that would entail and how that would promote freedom, human rights and secularism in the Middle East? How would it be compatible with your opposition to the invasion of Iraq?

Pity Guinea

Guinea doesn't make the news typically. However, it is quite simply an example of a country where the state is little more than an organised gang of thieves, using its monopoly on legitimised violence, to enrich itself and to pillage and oppress the citizens.

A military coup late last year, following the death of Lansana Conte (himself President since 1984 following a military coup, and then several highly questionable elections) meant it is today a military led regime, that has pledged elections within 2 years. The coup leader and effective head of state, Captain Moussa Dadis Camara has railed against corruption in the meantime.

However, as protestors filled the streets of the capital, Conakry, angry at Camara's announcement he wishes to stand in elections next year, the BBC reports soldiers have opened fire and massacred them. Reports range from 87 to 187 killed. Apparently soldiers have simply been let loose, and without control have assaulted people in the street and in their homes, with reports of looting and rape of women. Captain Camara has condemned the attacks, but claimed it was difficult to control the soldiers.

However, the Guinean army has a record of suppressing protests, having done so in 2007 with a general strike, and crackdown on the media. Guinea itself having suffered from insurgency of rebels from Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Guinea has 25% of the world's known deposits of bauxite, but with ample potential for other minerals and agriculture. Yet it is beset with decades of mismanagement, corruption and dictatorship. It is, for most, just another poster child of the failure of African leaders to provide the conditions for economic and social stability and growth, operating more as a kleptocracy than a government that defends the rights of its citizens and their property.

Meanwhile, a country with per capita GDP of only US$1002 per annum (PPP) has a 15,000 strong army destroying wealth and pillaging from the citizenry. Given Papua New Guinea has more than double that GDP per capita, as does Cambodia, it tells you just what a sorry state Guinea is in.

Gordon Brown promises bigger government

Gordon Brown has made his last speech as Labour Party leader at a Labour Party conference. In a call to arms, to fight the next election, he declared a host of new policies, policies which reflect how little he has learnt, and how dependent the Labour Party is on making people dependent on the state. He has said Labour should never stop in its goal to win the next election

He has announced:
- Electoral reform. Presumably, like the left in New Zealand in the early 1990s, he sees the future in coalitions with the Liberal Democrats, Greens or even Welsh and Scottish nationalists. For any politician facing certain defeat, calling for electoral reform is the last refuge of a scoundrel.
- A Nationalised Elderly Care Service: More government for the elderly, including “free” care in the home, which someone will be forced to pay for;
- Free child care for the poor, “paid for” by abolishing tax relief for middle income taxpayers. Given parents can’t let friends or neighbours provide it, it’s no surprise;
- Teenage single mothers to be put into government run homes to be taught how to be parents. Because it’s too difficult to teach them not to become parents or not to pay them to become parents?
- National ID cards wont be compulsory, which begs the question, why bother?
- “Create” 10,000 “Green jobs” by taxing those already with jobs and those who create jobs;
- Remove hereditary peers from the House of Lords (about the only thing I can seriously agree with);
- Expand the scope of Post Offices in banking;
- Raise tax “at the very top”, because nothing satisfies the left like punishing the successful to try to pay for its own profligacy;
- Tougher on crime, although he fails to admit the chronic under spending on prisons and the meagre sentences for violent offences, whilst the state focuses on hysteria over every adult being a potential pedophile;
- Promises on allowing weekend and evening GP visits, without addressing the chronic waste and production line standards of socialised free GP visits.

He claimed the Conservatives were wrong about the recession, yet fails to accept his own litany of mistakes from selling gold reserves to running perpetual deficits. He is proud of rescuing Northern Rock, when small to medium depositors were already protected from all bank failings by a deposit insurance scheme. Northern Rock could have been allowed to fail, and a strong message of restraint and risk management would have been taken by other banks. The wise could have taken over the weak, and future generations wouldn’t be paying the cost. Inflated asset prices (like property) would have been allowed to properly deflate, but Gordon Brown would have had to face thousands of mortgagees who stupidly borrowed too much to ride this speculative bubble. Instead, housing prices remain excessive. There was more worshipping of the NHS “which we love”, instead of noticing that for the vast increase in spending, there has been a 10% drop of productivity.

The unions are happy, which tells enough about how much he has swung Labour back to the left, back to more government, more taking from the productive middle income earners to give to the dependent and create more dependency.

So new Labour is old Labour, more government, no accountability for 12 years of deficits, wasteful spending and setting up the monetary and fiscal policies that saw the creation of the speculative bubble. A bubble that Brown hasn’t allowed to burst in the face of those who pursued it.

Gordon Brown thinks he knows best how to spend half of the money earned by taxpayers, and has been borrowing almost every year he has been in government, so that future generations can pay for the profligacy of the present. Millions of Britons live in ghettos of underclass, where many live in fear of petty crime and antisocial behaviour, unwilling to confront knife touting youths, whilst the state focuses on stopping people taking each others’ kids to sports events or babysitting them. Labour’s culture of dependency, of government solutions and strategies for everything, has been an abject failure.

Can there be hope that the other lot will be substantively better?

Hey others abuse kids too

Oh really, as true as it may be, you do have to wonder at the wisdom of Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s permanent representative to the United Nations in Geneva, reported as saying that child abuse is common in other churches too. He claims 1.5-5% of clergy are involved in child abuse, which even if conservative is disgraceful.

However, there is no penance in being a party to covering up crimes to finger point "them too".

Of course, protestant churches and preachers of other religions abuse children too. Who has ever denied this? This also gets exposed and continues to be a cause of concern, but this reminds of the Albanian communist politician who on Australian TV said "every country has political prisoners" to excuse the then Stalinist state's repression of dissent.

Until the Vatican demands that all those who have committed atrocities towards children stand up and give themselves up to the authorities, and excommunicates the guilty, it can hardly start pointing fingers at others. Its own house absolutely reeks.

Nanny State Beer

No. Really!

The Daily Telegraph reports "A brewer criticised for making what it claimed is Britain's strongest beer has unveiled an ale with a 1.1 per cent alcohol content, which it has called Nanny State."

Sales Director of Brewdog said "the new beer had such a low-alcohol content that the Government did not class it as a beer and it was not subject to beer duty.

There is more on the Brewdog blog. Including how Alcohol Focus Scotland doesn't think it is funny because it"proves that once again this company is failing to acknowledge the seriousness of the alcohol problem facing Scotland". Joyless little Nanny State worshippers who don't understand people don't like being told what to do.

Of course the test will be in the tasting, time to compare Nanny State to Tokyo (the highest alcohol content beer) methinks. By the way Tokyo includes hops from New Zealand.

29 September 2009

George Wood urges caution on Auckland rail

While the outgoing Chair of the ARC, Mike Lee, plays politics (he is an Alliance member from way back) in demanding the government cough up money for lavish rail plans that haven't even had any serious investigation done, George Wood talks some commonsense in the NZ Herald. The basic questions that rail enthusiasts, like the ARC, evade and avoid, because they have a grand vision of changing Auckland.

Wood is concerned about accurate costings and whether all these projects are good value for money, he notes "The Northern Busway Project was a good case in point. The final costs were considerably greater (nearly double) than the initial early estimations.". The record of rail project in the US shows on average public transport projects finish 20% above budget.

"A few decades ago the majority of employment was in the Auckland Central Business District. People now find their place of work is in the outer suburbs where they live, or they travel to other parts of the region.

In the case of North Shore City, in excess of 60 per cent of workers do not have to leave that city to find work. These days the majority of the Auckland region's workers never have to travel into the Auckland CBD."

He's right, but the planners still think of Auckland in the 1950s or want to go back to it. Only 11.7% of jobs in Auckland are in the CBD. So you might ask why spending over a billion dollars to service those jobs is worthwhile, particularly when half the people in those jobs don't live anywhere near a railway station or line. Half as many jobs are in Mt Wellington and Penrose, but the planners have no interest in commuters going there.

"In the next three years the operational subsidies provided by ratepayers will amount to $43.3 million. The remaining 60 per cent of this three-year operational cost, which amounts to $108.2 million, comes from petrol taxes and road user charges paid by Auckland's motorists."

So $36 million a year in subsidies, for around 8 million trips a year. So that means every trip carries a $4 subsidy. You might think it would be better if fare payers could pay that, but even if they did, it wouldn't start to cover the capital costs.

"Once the new rolling stock is purchased someone, and again it will probably be the ratepayers and motorists, will then have to pay for the depreciation of this equipment. This will amount to around $12 million a year" Oh and you're forced to pay for the rolling stock new as well of course.

"In 2001 ... we were told that 25 million passengers would be using the metro rail network by 2015. We are still a long way off this figure. The Auckland Regional Transport Authority has now revised its target down to 17 million passenger trips by 2016. This is still a huge increase when last year's annual figure was 7.9 million."
In other words, the massively inflated targets for patronage aren't being met, so the targets get revised and history is rewritten. What does that remind you of?

"Buses operating in the region carry six times the number of passengers carried by our trains. Buses are a far more cost-effective means of providing transport services to all our communities."

Indeed he is right. Buses carry around 43 million trips a year, (2007/2008) compared to around 8 million on rail. Some bus services are unsubsidised, but the annual subsidy total in Auckland for buses is around $93 million, so around $2.16 per trip. Cheaper than rail certainly, and it would be cheaper still if the ARC hadn't poured so much into contracting over commercial routes, and decimating profitable bus routes with the competing rail services. Subsidies were only $45 million in 2005, with similar levels of patronage, so the ARC geniuses have more than doubled subsidies with no net increase in patronage. Given the big increases to and from the North Shore with the new busway, this means significant declines on the Isthmus. This was before the recession.

So while George Wood is largely right, I wouldn't take the ARC or the new Supercity as the great model in fiscal prudence in looking after public transport in Auckland. I most certainly wouldn't think Mike Lee has any good record in knowing how to spend ratepayers' money. It's about time Auckland and central government took stock before pouring more money into Auckland's public transport networks.

Attacking bankers or how to chase away an industry

Gordon Brown has promised to crack down on bankers' pay and bonuses, as he attempts to cynically grab support from traditional Labour supporters by playing the envy card.

He says:

"It will mean an end to automatic bank bonuses year after year. It will mean an end to immediate payouts for top management. Any bonuses will be deferred over time so they can be clawed back if they are warranted by long term performance"

He lies that such salaries were to blame for the financial crisis, ignoring the loose credit from the Bank of England over many years, and the kneejerk willingness to bail out all banks with taxpayers' money, rewarding the foolish, whilst the prudent retain them as competition.

Allister Heath in City AM puts it well "pay's role was merely tangential during the current boom and bust – and for that matter, in all previous bubbles.

The main drivers were the ridiculously low interest rate policy pursued for years by a Fed obsessed with preventing all recessions; the crippling East-West imbalances in savings and investment flows ....; global rules which promoted low capital reserves for banks, with many loopholes; and a giant intellectual error which thought that bubbles were impossible, that house prices would never fall and that statistical models had allowed bankers and regulators to control risk completely."

furthermore "All the restrictions on bonuses being dreamt up by the Fed or G20 would have done nothing to stop the bubble. We would have had sub-prime and CDOs. Life is not that easy; what a shame nobody wants to know."

So the UK will be the first Western economy to directly regulate the salaries in the banking sector, a measure that will simply chase away the financial sector from the UK. Already it is reported that there is a drift east

"HSBC's CEO Mike Geoghegan will now be based in Hong Kong rather than Canary Wharf. This is bad news for London: the world's centre of gravity is moving East. But the real tragedy, judging from his latest anti-City rant yesterday, is that Gordon Brown wants to accelerate this power shift. Our loss will be Asia's gain – but that's the madness of populist politics for you.".

Of course, following that, the envy merchants of the left are pushing for more self destructive policies, with Idiot Savant cheering on Slovenia's crazy new 90% tax rate on salaries and bonuses in the government assisted banking sector. Sounds like a great opportunity for lawyers to find loopholes, be simpler if the banks were left to fail though wouldn't it?

While bankers should be accountable for failure, what makes politicians accountable when they destroy vast quantities of wealth in a moment? Like Gordon Brown did in selling half of the UK's gold reserves in 1997 when gold was at a 20 year low.

Why should anyone trust this man with their money?

Kiwirail's illiterate and foolish fanatics

The NZ Herald report that the government expects Kiwirail to be financially self sustaining is a relief rather than a joy. It's the bare minimum I should hope for.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party, which destroyed $330 million of taxpayers wealth by buying this ailing business, after already letting it off the hook for not paying all track access charges that were owed, is desperately wanting you to pay more of your money to subsidise the freight movements of businesses. Labour can't give a single good reason why the users of rail freight deserve privileged treatment, and besides which, farmers are NOT dependent on Kiwirail. Fertiliser can go by road, and the milk that goes by rail is for Fonterra.

The economically illiterate lobby group "Campaign for Better Transport", which is largely aligned to the Green Party in terms of policies, goes further.

It is a relentless assault on the English language, that combines illiteracy of the language and punctuation with economic illiteracy and a strong hint of paranoid conspiracy theories. It is so damned ignorant that it is no surprise it isn't taken seriously by transport policy makers. I know, since I used to be one.

For starters, who can take seriously the following failures at English:

"Steven Joyce has come out swinging today against Kiwirail, as he says it will loose $1 million per day." Loose what??

"the Campaign For Better Transport (CBT) is questioning the Ministers figures" How many Ministers?

"Recently Joyce said KiwiRail was worth around $360 million dollars which we all know is unbelieveable" Unbelieveable? No, this preteen English standard is unbelievable.

"If I was a business owner I certainly would not put Steven Joyce incharge of quotations, Reeves said." incharge? Another new word. Comma missing too.

"In recent months is has become clear" is what?

"some unusal right wing groups have been producing reports with unusal facts and figures against Kiwirail" unusal? How creative, another new unusual word.

"yet it moves over 15% of the countries freight" What are all the countries?

"the nations rail network" Again, what are the other nations?

"The Campaign For Better Transport would like the Minister of Transport like" Like, whatever?

Poor Jon Reeves, he obviously did so badly at English at school (and CBT doesn't do spell checking) but wait, there's more. He can't even get his facts right.

He claims it is "ridiculous" to value Kiwirail at $360 million. Why? Because he puts forward the ludicrous implication that it be valued at replacement cost. As if anyone would pay replacement cost for it. As if Telecom, or any power lines company could be sold at replacement cost. Jon, it is called a "sunk cost". Money has been put into Kiwirail's assets that can never be recovered. You're no market analyst or businessman. By implication, Toll Rail was stupid to sell it at such a low cost and the sharemarket so badly wrong at undervaluing it, except for one point. It is worth $360 million because that's the value it might generate either in net revenues over time, and by implication, if sold on the open market.

Oh the Kaimai Tunnel? It is 8.879 km long, not 9.5 km long. Doesn't take much to check that fact, but then you're as good with facts as you are with spelling and grammar.

You wouldn't put Steven Joyce in charge of quotations if you were a business owner? Well he was a business owner, he was a millionaire at age 38 thanks to a business he set up at age 21. I don't think he really could give a damn what you think about his business acumen. Do you?

You claim that unusal (sic) right wing groups have been producing unusal (sic) facts and figures against Kiwirail. Who are these? What evidence do you have that the trucking lobby has been "working hard" on him, when he rejected their call to abolish road user charges?

You say "The Minister is throwing $8.8 billion dollars at roads so trucks can take away rail freight business", which is a complete non sequitur. The money for roads came from road users, who pay for road maintenance and capital expenditure, and besides, most roads don't compete with railways. Besides it isn't $8.8 billion a year yet you then say "giving Kiwirail only $90 million per year yet it moves over 15% of the countries freight"(sic). The money Kiwirail gets does NOT come from rail users, but from taxpayers. The link is illogical. Coastal shipping moves a fair proportion of freight but gets no subsidy, so what?

I might suggest that besides getting some literate spokespeople, the CBT might start having even a paucity of knowledge about economics and how the transport system is funded and financed, and throw away the paranoid conspiracy theories.

A better approach would be to read this article by Luke Malpass from the Centre for Independent Studies where he says:

"the present Government has only one policy option - the reform, rationalisation and resale of KiwiRail. The difficult reality is that many of the unprofitable lines must be closed while the Government prepares to sell off separate parts of rail to interested parties in the private sector. The rail system needs to shrink substantially to become viable in the long term. Only then will taxpayers be insulated from further political expediency and foolishness.

Without such bold action, rail is going to continue to be a drag on the economy and a constant cost for taxpayers, who have already spent a billion dollars on the business in the past year."

As one sex offender finally is caught...

Like Not PC, I'm not really giving a damn about Roman Polanski finally getting caught. His achievements do not exonerate the predatory and violent treatment of a vulnerable young girl. These reports PC posted tell enough.

However, I am more concerned about this story, thanks also to Not PC. It essentially is the criminalisation of dozens upon dozens of teenage boys in the USA, for having sex, consensual factually (if not legally) with their girlfriend. The age difference is insignificant, but they are not only criminals, but registered sex offenders for life, with their names, faces, addresses constantly updated. In effect, they now have a life sentence of being unable to gain employment, or even find somewhere to live without harassment.

This is the consequence of a draconian blind war on sex crimes. The result is that the biggest victim isn't the girlfriend, but the "offender" who has, by and large, offended the precious feelings of the callous puritans.

It is a result Iran and the Taliban would sympathise about. It is a result warmly embraced by the Republicans and the Democrats.

Oh and in case you think New Zealand is immune from this, remember the hysteria from compassionate conservatives when Labour tried to amend the law to stop silly prosecutions of teenagers for fooling around with each other? Of course it couldn't do it.

Are you licensed to look after your neighbour's children?

For you see, in Britain, you might be breaking the law if you aren't.

According to The Times, Two Police officers regularly looked after each others' kids while they were on shift work. A perfectly normal voluntary arrangement between parents, for mutual benefit, and the benefit of the kids who have parents willing to work odd hours, to help raise the family.

You might think the state would simply let this be, or indeed private citizens would think nothing of it. No.

You see in Britain, there is an insipid culture that frankly would not have looked out of place in the former German Democratic Republic (that's "communist east Germany" for the confused). A neighbour noticed this arrangement and tipped off, Ofsted. Ofsted? The Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. It has existed since 2007, and of course how did Britain cope without it?

You see if you look after children, who you are not related to, for more than two hours, for "reward", you must have a licence. You need to have First Aid training, training in childcare (amazing how parents can manage without this!) and be checked as to whether you have a criminal record. Reward in this case was the reciprocal provision of the service. However, money, baking a cake or giving a lift would also be a reward.

Yes, you read right. You cannot look after someone else's children for reward without a licence.

So the vile Stasi agent style neighbour having contacted Ofsted resulted in an inspector coming to visit to ask questions.

THIS is New Labour, this is the Nanny State going yet another step into intruding into the private arrangements of citizens. It follows on from the law that requires anyone who regularly deals informally with children, whether visiting a school or giving lifts to kids to sports clubs, to be vetted not just for crimes, but suspicions by private citizens that someone is a bit weird. It should send shivers up and down the spines of most people. It has shades of the Orwellian vision Dr. Cindy Kiro shared with the Green Party, had for New Zealand families.

At what point do people stand up and say no. When parents have a door knock every year to interview little Sam and Sarah, asking them if they ever get hit, ever see daddy's penis, ever hear anything racist from mummy and daddy, ever see them put recyclable items in with the rubbish, ever see any books that confuse them, ever get scared of mummy and daddy, what they eat and drink, whether they exercise much, etc etc?

Meanwhile, do people think it's ok for the state to licence almost every arrangements parents have with other adults involving their kids?

New Labour’s Britain, with full consent by the Tories and Liberal Democrats, doesn’t trust parents to make judgments about who should look after their kids, but apparently you’re all meant to trust the state.

So when a registered, state approved person next rapes a kid, will the parents be able to sue Nanny State for failing to protect them? No, of course not. It is more intrusion, and no more responsibility.

Those providing childcare should not rely on the state to approve its workers. No. Parents should ask childcare centres to demonstrate they do criminal vetting of their staff, and provide references. Most parents will only entrust their kids to centres who prove their safety and care for the kids. To make this a state regulated activity is in effect to nationalise it. It says to parents, don’t worry, the state has vetted everyone, they are trained, they are ok.

It says to parents, don’t you make your own judgment, the state knows better, and more disturbingly, it says that the state has the right to interfere in any private arrangements you make with others. In short, you can’t be trusted. Everyone’s a suspect until proven innocent. What sort of country does that make it then?

Labour's death wish

It’s almost hilarious to see Alastair Darling in the Observer saying senior Ministers in the UK are “losing the will to live” in respect of how the government is limping along. Gordon Brown’s absolute rank incompetence as a politician is demonstrable, with Labour facing the very real risk of the Liberal Democrats getting the same proportion of the vote as Labour. Why?

Gordon Brown claims to have saved the economy, yet all that is happening is a small bubble of speculation using quantitative easing cash (borrowed money) on the sharemarket and in property. There is no real of growth in consumer confidence or employment. Besides which, his attempt to blame bankers has half backfired. After all, who was in charge at the time? Who let the property market bubble (indeed positively encouraged it with loose credit and significant state spending on the “social housing” sector)? After 12 years of government, with people seeing that the UK is worse hit than its major trading partners, is there really any credibility left with the public?

The most recent debacle has been the complete failure by Gordon Brown to portray the coming election between Labour “investing” (read, spending borrowed money from future higher taxes) in Britain and “savage” Tory cuts. The problem was that most people didn’t believe it. With public debt set to soar above 100% of GDP, with constant budget deficits, it takes little to figure out that promising to spend yet more, without substantive tax increases, doesn’t add up. On top of that, most people don’t want to spend more tax. In other words, the British public get it.

They do not believe government spending is efficient or good for them anymore, they want less, they want most of the deficit to be eliminated through spending cuts. So whilst Gordon Brown lied about there being scope for spending increases, the Liberal Democrats came out of left field (where they usually occupy) and promised spending cuts. Yes, the party that was filling the gap to the left of Labour swung into the middle and proposed a long list of spending cuts, many of which are difficult to argue against.

I'd happily tick this list off:
- Abolishing the ID card scheme;
- Freeze public sector pay;
- End civil service bonuses;
- Eliminate family tax credits for higher income earners (welfare in reverse);
- Cut public sector pension schemes;
- Abolish regional development agencies;
- Cut training and skills budgets;
- Cut export credit guarantee department subsidies;
- Sell surplus land (although selling Highways Agency land may well mean future road projects are harder to build).

Although more abolish would be preferred. Sadly, the Liberal Democrats couldn’t resist proposing to abolish Britain’s nuclear deterrent and a silly tax on homes worth more than £1 million. At least it was a start, and bolder than others.

So now Gordon Brown has admitted there need to be cuts. One nuclear submarine is one clear cut, but the rest is more mealy mouthed discussion about efficiencies and some “hard decisions”. Labour doesn’t want to play into the territory of the Tories, it wants to force the Tories to play their hand. A hand they haven’t played very well regardless.

All the Tories have said is that there will need to be cuts, BUT the NHS is immune. This is ludicrous, given that since Labour was elected the NHS has seen spending increase on average by 6.5% every year, in real terms. Most of that has been pocketed by those working there with no increase in productivity, all that has happened is that British medical professionals are now among the best paid in the world. Those who claim there is no profit in this state behemoth monopoly don’t look closely enough at the rent takers that work there.

So where does that leave Brown? Well the Labour conference in Brighton was a sombre affair, whilst Brown attempted to get them excited about fighting back, the only person with any conviction and belief appeared to be the most senior unelected person in Cabinet, Peter Mandelson. He said the “new Labour” project was “far from complete” and describe the Tories as “shallow”.

The problem is that while Mandelson is right about how shallow the Tories are, as they sleepwalk to victory, he is wrong about the future of the “project”. New Labour has increased state dependency, it has been the problem of the past 12 years, and its only achievement has been to largely leave intact much of the reforms of the Thatcher era. In the meantime, it has grown the welfare state, new bureaucracies, new initiatives and taxes, and it is this tinkering that has helped contribute to the failure seen today.

While it is difficult to see much to inspire from the Tories, with its education policy the only shining light, it is more difficult to see how new Labour – with its endless budget deficits, its submission to Brussels, its failed social policies and its ever growing nanny state, has anything left to offer Britain. The Labour Party, which for decades helped stagnate Britain in a post war time warp of planned economic policies and unionised nostalgia, before offering to abandon the Western world and be a democratic version of the USSR, has shown its project to be a failure.

Let the election roll on.

27 September 2009

Yes let's listen to Gaddafi says McCarten

So says former Alliance President Matt McCarten.

Why is this fool given space in a mainstream newspaper when it is best left to some leftwing rag?

He says "Rather than reporting fully on some of his valid commentary, the international press almost universally portrayed Gaddafi as some sort of nutty clown"

Of course, given that anyone who dares make fun of him in Libya will get dispatched to prison at best if not oblivion, we shouldn't laugh should we Matt? I mean, a man who gained power through military coup, and has been directly responsible for funding, arming and training murderers the world over, yes, let's not poke fun at him should we?

He is a nutty clown, and if you can't see it through his mad grand projects, his ridiculous cult of personality with statements like "I am an international leader, the dean of the Arab rulers, the king of kings of Africa and the imam (leader) of Muslims, and my international status does not allow me to descend to a lower level" and his prize for human rights, then you're a fool or willfully blind.

"The description of his flowing robes, large rings on his fingers and his insistence in staying in tents was intended to make him look comical rather than the cultural racism it is."

Oh yes, silly me, the fact that OTHER Arab leaders don't get the same media treatment (or stay in tents) wouldn't make that just another cheap "racism" jibe, would it Matt? How fucking DARE people make fun of this murdering tyrant?

"we would have learned some valuable insights, such as Libya and almost all Middle East nations don't support Iran being nuclear armed."

Valuable insights? Really? So he can speak on behalf of "almost all Middle East nations", by what mandate? None Matt, Gaddafi doesn't speak for any other states, just the dictatorship of his own. Besides, it is long known that the Arab world opposes Iranian nuclear weapons, if you didn't know then it speaks volumes about any value in your point of view on the topic.

"Unsurprisingly, they want Israel to dismantle their atomic arsenal too." Amazing, who'd have thought?!! Oh and the word is "its" not "their" Matt, there is only one Israel.

"there should be one secular state within the current greater border. This is the most sensible solution for both peoples and needs more air time. Everybody knows the current situation in Israel/Palestine is apartheid, and that it's not sustainable." The current situation isn't sustainable, but isn't Israel not far from being secular as it is? Hamas isn't secular Matt.

"Gaddafi also supports the establishment of a Kashmir state to resolve conflict between India and Pakistan. He even argued the Taleban had a right to form a state too. This is also worthy of further discussion." Oh wonderful, Matt is keen on telling Kashimiris to live together but separate from the two big countries either side of them, and he thinks it's worth discussing putting some people under the joyless tyranny of the Taliban.

Isn't he so nice, drawing lines, creating states? However Matt loves the state doesn't he?

"His best contribution was his expose of the hypocrisy of the United Nations. The UN Charter claims all its nation members are equal. Yet it's run by a Security Council with five nations (US, Britain, France, Russia and China) who can veto any decision." Expose? Yes nobody ever thought of that before. Matt, it might pay for you to read some books on international relations before thinking Gaddafi teaches you things everyone else has heard of.

Matt goes on about the tired old story that the UN Security Council should be restructured to include a bunch of other states, including the veto, then he finds something new, for him...

"his most blistering accusation is that the Security Council is the cause of many wars. Sixty-five wars have occurred since the UN was founded and a permanent member on almost every occasion used its veto to prevent the rest of the world stopping it."

65 wars? Well Gaddafi said so, he MUST be right. What superficial nonsense. The Cold War veto use is well known, but more recently it has primarily been Russia and China to wield vetoes. Not that Matt would want to point that out, see he really likes how Gaddafi lays into the Western World. That's why he mentions about Gaddafi blaming Bush and Blair for killing innocent people, without noting at all how Gaddafi knows about killing innocent people.

Libya is a sad country, it is awash with oil wealth that is wasted on profligate projects, the military, enriching Gaddafi and his stooges, and not much else. Libya is quite third world for most of its inhabitants, and nobody dare utter a word of criticism. You see Libya imprisons and executes political prisoners, it doesn't have the slightest notion of a free press or media.

Read the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information report on Libya

and ask yourself if Matt McCarten might think less about being offended about Gaddafi being called a clown, if he might search out other sages for ideas on international relations, and might give at least a sentence to his articles to give a damn about the people who live under Gaddafi's rule. The man who has supported Idi Amin deserves no respect.

This apologetic naive article shows Matt at best as a shallow badly informed fool, who worst of all has just written a nice piece of propaganda for Gaddafi's sycophantic media.

Can Matt get any worse? Is Kim Jong Il just misunderstood Matt because he's "ronery"?

26 September 2009

Kids evade fitness pushers

Got to laugh at this:

"Children taking part in a study to measure how much exercise they do fooled researchers by attaching their pedometers to their pet dogs.

"But after a week we found there were some kids who were extremely active but still obese," said Professor Maffulli.

Human beings have a particular knack in pursuing incentives to evade the instructions of those who tell them what to do.

Hat tip: Vindico

25 September 2009

Farewell Sue Mao Bradford

Naturally I can barely concede my joy at this news. Bradford is a Marxist who unashamedly embraces a big violent interfering state that treats the economy as a self-sufficient xenophobic fortress and which has its eyes and hands freely in the homes and bank accounts of everyone, to take what it needs to give to what it wants, and make sure you're being good. What can I say?

Well I do love Not PC's summary of the Greens:

What’s unique about the Greens, of course, is nothing more than their combination of authoritarianism and ludditery – with a a caucus composed almost entirely of the intellectual remnants of the Socialist Workers’ Party they’re little more than a bunch of authoritarians with a marketing wing.

So what has Sue Bradford done that is positive for freedom and prosperity? Let me look back at the times I've referred to her in my posts:

Sue Bradford hates Chinese Workers as she opposed Air New Zealand (mostly state owned which she would consider to be a good thing) buying foreign made uniforms. So she despises trade, wants foreign workers to lose their jobs and is economically illiterate. She'd have NZ pursue a kind of North Korean autarchic self sufficiency no doubt. Didn't stop her flying Air NZ at taxpayers' expense of course. She pushed to make you pay for a Buy NZ Made promotional campaign, that she wouldn't pay for herself of course.

Sue Bradford embracing Cindy Kiro's neo-Stalinist plans to have Big Mother watching over every child, monitoring them all, in case you've been bad parents, rather than focusing on targeting children of parents known to the Police, known to be negligent. She even acknowledged in her press release that "I realise some parents will be horrified by the idea that their children will have regular checkups at key stages of their lives" but it was justified by protecting the kids. Given Sue spent many years gleefully supporting China under the rule of Mao (and drifting away when it started opening up), you can see what her role models are.

Sue Bradford's express belief that nobody should be "forced" to work for a living as she embraced the dole. In other words, why shouldn't everyone just sit on their arses and do nothing and magically food, clothes, electricity, homes, everything you consume will magically appear. Given she long led the self-styled "Unemployed Workers' Union" (quite the oxymoron), you have to wonder how hard she thought anyone should look for a job?

She also demanded the nationalisation of the voluntary sector, by forcing taxpayers to pay for it - which of course, means it is no longer voluntary is it?

Sue Bradford's opposition to Air NZ's efficiency drive which includes cutting staff, she said it wasn't bailed out to become a "mean anti-worker" company. Of course it wouldn't have needed to be bailed out had the likes of Sue and the Greens not rallied wholeheartedly against Singapore Airlines (or any foreign company) increasing its shareholding in the company.

Sue Bradford makes a little news that the SIS was spying on her which a naive reporter thinks it amazing. Hardly a shocker. Trevor Loudon long ago outed her lifelong communism here here and here.

So freedom? Nothing to see here. Prosperity? Nothing to see here.

The truth is that had Sue Bradford's politics had her way some time ago, then none of you would be reading anything other than state approved literature, you'd be working for the state , assuming the People's Republic of Aotearoa had survived the difficult period after 1989. She was a member of the Workers' Communist League in the 1980s after all. Charming really, not that the mainstream media can cope with people having been communists, since the little darlings don't really understand it.

So the Greens and we are all safer without her in Parliament, and this may be a fit of pique at Metiria Turei being selected over her (though Metiria is almost indistinguishable in her views) which of course hardly means the Greens are free of their corrosive, pro-state violence view.

What have others said:

Phil Goff I admire her passion for the causes she fought for, even if I didn’t always agree with everything she said,” Well at least he wasn't fawning.

The Youth Union Movement cheered her on for increasing youth unemployment by raising the youth minimum wage to the same as the adult. Cheerleaders for Marxism as they are. Finsec and NDU share similar sentiments.

Barnados and Plunket has nailed its colours to the mast of an every interfering state, so maybe some wont be donating so much in the future. Plunket of course was set up to be a eugenics organisation (which it never admits).

Tariana Turia and the Maori Party loved her, birds of a feather they are.

The Maritime Union, the most hardened Marxists of the union movement, and most featherbedded (the single biggest reason why the NZ shipping industry has shrunk to what it is) also embrace her because she advocated protectionism.

Might it be time for the government to stop funding her training camp for radicals in Northland?

Sex with a teacher

Time to take a risk - add sex, a minor and the law, and you get heated views, and the one I'm going to express will be controversial.

A 26 year old teacher has a sexual relationship with a 15yo student (who will be 16 by the end of this month). Your automatic reaction? Appalled. It shouldn’t happen, the teacher should be punished and the student given the support needed.

However in this case there are some more interesting facts:
- The teacher is a woman, the student is a girl;
- The girl and the teacher were close, in love in fact and both apparently still are;
- The sexual relationship was initiated by the student, indeed she pushed for it over some time period;
- There is no victim statement from the student, who did not testify against the teacher. The victim statement is from the parents.

The teacher concerned was a child prodigy, undoubtedly smart and talented, it isn’t hard to see what the student might see in her. The teacher herself, helped to grow up fast because of her talent, may well emotionally be better able to relate to someone younger. Of course, we’ll never know. Indeed none of us should have known about this.

The only reason this got to court was because a woman got wind of the affair, after rumours spread, a meddler told the parents. The parents have reacted feeling betrayed, no doubt as much by their lying daughter as by the teacher, but it doesn’t look like they have spent much time thinking about the consequences of complaining to the Police about it. The likelihood is that their relationship with their daughter, now thoroughly humiliated and guilty for this, will deteriorate. After all, given she initiated the sexual behaviour, her guilt and blame for the devastation of the life of her teacher will be palpable. The teacher is getting 15 months in prison and being put on a sex offenders' registry (notice there is no violent offenders' registry, so you never know if you're going to hire or live near someone who has stabbed, beaten up or shot someone else) for ten years, and can never work with children again - because, of course, a lesbian adult is going to be a threat to 8 year olds presumably!!?!!

So where is the victim? The girl is distraught by the whole case because of how she and the teacher are being treated. In other words, the criminal justice system is caring not a jot for the so-called “victim”.

Let’s be clear here. A teacher should not engage in sexual relations with a pupil, it is entirely inappropriate. This is something that is appropriate to expressly forbid in employment contracts and in gaining teaching accreditation. Breaching this can quite rightly be grounds for dismissal and deregistration. In the UK it is a crime for a teacher to have sex with a pupil under 18, whereas anyone can have sex with those aged 16 and over.

However, the real question is whether it is a criminal matter when the only credible victim feels a victim BECAUSE of the criminal justice system pursuing the case.

In the current age some will feel “well if it had been a male teacher with the girl nobody would be asking these questions”, perhaps. What really matters here though is what is the role of the state in dealing with this case? If the teacher loses her job and her ability to pursue her job as a result of breaching terms and conditions, then so be it, that is appropriate. Beyond that the state is essentially saying the 15yo girl cannot make decisions for herself around sexuality to such a degree (yet she could these choices months later with men and women from aged 16 to 106) that the person who she pursued deserves a custodial sentence. Who is protected by this? What is gained by it?

If you were the parent you would be distressed your daughter went behind your back, and that the teacher and daughter lied continuously about the relationship. Why did they do that? Well it is obvious why they hid it.

Is it a reason to throw the woman in prison, given she can never teach again and faces having to rebuild her life from scratch because of that?

The judge in this case did make an interesting decision on contact between the two parties which speaks volumes about why this should not be a criminal matter. There is no prohibition on them having contact when the girl turns 16, including while the teacher is in prison. In effect, the judge acknowledged the two of them are in love, but the girl was the wrong side of the age line, marginally.

This is, after all, not about someone who is a child. This is not about the teacher approaching the pupil or just submitting to a flirtation, it is about a teenager and a young adult becoming emotionally close, and crossing a line by initiation of the teenager.

Would it not be preferable that in a case like this, there should be no criminal prosecution if the so-called “victim” objects? The question is at what age can one start to allow that, I would suggest the age of criminal responsibility. If someone is deemed old enough to know what she is doing as being right and wrong, surely that person is old enough to decide whether she is a victim.

It’s worth noting, of course, how hypocritical the UK is generally on this sort of thing. The Sun, for example, has had a voyeuristic field day on the case, of course knowing that not a few of its readers will wish that it could publish as many lurid details as possible. Similarly, in England you can be tried and found guilty of murder and rape if you are 10 or over, in other words, you’re an adult in terms of being a criminal from that age. On the one hand, many in the UK want to crack down on youngsters committing crime, quite rightly so, but equally want to treat them as victims and protect them. The truth is that they are somewhere in between that, and sadly the criminal justice system wont deal with that, and no politician would ever try.

The bigger issue is that teenage sexuality is problematic for so many. The reasons being that people are pulled between wanting to let teenagers be themselves and on the other hand shield them from something that is taught to be both very desirable and incredibly awful. That of course is another story, but in a country where all adults who have contact with children are to be treated as perverts unless they can prove their innocence, it is hardly surprising that sensible discussion is nearly impossible. This sort of nonsense which implies that the case of Madeleine McCann has some parallels, is the order of the day. Compare to this case of a 22yo female teacher and a 17yo male student, which was not a crime at the time.

You’re either in favour of being draconian or you’re a suspect. I would suggest that this article may actually have the more important point to be made here. Is it not time that young girls and boys did not feel that sexuality is about attracting attention, rather than reflecting who you are?

After all, it is only when a more rational and humanistic view of sexuality can be taken, will there be the ability of politicians to reflect wider views. Meanwhile, this is the country that plays the draconian card, and which at the same time has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe, stuck between guilt, shame, judgment and a massive undercurrent of hedonistic desire and perversion.

19 September 2009

What's wrong with US politics

David Walker, in The Wall Street Journal says:

"Members of Congress ensure they have gerrymandered seats where they pick the voters rather than the voters picking them and then they pass out money to special interests who then make sure they have so much money that no one can easily challenge them,"

"He notes that today the role of the federal government has grown such that last year less than 40% of it related to the key roles the Founders envisioned for it: defense, foreign policy, the courts and other basic functions. "What happened to the Founders' intent that all roles not expressly reserved to the federal government belong to the states, and ultimately the people?" he asks. "I'm pleased the recent town halls show people are waking up and realizing it's time to pay attention to first principles."

Who is he?

"He rose to be a partner and global managing director of Arthur Anderson, before being named assistant secretary of labor for pensions and benefits during the Reagan administration. Under the first President Bush, he served as a trustee for Social Security and Medicare, an experience that convinced him both programs are looming train wrecks that could bankrupt the country. In 1998 he was appointed by President Bill Clinton to head the GAO, where he spent the next decade issuing reports trying to stem waste, fraud and abuse in government. Despite many successes, he was able to make only limited progress in reforming Washington's tangled bookkeeping. When he arrived he was told the Pentagon was nearly a decade away from having a clean audit, or clear evidence that its financial statements were accurate. When he left in 2008, he was told the Pentagon was still a decade away from that goal. "If the federal government was a private corporation, its stock would plummet and shareholders would bring in new management and directors," he said as he retired from the GAO."

Oh and he hasn't noticed any change he can believe in since the election of Barack Obama.

"He says his stimulus bill was sold as something it wasn't: "A number of people had agendas other than stimulus, and they shaped the package."

However, I guess since he's criticising the Obama Administration, he's racist, is that right ex.President Carter?

Work starts in Manukau on destroying wealt

Matthew Dearnaley at the NZ Herald has written a report on how construction is about to start on the first new rail line (not widening) in Auckland for 80 years - a branch from the Main Trunk to a station at Manukau City.

The report tells you the line is costing $90 million:

$50 million from Kiwirail. He doesn't tell you that Kiwirail didn't raise the money through a loan, to be paid off from future access charges from Veolia (the operator of passenger trains in Auckland). No. It comes from tax. Kiwirail will never get a cent of this back to return. $50 million is for the track, alone. Note that the last government paid $81 million for the entire Auckland rail network between Swanson to the west and Papakura to the south, with all branches in between. $50 million for 2 km of track tells you how little it is worth once it is built. You wont be able to sell the line for a tenth of that.

$33 million from Manukau City Council. This is for the new station and associated bus station, and the earthworks associated with the project. At least buildings have alternative uses, but $33 million? $39 million is the cost for the expanded Wellington international airport terminal. The difference is that the users (airlines and passengers) are paying for that. No doubt this could all be reused so will have some value. By the way, the money comes from ratepayers in Manukau City.

$7 million from a combination of Auckland Regional Holdings (the money from the privatisation of the Yellow Bus Company that is sitting around accumulating interest waiting to be wasted on projects like this), and NZTA (for the local road improvements around the site). ARH money is Aucklanders' money, NZTA is from road users.

Not a cent from future users? Matthew didn't ask why.

The line will carry trains how often? Every 20 minutes at peak times (I assume he made a typo). So watch the tumbleweeds go past the rest of the time. Meanwhile, the parallel motorway being built - the Manukau extension to SH20, which will link the Southern Motorway to the recently extended SouthWestern motorway through to Mt Roskill, wont be sitting for 20 minute intervals without a single vehicle.

600000 users a YEAR are predicted. Wow, sounds a lot? Hmmm. That's 2400 a day, if divided up to every weekday, excluding public holidays. To get some perspective on this we are talking about:
- The new motorway will carry 30,000 vehicles a day on average each with at least one person
- Wellington Cable Car (one vehicle every 10 minutes) carries around 3200 a day, 7 days a week.
- Fullers Ferries carry around 1.2 million users a year;
- the Northern Express bus route using the Northern Busway carries over 120,000 users a MONTH;
- Wellington's Johnsonville line carries 1.2 million users a year, it's long been considered marginal at best, and at off peak times has trains carrying less than single bus loads every half hour.

So 600000 a year for $90 million, let's say a 30 year payback period for the line, except the users aren't paying for it. So it is $5 per person per trip over 30 years, excluding interest, plus the cost of the train subsidy ($3.69 per passenger trip in 2002) plus the cost of the train itself.

I also remember seeing an economic benefit cost analysis, which said for every dollar spent on this project, it would generate 40c in savings for users and motorists. So it destroys wealth on every measure.

It would have been nice had Matthew Dearnaley in the NZ Herald had asked some simple questions like that. You know, the sort of thing a journalist does. Questions like:
1. What contribution will users make to the costs of building the line and station? (none)
2. What are the NET economic benefits of this project? (negative)
3. How many cars a day will this project take from roads and what will be the reduction in delays? (not a lot)
4. What would $90 million do elsewhere?...

I can answered the last. $90 million would:
- Cover the planned property purchases for the Waterview connection motorway;
- Is almost the total cost of maintaining all of Auckland City Council's roads ($93 million);
- Almost the total cost of renewal of all State Highways in the Waikato ($92 million);
- Pay 90% of the cost of the East Taupo bypass.

Oh and remember this is advocated by local politicians. Take this:

"Manukau Mayor Len Brown says he expects the new station to rival Newmarket as the second busiest in the region behind Britomart when it opens in early 2011".

Given Auckland's trains carry about 7 million trips a year, and Wellington's still carry around 9.5 million, in a metropolitan area with one quarter the population, you can see how it is easy to be a little cynical about vast amounts of money going into the train set.

Especially when the money almost entirely comes from people who wont benefit one jot from it.

Meanwhile, the supercity takes another step closer. Think it's going to stop repeating this nonsense?

18 September 2009

EU votes to increase CO2 emissions

Bastards. Propping up their inefficient and environmentally unfriendly dairy sector.

Poor little diddums EU dairy farmers are going to get £15,000 each paid for by me and other taxpayers, because they can't cope that demand for their products has dropped and commodity prices have dropped.

CO2 emissions? Yes, well Lincoln University had a study (since removed from its website) claiming that even with the effects of shipping, dairy products from NZ produced half the CO2 emissions per tonne compared to UK farms (which are typically more efficient than many continental farms).

So really, shouldn't the EU have the fingered pointed at it when it starts telling others what to do? On trade, the environment and helping developing countries?

17 September 2009

At 8ft 1 - world's tallest man wants a girlfriend

According to the BBC (which has video of him), they are usually scared of him. He's Turkish and 27. He grew so tall due to a pituitary tumour which has since been removed.

He has a specially made 3 metre long bed. Heaven help him flying, he'd never fit in economy class, business class would still mean folding legs, and so first class it is, at a crush.

"He said: "The good thing about being so tall is that I can see people from a long distance. The other thing is at home they use my height to change the light bulbs and hang the curtains, things like that.""

Which of course must drive him nuts, though in the USA I suspect many will think him suitable for basketball.

Of course he's not just tall, he has hands 10.8 inches long and feet 14.3 inches long as well. I suspect many women will be wondering about another dimension as well. Whether that is something that scares them is something else.

Good luck to him, I suspect he will want to be known for a bit more than his height, but sadly the article says nothing about what else he does.

Keith Floyd - he lived

The passing of Keith Floyd at quite a young age is sad in that he showed food, wine and life the way it should be - fun.

One can say he lived, with businesses that succeeded, and some that failed. He saw bankruptcy, and drank a lot of wine, leading to some trouble (a drink driving conviction with a traffic accident). A man who entertained millions.

He went through four marriages, though of his latest partner he said:

Is it possible to be a teenager in love when you are 65? I reckon it is. But why am I so sure that this will work when my other relationships have failed?

For many reasons. We already have a friendship that has lasted for 40 years — we know each other well. We know each other’s irritating foibles — I can be grumpy and Celia talks to herself and is quite clumsy. She cannot cook, but she can sew and she can make the flowers grow . . . and somehow she manages brilliantly.

To sit in the garden, under a Provencal sunset, chatting and laughing and loving each other, is my idea of heaven. I will not mess up this one.

Who can deny that this is the statement of a man who embraced what life is about. Shamelessly being alive. Shamelessly living for a sense of life.

It is sad he died after a great lunch following be informed he was clear of bowel cancer. Petroc Trelawny has links to some great clips of Floyd, but reminds us of the time we are now in when:

"Can you imagine a TV performer now being allowed to admit to a hangover, let alone drink several bottles in the course of a programme ?

On screen Floyd was never anyone but himself."

In an age when lemon faced doom merchants peddle warnings about what to do and what not to do, tell us about the harm of alcohol more than the pleasure of good wine, and warn of the need to moderate, of armageddon, when Islam pushes sacrifice and restraint, and the Vatican sells a similar motto of suffering and denial, and politicians tell of sacrifice.

Floyd reminded us all of what the point is of life.

To live it. To take risks, accept the consequences and responsibility, but to enjoy yourself doing it.

Perchance there ever be a politician who could even begin to understand this?

So you voted National for this?

What's a Maori home? Who knows? How will this be proven? Are the homes already identified by the Maori Party?

Which political party, besides the obvious, will stand up and call it racist?

and you thought that with Maori race based seats for the Auckland mega council dismissed, you wouldn't get more race based government with this lot.

So ask yourself, did Labour ever sell out its principles for the Alliance/Progressives, Greens, United Future or NZ First so quickly and so blatantly?

So if your poor and of European, Asian or Pacific Island ethnicity, why don't you get the same treatment? Or can non-Maori taxpayers get a bit of a refund?

Oh and I can't wait to hear ACT's response, Labour wont know what to say, although I'm sure the Greens will think it is a welcome initiative.

Racist critics?

A bomb has been dropped, with former President Jimmy Carter calling Obama's critics racist. He considers that some in the US don't think a black man should be President, no doubt he is right that some do, but to brand most of the criticism as being racist is a very cheap shot. A shot that will backfire, anger the opponents of Obama further, and do little to protect Obama from criticism. It will sadly give the Democrats a simple weapon to bash over the head of opponents - "you're criticising Obama? Oh it's racism."

A better insight would see that opponents of Obama fall into a range of camps, some of which have obvious philosophical and political opposition to his principles and policies, others who are part of a lunatic fringe. It is important to separate out those who use ridiculous hyperbole from those who have genuine concerns. So who does criticise Obama?

Liberal Republicans/libertarians: Obama has had a long political career of advancing more government intervention and spending, support protectionist and spending proposals in Congress and being a generally acknowledged left-wing Democrat. Anyone who believes in less government spending, less barriers to trade, lower taxes and more free market/individualist solutions is likely to oppose Obama. Racist? Anything but. Their rhetoric is likely to fear higher taxes, interference in individual health care plans and the like. However, they have had few friends standing for the White House in a while. I would be in this group obviously, as I believe Obama has some Marxist leanings, a some scepticism about capitalism and individual freedom. A nazi or a communist? No. This SHOULD form the base for opposition to Obama, but is only one part of it.

Mainstream Conservatives: Obama's fairly liberal position on social issues rankles with conservatives, and his belief in a new government health insurer raises some of the same concerns of liberal republicans/libertarians. However, they are also more likely to regard a leftwing Democrat as not being one of them, with different values. They form the Republican base, essentially more willing to believe critics than believe Obama, as they don't trust the Democratic Party. This base, occupied by many religious conservatives, are those who would typically vote Republican.

Hardline fringe conservatives: These are the one who are willing to believe the "birther" rhetoric, fear he is really a Muslim, and believe that he is a communist. This is truly the lunatic fringe wingnuts who are convinced he is willing to hand the USA over to Iran or some other Muslim state, and surrender. They are willing to accept conspiracy theories, and see the great fear as being Obama as a foreign Muslim spy who is "un American" because he is seen to be foreign born. Underlying racism probably contributes to a willingness to believe this. White supremacists, though tiny in number, will encourage this rhetoric.

So it is, naturally, more complicated than Carter says. I've been strongly opposed to Obama, not because of race - indeed his election was a positive sign about the state of racism in the US - but because of his policies. Discussion about his policies and philosophy have long been shrouded by the over enthusiasm for his ability to speak. The content of what he says has been secondary. He campaigned on change, but rarely mentioned what that was, with his own Senate record being one of following almost every leftwing Democrat to vote. None of that showed independent thinking or a willingness to be open minded, rather a basic level of partisanship.

The Obama hype has produced a backlash, from some it is a genuine opposition to a President who believes more government is good, for others it may shroud wider xenophobic and racial suspicions, but I suspect a good part of the opposition represents the dividing line in US politics between the liberal coasts and the conservative centre and south. A dividing line that those who benefit from it seek to emphasise, which exacerbates it. Attacks on George W. Bush and Sarah Palin have long been venal, sometimes I have agreed, but for those who peddle such attacks to claim attacks on Obama are racist is somewhat disingenuous. It is also unwise.

The Republican Party is going through a degree of philosophical discovery at the moment, as it is clear than the evangelical conservative wing is declining in popularity and influence. As that happens, it is the wingnut conservatives that are shouting the loudest, when they are the ones who will permanently deny the Republicans the White House. Republican need to win small government liberals on the coasts to rebuild a wider base. That is the biggest threat to the Democrats. However, branding both the wingnuts and the small government liberals as racist may well be the best thing Democrats can do to bolster Republicans. Many have good reason to be unhappy about Obama. Dismissing them out of hand and insulting them wins no friends.

15 September 2009

A true hero for the world passes away

I had heard of Norman Borlaug only a couple of times before, not enough of course, and so his passing should come with the sort of news coverage that now gets given to vapid celebrities and simpleton politicians.

I am guessing if you still don't know who he is, you could boil it down to this:

He used his mind, and his passion for solving problems, to save lives on a grand scale. He did it through science

More than politicians, more than bureaucrats, more than the environmentalists or the so called peace activists, he saved hundreds of millions of lives, mostly in developing countries. More than he did, or he did, or this organisation or that organisation.

As the Daily Telegraph obituary today says:

"Perhaps more than anyone else, he was responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were once widely predicted.

But Borlaug’s “Green Revolution” was not “green” in the modern sense. High yields demanded artificial fertiliser, chemical pesticides and new soil technology. As a result of this he was vilified by many in the environmental movement in the securely affluent West, some of whom argued that higher food production sustains more people and thus poses a threat to the natural environment."

You see he is a hero in India, where he banished mass famine to history, by developing "dwarf wheat" which was hardy and high yield:

"By 1968 Pakistan was self-sufficient in wheat production; India followed a few years later. Since the 1960s, food production in both countries has outpaced the rate of population growth and, in the mid 1980s, India even became a net exporter. In 1968, the administrator for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) wrote in his annual report that the phenomenal improvement in food production in the subcontinent looked like "a Green Revolution" – which was how it came to be known. "

He did the same in China, but in Africa he faced opposition. Why?

" Notwithstanding the fact that Borlaug's initial efforts in a few African nations yielded the same rapid increases in food production as did his efforts on the Indian subcontinent, environmental lobbyists persuaded Borlaug's backers in the Ford Foundation and the World Bank to back off from most African agriculture projects."

Yes, you see those people, those very groups who claim to give so much of a damn about the air, the water, the environment, don't give damn all about people. The new religion of our times - environmentalism would be put up against the science, the productivity and how Borlaug could save lives - and the earth worshippers would win.

That is why the Greens or Greenpeace, or other supercilious anti-reason worshippers of the planet over humanity wont cheer him on. No. A man of science, not a man of superstition treated appallingly because he didn't fit into the trend. He damned subsidies for agriculture in developed countries whilst obesity was the growing problem.

However, he did get much recognition. The American Medal of Freedom in 1977 and umpteen honorary doctorates, he was known in his field, and well known in some countries, if not the fickle ephemeral image worshipping developed world. Many more people are alive today because of him. Perhaps, that is why the environmental movement are cold towards him?

Not PC has done a superb post about Borlaug whose death I heard of from the BBC World Service - which gave an extended report on his achievements. Something I gather the NZ media, so dismissive of the blogosphere, couldn't. However, I am sure if virtually all NZ reporters and journalists were asked who he was, they wouldn't know.

So it's worth saying now how I share PC's disgust, that TVNZ does not have anything about him on its "news" website, neither does the NZ Herald or Stuff. TV3 did of course, to its credit.

So just think next time the mainstream media (bar TV3) criticise the blogosphere for not being "real journalism", ask yourself how many of these onanistic "copy a government press release" monkeys can hold down a sustainable debate on anything of substance that doesn't involve celebrity gossip, political scuttlebutt or sport?

UPDATE: WSJ has one of the best statements yet on Borlaug

"Today, famines—whether in Zimbabwe, Darfur or North Korea—are politically induced events, not true natural disasters.

In later life, Borlaug was criticized by self-described "greens" whose hostility to technology put them athwart the revolution he had set in motion. Borlaug fired back, warning in these pages that fear-mongering by environmental extremists against synthetic pesticides, inorganic fertilizers and genetically modified foods would again put millions at risk of starvation while damaging the very biodiversity those extremists claimed to protect. In saving so many, Borlaug showed that a genuine green movement doesn't pit man against the Earth, but rather applies human intelligence to exploit the Earth's resources to improve life for everyone."

Ask yourself whether those that call themselves Green are of the former or latter category in that sentence.

14 September 2009

Shrinking the state popular in the UK

The Sunday Times reports a poll that says 60% of voters want government spending cut to shrink the size of the state to plug the £175 billion budget deficit.

That should give the Conservatives the testicular fortitude to be tough if they win, to abolish regional development agencies, cut countless programmes, scrap grand projects like high speed railways and stop funding expansion of housing in a dud market.

Only 21% of voters would prefer tax increases over spending cuts. So much for more socialism.

Yet Gordon Brown continues with the lie that Labour will "protect core spending" against "Tory cuts", when he knows that he wont be PM after the election, knows he wont need to cut spending, so can pretend that when the Tories actually DO have to cut heavily, he "told you so". It's vile, and fortunately against exactly what the majority want.

Government is too big in Britain, and the public want that to end. However, whether it means finally taking the knife to the national religion - the NHS - is another thing.

The editorial makes the point that doing this involves confronting the unions:

"The unions are all but irrelevant in the private sector, however, with only 16% of workers signed up as members. The public sector is the last bastion of union power, where nearly three in five state employees are members. That is why most industrial disruption is in the public sector, including a damaging series of Royal Mail strikes.

More disruption of this kind may be the price we have to pay for cutting the public sector down to size."

"Just as voters knew instinctively in 1979 that the unions had grown too powerful and elected Margaret Thatcher to cut them down to size, so they know now that the size of the state, spending the equivalent of 50% of gross domestic product, has to be tackled."

So it should - it's time for half of the British economy to stop bludging off the other half.

Phil Goff is sorry?

He's sorry for a focus on "politically correct issues" like smacking, light bulbs and shower heads. Then he's sorry that the electricity SOEs make profits and pay dividends to the government (he wants to end this, but forgot there are a few privately owned electricity generators too). He could fix the dividends to the government by privatising it, like how he helped privatise Telecom.

It's more than that Phil - it is an attitude of "we know best", one that saw an enormous expansion of the welfare state with Working for Families instead of just giving people back their own money. An attitude that threw a fortune away on buying back the railways, well over the market price, just for control. A belief that private property rights didn't really matter, and most disturbingly an attempt to censor electioneering, because it would disadvantage Labour.

Frankly, I'd be sorry for the cheerless bunch of mediocre control freaks that comprises most of the Labour caucus since 1999. So good were they that Clark ran it like a tight ship, trusting only a tiny handful like Cullen and Hodgson, whilst regarding most Labour MPs as making up the numbers.

Most of all, be sorry that you gave the National party so many policies it wont reverse, so much spending it will continue with, and the philosophical basis for how it governs - political pragmatism.

What's he proud of?

Kiwisaver - a policy that encourages the myth that you are better off if the state invests your money for retirement than if you did (oh and if you die before national superannuation eligibility, tough luck your estate gets nothing).

Working for Families - the idea that low to middle income working families are entitled to welfare payments, shrouded as tax credits higher than the tax they paid in the first place. A massive extension of the welfare state from the needy to core floating voters... ahh I get it now.

Lowering unemployment - Expanding the state sector is a sneaky way of doing that, but beyond that you're not responsible for private sector job creation. Unless, of course, you remember you did participate in the reforms of the 1990s.

Oh dear Phil. You do have something to be proud of, you introduced serious university fees for students, making them think about whether they study or not. However, you don't want to say it too loud - the Labour party has made a jump to the left since then.

Immigration policy rewards lazy kiwis

That is what THIS case is about.

The woman has a job, her employer says it has been unable to find anyone else suitable and Sunita Khan "has proven to be a very competent and caring person who delivers care to the elderly with expertise and commitment.

"Sunita's empathy and enthusiasm ... exceeds that of those we currently see in the market."

In other words, because locals are too lazy and not competent enough by comparison, she is invaluable to the employer, and by implication the employer's customers (who are elderly). She works 6 days a week, as does her husband (quick tell the unions, there are people who work harder than they do and are pleased to do so).

However, immigration bureaucrats think otherwise. None of them with productive jobs themselves, they want to deport a woman and her husband who are.

So if the bureaucrats (and by implication the politicians who made the law) have their way, out they go, just so the employer can hire someone second rate who is a keewee.