22 November 2017

Korean People's Army soldier flees for freedom over the DMZ, gets shot

A bit of context.  

The two Koreas are divided by the DeMilitarised Zone (DMZ) which is actually one of the most militarised zones anywhere in the world.   I've travelled on the road to the DMZ from the northern side and you can see that very road (in the DMZ) up till he passes a checkpoint at around 1:07.  That is the first indication he is not authorised to drive in the DMZ.  Before that is a major north Korean tourist landmark in the DMZ as the location where the Armistice that halted the Korean War was signed (called the DPRK "Peace Museum" naturally).   It is in the heavily forested area to the right side of the footage up till the checkpoint that he is seen passing.  When I was there, there were several tour coaches located on this road, they are not visible here, indicating no foreign tourists were at the DMZ on this day (had there been, it may have stopped them as there are likely to be more guards on such a day).

At 1:18 you can see the panic as he passes the checkpoint although slowing down to cross Bridge 72 (still on the northern side) into the northern half of the Joint Security Area.  That is effectively when he has moved from the northern part of the DMZ into the concentrated JSA.  No more than 35 guards are permitted to be on duty, for each side, in the JSA.  At 1:33 he is in the JSA.  By this point, he will have caused a major panic on the northern side as he will have been keenly observed.  By 1:55 he has passed Tongil Gak, which is the northern side meeting house where joint meetings between both sides are held on an alternate basis with the southern equivalent (Peace House is the southern side equivalent).

At 2:00 he passes the Kim Il Sung "signature" monument which was installed shortly after he died in 1994.  The myth is that his last statement the day before he died on 8 July 1994 was this one, of course seeking reunification (ignoring that few on the southern side want a reunified personality cult led slave state like exists in the north).  Shortly after that he drives towards the Military Demarcation Line (MDL), which is effectively the boundary of control between the two Koreas.  It is then he stops driving near a Korean People's Army building on the MDL.  At 2:28 the shot shifts to see the reaction of soldiers from the northern side in front of the main DMZ buildings on the northern side running to see what is going on.

At 2:55 you can see his vehicle is stuck, he is fewer than 10 metres away from the other side.  At 2:58 he escapes the vehicle and runs for it, while being shot at by the Korean People's Army (KPA) soldiers. At 3:02 another image shows him on the southern side running for "Freedom House" the southern side main building.  At 3:12 one KPA soldier is seen crossing the MDL, which is a big no-no, in pursuit before he remembers and runs back.  Footage for a while after that shows KPA soldiers rallying in panic, but from 4:59, southern (Republic of Korea) soldiers crawl to recover the injured defector.  Crawling out of fear that the KPA ones might shoot them.

That's it.  The KPA is among the most well fed organisation in the north, it's curious that the number of army defectors has been growing in recent years, as news of the outside world trickles in via DVDs smuggled in via China of life in the south.

31 October 2017

Requiem for the Wellington trolley bus

Trolley buses are almost iconic for Wellington.   

Wellington was the city that first had them in New Zealand (1924-1932 on one route, followed by the current system since 1950) and will be the last today.  I grew up with them, with my Mum sometimes taking me into town and back on them, and as a child I was fascinated by these vehicles that got energy from wires, were quiet and emitted no fumes.  I lived on a street on which they operated and regularly became "detached" from the wires as drivers went too quickly around the corner, with the old British made rigid overhead wires unable to cope with more than a snail like cornering.  

Trolley buses are nostalgic, the presence of the wires (visual pollution to some) indicates the permanency of the route (a bus will come eventually), and the mere fact they use pure electric technology means they are user friendly.  I've many fond memories of riding on trolley buses, sitting on Mum's lap while watching a Big Ben's Pies disc ad rolling back and forth above the corridor entrance of the bus.  The ride through the Hataitai trolley bus tunnel, pitch black, one lane, the only real chance the trolley buses got to ride at a decent speed, and then the memory of the obnoxious driver who shouted at me for not taking a seat at the back of the bus (he stopped and walked to the back of the bus to do this).  The prick.

However, that nostalgia is tempered by cost (10% more to operate under current oil prices, without including the cost of capital replacement), and the tendency of trolley buses to be slower than other vehicles on curves (Wellington motorists widely see them as the snails of the roads).  

Trolley buses were in all major New Zealand at one point, and New Plymouth. 

Four other cities in New Zealand had them. Christchurch from 1931 to 1956 was the first to go permanently, as the system needed renewal and there was little interest in expanding the network on this low density city. 

Christchurch trolley bus

New Plymouth was the smallest city with a system, running from 1950 till 1967 as one tram route was replaced with trolley buses, but again the costs of running one route in a small city weren't economy.  

ex. New Plymouth trolley bus restored on special trip on the Wellington system
Auckland started with Farmers setting up its own service, for free for customers, operating a loop from 1938 till 1967, joined from 1949 by the City Council replacing tram lines with trolley bus routes.  However, Auckland's system was plagued by a lack of capital renewal, as it relied almost entirely on the electrical system introduced in the 1900s with the electrical tram network.  So from the 1970s, trolley bus routes were closed until 1980 when the last route was closed.  Yet in parallel a decision had been made to replace the inner city network, including services to Parnell, Newmarket, Ponsonby and Herne Bay, with a brand new trolley bus system.  

Farmers Free trolley bus Auckland, owned by Farmers 1930s

Auckland Regional Authority (which had taken over the system some years before) ordered brand new overhead wires and buses, but in 1982 cancelled the lot and was stuck with a mini-system.   Wellington City Council bought the 20 buses at a discount price to replace some of its older trolley buses, and the new overhead wires were used to replace well worn wires in central Wellington.   Another success for the Auckland Regional Authority in politicised decision making on transport.

Never used in the city they were built for.  Auckland ordered Ansaldo Volvo B11M trolleybus
bought at a bargain price from ARA by Wellington City Transport late 1980s
Dunedin held out for two more years, it introduced trolley buses in 1950 also to replace trams, primarily because its hilly topography was better suited to the superior acceleration of trolley buses, than the diesel bus technology of the time.  However, Dunedin paralleled Auckland, with routes shifting to diesel operation as parts of the network needed repairs and the whole system was to be closed in 1980, deferred by the sudden oil crisis, which persuaded the Council to keep the trolley buses until 1982, before finally closing the system.

Dunedin trolley bus in 1978
Wellington was a bit different.  The 1924-1932 "trackless tram" line was a trial from Thornton to Kaiwharawhara on what is now known as the Hutt Road, it would have been extended further towards Ngaio, but the Railways Department objected to the competition so it wasn't permitted.  The modern system started in 1949 and was designed to replace the tram network.  As in Dunedin, trolley buses were much more suited to the hilly topography of Wellington compared to the underpowered, noisy and slow diesel buses of the time.   However, as with other cities, Wellington faced challenges as to the economics of trolley buses when there was a need for replacement buses (as the first generation of 1950s buses were at the end of their economic lives).  However, the oil crisis saw a decision made to buy new buses and 68 new Volvo B-58 trolley buses were ordered (with NZ made bodies), and not long afterwards the 20 Ansaldo Auckland buses became available, enabling the 1960s era BUT buses to be replaced as well.  With new overhead wires in the central city network, and new buses, the trolleybus system got a new lease of life.    Albeit that there were extensive teething problems, as drivers objected to the design of the bus windscreens, and there were constant breakdowns and complaints about noise and interference with AM car radios.

1950s era British United Traction (BUT) Wellington trolleybuses

The Volvo B-58 Wellington trolleybus, with NZ made bodywork

On top of that, the trolley bus network was expanded.  The Mornington route was extended to Kingston, the Newtown Park/Zoo route was electrified, but when the Northland route was extended it was done with diesels (and the electrified segment removed) and a few years later the original Wadestown to Roseneath trolley bus route was also removed, as Wadestown services routinely continued to Wilton.  Weekend and evening services which had been revived were discontinued, mainly to provide time for wire maintenance, although the central city overhead wire system doubled as infrastructure to carry an overhead suspended fibre optic telecommunications network.

By 2001 the issue of replacement came up again, but it was decided in 2004 to replace the Volvo B-58s, but the bodies were replaced as the electrics were still in good order.   Wellington Regional Council agreed to a ten year contract with Stagecoach to retain the trolley buses with a subsidy, because they cost more to operate with the cost of maintaining the overhead wires.  

Wellington's last type of trolley bus- Designline/Volvo at Lyall Bay terminus 2009

Now they are being scrapped, following advice from consultants (none of which have actually worked on operating trolley bus systems in other countries curiously).  Even though the buses themselves have many years of operating life left and almost 40% of the overhead wires had been replaced by 2014.  The electrical supply system is dated though and needs replacement and would cost over $50m to replace.

Yes, I would like them to have been retained, replaced and upgraded (and no doubt it would cost a fraction of the ludicrous plans for light rail in Auckland).  I would like there to be just one line kept for nostalgic purposes, but my claim for nostalgia doesn't mean taxpayers should have to pay for it.   Could something else have been done to save them?  Could experts with working knowledge of modern systems in other countries known of ways to operate and renew a system more economically than those who advised Wellington Regional Council?  Maybe, but the fundamentals around the electrical supply system wouldn't change.  It just isn't worth it to spend that much money on replacing those systems, for nostalgia, noise or to reduce pollution in a city which has good air quality primarily due to the weather! 

What IS disappointing, is that the system is being dismantled before the replacement vehicles are ready.  

So farewell Wellington trolley buses.  Maybe the enthusiasm to preserve them will reignite the nascent museum in Foxton (which lost momentum with the death of its founder and enthusiast Ian Little).   However, while economics may drive transport policy for Wellington, it's clear it has been completely abandoned by the government for its newfound fetish for trams - in Auckland.

So think this.  Why does it make sense to lay down track, install new overhead wire, for a system which is effectively a guided electric bus system, in Auckland?

27 October 2017

Don't like the government? Blame the National Party

For the second time in over 20 years of MMP, the left has got, pretty much, what it wanted in a government.  This time, a Labour Party led by a complete neophyte (Jacinda has never sat in Cabinet, never been a junior Minister), with a caucus inhabited by unionists and ex.public servants, with the Greens (led by an ex. Marxist student activist - yes I remember him at university) and Winston the country's leading political whore-monger (look how he , will lead a leftwing government.

This government is already opposed to capitalism (although mind-numbingly can't work out what system means New Zealanders produces goods and services that get exported or sells services to tourists to pay their way in the world).  It is keen on identity politics and not only believes that climate change is damaging New Zealand, but that New Zealand reducing its emissions will make a difference to it.  This is pure scientific nonsense, but there's more.  This government believes that child poverty can be solved by giving people more of other peoples money for having children they can't afford to raise, and that it is not up to people to be responsible parents.  This government doesn't even realise that the biggest problems it campaigned on in the election, such as housing, healthcare, education, river pollution and welfare, are almost nothing to do with capitalism, but rather government intervention.

The problem with housing is primarily due to local government, applying the Resource Management Act, to constrain the supply of housing, in part to meet the new urbanist ideological objectives of densification that is the dominant philosophy of urban planning departments in major cities (not just in New Zealand, but also Australia and the US cities with the most expensive housing).  

The problem with healthcare is that there is little relationship between what consumers want and what they are able or willing to pay for, as politicians, not the market, drive the supply of healthcare.

The problem with education is that it is centrally driven and only recently has been opened up to additional competition, so that it can be innovative and meet the diverse needs of students and parents.  The new government is completely beholden to the producer interests of the suppliers of health and education, who in education in particular, are completely uninterested in being rewarded on performance.

The river pollution problem is a failure to apply private property rights, which could be applied to adjoining land owners including Iwi, to provide a framework to control water quality based on the self interest of multiple private owners of the rivers.  However, this government wants to kneecap one of the country's leading industries, even wanting a debate about "how many cows" there should be.  Why would anyone think they would know how many cows there should be, when they don't know how many of anything there should be, when it should be a matter of supply and demand?

The child poverty problem is a failure of the welfare state, which has never been so generous to people who want to have children, but can't afford to pay for them.  It is also the failure of policies that inflate the cost of living, primarily for housing (see above), but also the regular increases in GST, fuel tax and tinkering with the energy market (albeit not on the disastrous scale seen in Australia and the UK).  

Yet what real difference will be made?  Nine years of National saw little done in any of these areas, housing belatedly had some movement recently, charter schools were a start that was far too little too late, and National just fed the middle class welfare addiction that Helen Clark started.

This government wont do much different from National (yes you'll see uneconomic railway and tram line built instead of motorways), the difference is this lot actually believe in what they are doing.

You see the National Party has been a very poor promoter of the free market, private enterprise and individual freedom.

After leading a courageous government that started tackling welfarism and waste in government, Jim Bolger lost all sense of courage to do what is right and for no sound political reason whatsoever held a referendum on electoral reform that would obviously make it more difficult for one party government (and certainly was being backed by the left because they thought MMP would give them more power, and they were right).  He then led a chaotic government for two years with Winston Peters, before resigning and the final year limping on with Jenny Shipley.  Jim Bolger, remember, cut his teeth in being a Minister under Rob Muldoon, the most economically socialist government to date.

John Key got elected on a platform opposing the high tax, big government philosophy of Helen Clark and spent more, and how much really changed?  Was the welfare state reduced?  No.  Did the state's role in education get scaled back? Hardly.  Was the planning system liberalised?  Only for the government building roads.  Did corporate welfare get scaled back?  No, the opposite.  Yes there was some partial privatisation, but the fundamental causes of the housing crisis were barely touched.   John Key with Rodney Hide's help implemented Labour's local government policy on Auckland, creating a behemoth of a bureaucracy, with more employees than the councils it replaced, spending more.  Of course National also funded the multi-billion dollar underground rail fetish in downtown Auckland, which will never make a single dollar of operating surplus to pay for it.

What New Zealand now has is a government that believes in something, most of it is at best misguided, at worst destructive and ignorant, but it IS driven by philosophy.  A philosophy of "we know best" of "problems are best fixed by throwing money at them" of "climate change can be changed by whatever we do, and if you question it you're evil" of "a person should be judged by their identity group/s and intersectionality of them, not what they actually do, experience or think" of "you are a means to an end".

National only offered a diluted version of this, a half hearted "it's all going well" belief that "we're entitled to rule".  It didn't offer anything different, anything new and never challenged all of the assertions on poverty and the environment spouted by the left.

So while Bill English might say he is leading a "strong opposition", what is he actually opposed to?

The new government is just National with the courage of the philosophical convictions in implementing essentially the same policies, on steroids.

Do you really think National would reverse anything Labour is about to do?

14 October 2017

Don't fear Winston

I am wholly relaxed about a government of which Winston Peters is a part, not just for the reasons outlined by Peter Cresswell, but because his bite is actually rather small when compared to many of those who despise him.

For a long time, Winston Peters was the second coming of Robert Muldoon, except of course when it came down to it, Winston wasn't that interested in turning back the clock of the reforms of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson (except that he wasn't keen on privatisation).  Despite his rhetoric, after all, central government privatised its shareholding in Auckland Airport in 1998 while Winston was in government.  

He isn't an acolyte of environmentalism, in that he doesn't believe in sacrificing prosperity and wealth to engage in what is virtually nothing besides virtue signalling about climate change.  In that sense, he is much less toxic than the Greens, who combine welfarism with environmentalism and the glorification of identity politics.  Winston has NONE of this (although his willingness to buy votes with the elderly could be described as a form of welfarism).

So the so-called rightwing commentators who think a National-Green coalition is a good idea are demonstrating how utterly beguiled they are with the image of the Greens and ignoring the substance.  Either a National-Green coalition would kneecap the Greens on principles and policies, causing them to splinter and disintegrate below the 5% threshold, or (more likely) a National-Green coalition would be led by the Greens pushing climate change, getting the baubles of railways and tramways that will cost hundreds of millions of dollars a year for many years to come in losses and continuing the slide towards identity politics that National has done nothing to reverse.  Furthermore, it will encourage more welfarism.

After all, it is the National Party that is willing to sell out its principles for power (Muldoon 1975-1984 being the most egregious case study).  The Greens are a party of principles and policy (the wrong ones in my view, but still).

That's why I'll be more comfortable with Winston calling the shots over National or Labour.  National doesn't lead the fight against leftwing ideas or concepts touted by Labour and the Greens and their supporters, it just plays personalities and fear.  

Winston may contain the growth of identity politics, he wont sign up to mindless environmentalism (even though he has policies that might feed into it) and he wont embrace welfarism on a grand scale.   OR he may just get a Cabinet post and go away.

In either case it is better than the Greens driving public policy.

03 October 2017

NZ election result: winners, losers

First the biggest loser:  

You, that's assuming you're not seeking to extract other people's money from the state.  

You, if you believe that freedom of speech matters, and that there shouldn't be a Harmful Digital Communications Act.

You, if you believe that you own your body and shouldn't be criminalised for what you put in it.

You, if you believe that government should stick to justice, law and order and defence, and should not be involved in the delivery of health and education, that it should not seek to be parent to everyone and should not respond to all of the calls to impose "social justice" (a euphemism for "take money from people we don't like and give it to people we do").

The news from overseas sources makes New Zealand seem like it still basks in the age of the reforms of Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson.  However, that's only because if you look at subsidies, protectionism and regulatory rent-seeking, NZ looks better than Australia and the US.  If you look at taxation, NZ is much simpler than most economies.  Yet, that relative position doesn't make NZ a free-market haven, and certainly not on personal freedoms.  

So what about the parties?

National, optimistic but too soon to tell will think it won, and to be fair Bill English did shake off his reputation as the biggest loser as a party leader in generations.  He did it by being evasive, by focusing attention on his rival's spending plans, even though his own plans are not fundamentally different.  It is on form, as a party that doesn't really reform anything.  Riding on the back of an economy that gains from the reforms of the 80s and 90s, on high commodity food prices and the spending power of new migrants, its approach to most issues is not to change much.   At best it does seek to cut taxes, but at worst it rolls back virtually nothing Labour does.  The middle class welfare package instituted by the previous Labour Government was kept.  Yet, in an MMP environment the Nats did successfully frighten people into turning out and voting for it.  It deterred ACT supporters from voting ACT (and indeed some NZF supporters too).  Being in a position to get a fourth term is an achievement historically, but you have to ask for what?  Does National exist primarily to stop Labour et al from doing stuff?  The number of National supporters keen on governing with the Greens tells you exactly that.  Principles don't matter, the role of the state doesn't matter, nor is there interest in pushing back against a culture of dependency and statism.  National exists to stop Labour, this time we'll see if it worked.

Labour disappointed but too soon to tell  thinks it has won, because it could conceivably lead government with the Greens and Winston Peters.  Yet it did so mainly by consolidating the vote on the left.  It decimated the Maori Party strategically, it presented a leftwing manifesto and took the Greens back to its core.  Yet the widespread "Jacinda-mania" star status proved to be for little effect.  Few National voters were convinced that a young woman who has never had a job in the private sector, and has never even been a Cabinet Minister could be Prime Minister.  Labour did win the media narrative (along with the Greens) about relative child poverty and river pollution, all without much scrutiny about the statistics (or the causes or better yet, the solutions).  It has a chance at power, but has a long way to go to attract votes from groups other than public servants, beneficiaries, students,  Maori and Pacific Island voters and unionised workers.  It hasn't broken through in most regional towns and cities, nor significant parts of Auckland.  Yes Jacinda has almost done it, but if she does become PM, she'll be getting wagged by the tail of James Shaw and Winston Peters, and that is NOT a winning position to be in.  

Winston Peters won (I mean really, he runs it, it is his) lost seats, but is the master of political positioning.   Seriously, he has won, whilst Bill and Jacinda slut around him for the next few weeks.
 He puts himself in the centre, whilst being a populist who embraces the left (more money for pensioners and opposition to privatisation) and the right (sceptical about immigration, sceptical about higher taxes and opposition to identity politics by race if not nationality).   He leads the only truly fungible MMP party, in that he could support either main party and no longer would he really upset his base of supporters (like he did in 1996, but only because he broke up from the Nats to oppose them, and misjudged that his supporters cared about policy - when they are largely driven by gut emotion).  He'll get a good job and do little with it, he'll give a bunch of ne'er do wells (most of whom couldn't hope to get a job as "highly paid" as an MP) employment, and he'll one or two totemic legacies.  One might be the economically ridiculous idea of relocating the Ports of Auckland to Marsden Point, better would be a referendum on the Maori seats.   Winston won and why are you surprised?  He knows MMP better than anyone else, and no other politician is willing or able to replicate him.

Greens never really lose and were hit fairly hard, not least because it showed itself to be the party of welfare cheats.  Jacinda-mania attracted the airheads back to Labour, but it showed itself to still be a ginger-group of hard-left finger-waggers whose main instincts are to tell people off, tax what they don't like, subsidise what they like and virtue signal.  The good news for the Greens is that they still get an easy ride on most of their policy positions, particularly the constant false claims that "action on climate change" will save lives, the war on fossil fuels and their obsession with identity politics.  The media still loves them, even given the Metiria scandal (which actually exposed their fundamental belief that everyone owes everyone else a living).  Yes the Green Party has never actually been in a coalition, but it is very very influential and relies on new cohorts of optimistic state worshippers being recruited year on year.  

ACT lost badly in part due to the Nats successfully scaring voters on the right to voting National, but also because David Seymour moved too far away from having a coherent position on issues.  He was seen as backing National, but whether it was too hard for him to get traction on multiple issues or he lacked ground support to campaign, the only policy that got a lot of publicity was in increasing teacher pay.  ACT once had a coherent less government, lower tax position that promoted more competition in public services, was tough on law and order and rejected identity politics.  Yet Seymour couldn't break through with such a message.  The brand is mixed, he made statements about abortion which would alienate some, but he tried hard.  ACT needs to work out who it is targeting and what message it is giving.   There is a gap on the right, one that will open up large when a certain Maori ex. National MP finally retires.  ACT can't fill much of that gap, but it sure can grab some of it.

Maori Party is nearly finished as Labour branded it as National's patsies, which was unfair.  Maori are smarter than identity politics warriors fighting "colonialism" as Marama Fox implied. It will probably remain for some time, but looks like it is slipping back to be another Mana Motuhake.  It would have a chance if Labour gets power,  with the Greens, as it could position itself as the Opposition for Maori again.  However,  its real future is threatened by a referendum on the Maori seats, which if it includes Maori who choose to be on the general roll, could completely render the Maori Party obsolete.  

TOP did well for being led by a vulgarian.  For all of the rhetoric, TOP had policies based on a philosophical position, not simply "evidence led".  The philosophy was to penalise asset ownership as a solution to a market failure, rather than address the supply side element.  Everything else it stood for was a redistributionist/environmentalist agenda that competed with the Greens and Labour.  Gareth Morgan got the party attention, but also turned off many.  He topped it off by blaming voters for being selfish and stupid.  What more is there to say?

United Future has no future

The youth didn't turn out in the magical numbers to vote for the left, and if they did turn out they were not a single bloc (who is?).  After all the left is the mainstream.  Besides housing (which has become a problem because of the enviro-left approach to planning, through the RMA and the application of new urbanism to city boundaries in Auckland and Wellington), the narrative about child poverty was from the left (Beth Houlbrooke from ACT was hounded down when she suggested people on low incomes should not have children they expect taxpayers to pay for), the narrative around the environment was partially a banal question around "should there be fewer dairy cows" (the sort of nonsense seen in adolescent level policy debate).

What now?

Winston will make his choice, either Bill English will get to have three years of do little, conservative (literally) government.  Otherwise Jacinda Ardern will suddenly find she has gone from MP to PM without even having sat in on a Cabinet meeting, with Winston wagging her dog and the Greens on the sidelines providing confidence and supply.  I am uncomfortable with the latter, primarily because culturally the bent of Jacinda will be to support more identity politics based on race and sex, less freedom of speech and fewer private property rights.  Not that the Nats are practically better, but Labour and the Greens actually believe in state power and collectivising people over individual rights and individual responsibility.

ACT needs to refocus

For those who think government does too much, who think individuals alone or with others should have more power and responsibility to find solutions to the problems of today, there is little to offer.   The best hope might be for ACT to be in Opposition, regardless.  To campaign more clearly on principles, which should be around private property rights, everyone being equal under the law (including the abolition of Maori-only political representation), opening up education to choice and diversity, tackling the culture of welfare dependency, opposing state subsidies for business, more taxation and more state ownership.  ACT should firmly come down on limiting the scope and powers   of local government, on ridding central government of wasteful politically-correct bureaucracies and taking on identity politics.   Yes it should support other parties when it comes to victimless crimes, but there should not be a unified view on abortion.  It should be tough on real crime, tough on parental responsibility, but also take on measures that governments have done that increase the cost of living.  This includes the constraining of housing supply, and immigration policies that mean new migrants utilise the capital of taxpayer funded infrastructure, without actually paying for it.

What Winston does as his possible swan song is of minor interest, what matters is there being a party that stands up for something different.  For now, only ACT can do that.

20 September 2017

Auckland Airport debacle should be celebrated by the Greens

As Peter Cresswell has rightly pointed out  little is more hypocritical and sanctimonious than the Green Party joining in the criticism of the Government for the accidental disruption to the pipeline from Marsden Point refinery to Auckland.

The accident, which is essentially a grand scale version of the sort of minor accident that contractors cause on water, gas, electricity, telecommunications utilities from time of time, is the first time this has happened for the over thirty years that the pipeline has been in operation.  The pipeline is privately owned, having been privatised by the fourth Labour Government (and is owned by a consortium of all of the major oil companies), and was built for sound reasons.  It is cheaper and much more energy efficient (and has much more capacity) than the coastal oil tankers, railway and road tankers used previously.  Note that much of the rest of the country is served by coastal oil tankers that then get fuel distributed by road.  

Yet consider how the Greens treat fossil fuels now or indeed the entire environmental movement?  Imagine if NZ Refining Company was seeking to build that pipeline today under the RMA.  It would take years to gain consents, and the Greens would oppose it, claiming it "intensifies Auckland's dependence on fossil fuels, which are killing the planet" etc.   I bet there would even be murmurs had Auckland Airport sought to expand its storage facilities for jet fuel, after all no transport mode is more fossil fuel dependent than aviation.

So the widespread cancellation of domestic and shortfall international flights should be celebrated by James Shaw and his band of serial underachievers in the Green Party list.  Think of the CO2 emissions cut, as serial planet killers (airline passengers) are shepherded onto fewer flights.  Think of the hurricanes stopped, think of the oceans that stop rising, think of the glaciers saved.

The Greens want no more oil exploration in New Zealand, no more oil extraction,  they along with their sister outfits like Greenpeace, and the analysis free virtue signalling zone called Generation Zero, cry foul anytime there are any steps to increase production, reduce the cost or provide new ways to use fossil fuels.  

You can be sure the Greens will one day campaign for Marsden Point to be closed, and that they will oppose Auckland Airport's proposed second runway when it seeks resource consents for it to be built (on its land) after 2020.   You see this is the same Green Party once led by Jeanette Fitzsimons, who some years ago wondered why there couldn't be less international trade, as she talked about ships that went between countries carrying the same goods ("why couldn't we just make more of what we need at home"), this is the same Green Party that wants you to pay more for energy and transport (whether directly or through taxes) so that there can be a zero carbon future.

Well you sure are now, these are Air NZ airfares from Auckland to Christchurch tomorrow.  Stay home peasants, save the planet:

So it's like this.   If you really want to boot out National and annoy me with a Labour Government, then vote Labour.  Leave the Greens alone, let the simpering, hypocritical, virtue signalling haters of science, individual freedom and Western civilisation drop below the 5% threshold.   They lie openly about the impact of their policies on climate change, for it is like telling a child to stop peeing in Lake Taupo because it will save the lake from pollution, they conceal the impacts on energy prices, taxes, transport and the effect on the economy.   Let's be VERY clear, if the philosophy of the Green Party was applied across the world today, New Zealand would be a much much poorer place, because many of our exports would be shut out of overseas market (with the inane "food miles" idea), tourism would drop dramatically because air fares would be much higher, and imports would be much more expensive as import substitution is attempted - again.

Make the Greens history this Saturday. 

18 September 2017

New Zealand General Election 2017: The choices for freedom

Well as many think the election is interesting, I find it mind numbing.  It has become the Bill vs. Jacinta show.  Bill, who is not media savvy, not very good at tough decisions (especially around cutting loose liabilities in his party, who keep stacking up in every growing numbers) vs. the shallow, empty headed Jacinta, who has ridden on the back of the same vacuous enthusiasm that brought Macron and Trudeau to power (and is partially responsible for both Obama and Trump).

The bigger picture is there is a fairly simple choice between two governments.  A National-led one almost certainly needing support from NZ First, and as usual ACT, possibly the Maori Party (although that looks difficult).  A Labour-led one with the Greens hand in fist, possibly with the Maori Party, and maybe even needing NZ First.

Frankly, either look grim.  National is looking tired, and the McCully nonsense smells, Steven Joyce is fast and loose with figures and Simon O'Connor is appalling.   After three terms, most governments run out of ideas, and the Nats are overrun with kneejerk, reactive politics.  It is difficult to know what it stands for, except staying in power and keeping Labour out.  Reminiscent of how the National Party has governed almost always, and even campaigned, except perhaps from 1987-1993 when it believed in the government doing less, or 2005 when it stood for tackling the growth of identity politics in New Zealand.   Now it is a party of "we wont tax you as much as Labour".  It is a party of corporatism, the status quo and of being in government.  It has had nine years to fix the housing bubble and is only now starting to appreciate that the fundamental problem is in the planning system, that it defended, and the obsession of local authorities to restrict the supply of land for housing.  Does it tackle the narrative about child poverty by noting that absolute poverty is low, that the solutions of the left of more welfare wont work, that the fundamental problems of poverty are poverty of aspiration and attention from parents, insufficient use of birth control and the shocking incidence of intergenerational welfarism?  No, it wont point out the size of the welfare state, the urgent need for education, stable and safe family structures, and to address cost of living issues that are due to state intervention (e.g. housing, cost of local government).  It embraced the middle class welfare Labour put in place.  It only looks good for one reason.

Look at Labour.  It has a manifesto filled to the brim of ideas that are as if nobody learned from the 1980s, with the law of unintended consequences devoid from its policy.  Its policies on housing are xenophobic and based on hundreds of thousands living in state owned ghettos, but at least it would abolish Auckland's urban growth boundaries.  It will constrain the rental homes market, presumably so the state can be landlord, with all of the success that has brought in recent decades.  It will tax water (but daren't think of commercialising and privatising water or rivers).  It wants everyone to pay for tertiary education and is committed to not raising the age of National Superannuation.  Nothing like bribing both ends of the age spectrum with borrowed money is it?  It wants more welfare.  Yet it's what else Labour embraces that concerns me.  It wants net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, regardless of cost (and certainly regardless of benefit, which is zero).  It's the warm embrace of identity politics, there needing to be special programmes for every group, and topped off with the application of the Human Rights Commission against discrimination based on gender identity - which raises the prospects of trans-women having access to women's facilities (and even questioning this is treated as an act of "hate", rather than establishing boundaries between the objective and the subjective).   It is the Labour Party that continues to see nuclear weapons as bad generally, putting our allies in the same camp as North Korea, Iran, China and Russia.  It wants to grow media by making you pay for media that will suit its perspectives on the world.  State media rarely provides an outlet for the views of those who want less government, in part because its very existence depends on left wing politics. 

So I'd prefer National over Labour, simply because the changes Labour wants to bring all involve more spending, more taxation, more regualtion, more government and less treatment of people as individuals before the law, and more as "categories".   There would be less economic freedom, less prosperity, less individual freedom and more rent-seeking from the public sector, Labour's preferred groups (media, unions, local government) and less accountability to consumers and taxpayers.

The Greens are beyond the pale, demanding vast amounts be spent (or taxed) to pursue high cost virtue signalling around climate change, despite it having no net impact on climate change.  The Greens resist treating people as individuals, as they promote structuralist identity politics on a grand scale.  Everyone is judged on sex, race and other victim/oppressor identity classifications.  Labour in power has a high chance of bringing the Greens on board.  The Greens want to gut the private rental market by making it almost unviable for small scale landlords to operate.  The only element of Green Policy that is worth supporting is on drugs, but that is small in the scheme of things.  This is the party that wants to wage war on gambling,   It has policies on umpteen minor matters, it wants people to be able to get leave from work as victims of domestic violence, but proven by whom?  It perpetuates the radical feminist myth that raw stats on pay mean women are being actively discriminated against in pay.  It wants Treaty of Waitangi claims to be perpetual and maintains the Maori nationalist myth that Maori and non-Maori are two nations who are working separately, with the Maori nation in a form of separate development, with race based democracy entrenched and expanded.  It doesn't think of Maori participation as Maori people participating, but in Maori organisations being treated as having a special interest on all public policy matters.  The Greens would impoverish New Zealand, reward poor behaviour and parenting, tax success and restrict who you can trade with, what you can do with the money you have left, and treat everyone as belonging to an identity group.

The Maori Party, of course, is primarily about identity.

So what's left?  Legalise Cannabis? Well yes, but it has no chance of any influence and it wont confront any other issues.  TOP?  Well the party led by the man who wanted to sue me because I confronted him on his idiocy on North Korea could be dismissed by me on that alone, but on policy as well it is dire.  It wants to tax wealth, so that anyone who has saved gets their savings taxed, as well as the income on it.   There is no fairness in widening the tax base, and it is claimed to be a way of addressing issues that are largely unrelated to tax (such as housing supply).  Beyond legalisation of cannabis, TOP would take a decidedly nannying view on healthcare with new taxes on food that it doesn't like to subsidise food that it does like.  

So what about NZ First?  NZ First I have always written off, because the economic nationalism and populism is largely nonsensical.  However, there is one element of NZ First worth supporting, which is the rejection of Maori nationalism and identity politics.  No other party is prepared to argue for all New Zealanders being treated equal under the law and abolishing separate political representation for Maori.  This is toxic in itself, and is one reason I am less concerned about NZ First than I used to be, but beyond that it is a party of economic lunacy and more state control.

So I am left with ACT.  ACT is weak on dealing with identity politics, but strong on reducing the size of the state on economic issues, and in reducing the state's power on education (which is very important).  ACT largely gets what is needed on housing as well.  It takes a more pragmatic evidence based view on environmental policy (unlike almost all of the others).  On immigration it strongly supports migrants embracing liberal democracy.  I'm not keen on David Seymour's views on abortion, and ACT is silent on drugs (except for reducing police efforts on personal consumption) but that isn't enough to dissuade me.   It is the only party seeking to constrain the welfare state, lower tax and has a strong tendency to support less rather than more solutions from government.  It is welfarism, mediocre education, the sclerotic planning system and the culture of dependency and identity politics that is holding New Zealand back.  It is a shame ACT wont confront the latter as strongly as it once did.

So I party voted ACT and electorate voted National (my candidate in Wellington Central seemed ok, although her chances are poor).   I'm hoping that it will mean National needs ACT to govern and so will be positively influence further in education and hopefully in other ways.   However, I'm far from enthused, I'm more motivated by avoiding the Jacinda and James show. 

07 June 2017

UK General Election: A choice between uninspiring statism and barely concealed evil

There is nothing to inspire me to vote Conservative in the UK General Election.  Theresa May is an unreconstructed statist big-government conservative.  She is instinctively authoritarian.  She advocated for the security and police wet-dream on surveillance as Home Secretary, so that UK ISPs and telcos now keep a record of every single website visited in the UK over the past 12 months - because somehow what you read should be able to be accessed by the state when it sees fit.  She is pushing further, driven by concern over terrorism, but wanting to sanitise the internet to make it "safe" - the state working with parents, parenting us all.

Yet, it was all known that she takes a "trust me with your private information" approach to surveillance, rather than focus on the real issue, which is Islamism.  She explicitly says that we should remember "the good that government can do" and then outlines plenty of areas the government intervenes extensively in, such as energy, but instead of blaming virtue signalling policies like the Climate Change Act (which has seen the UK Government guaranteeing to a French led consortium that it will ensure it gets paid a price for electricity generated at its forthcoming nuclear power plant double what is the current market price for electricity).  She thinks libertarians are atomistic and people who seek to take advantage of others and thinks she is as distant from that as she is from Jeremy Corbyn.

That may well be true.  She said this:

We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We believe not just in society but in the good that government can do. Paying your fair share of tax is the price of living in a civilised society.

Tom Harris in the Daily Mail said she was a real socialist offering left wing policies.

I couldn't vote for her if she was my Conservative candidate, like I couldn't vote for Amber Rudd (who thinks a solution to terrorism is to "make" WhatsApp end encryption, yet stands on a platform with a known Islamist because the UK Government is too ignorant to call them out.  Fortunately I have a tolerable choice and it is a safe Conservative seat.  The Conservatives have pledged not to increase VAT, unlike the previous election when there was a pledge to not increase income tax and National Insurance (another form of income tax), because the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants "more freedom" but pledges the Conservatives are still the "low tax party".

It's nonsense.  The Conservative manifesto could almost be one from any of the Labour leaders since 1997, except the current one.  It's a cynical move to move to the centre-left to try to hoover up votes from the middle and to destroy the Labour Party, but there is one problem.  It has backfired due to ineptness, a lack of enthusiasm from the rank and file of many Conservatives and the simple fact that May does not ooze authenticity.  That doesn't mean Labour will win, thankfully, because it isn't just led by an inept naive idiot, but a nasty hater of capitalism, individual freedom and even Western liberal democracy.

I disagree with most of what the Labour Party advocates, and accept that it holds a fundamentally different view as to the role of the state from me, but Jeremy Corbyn and his closes allies are not like that.  Jeremy Corbyn has never, repeat never held any office of significance in Parliament under any Labour Government.  He was never an under-secretary, nor Chair of a select committee, although he has been on select committees.  He was never trusted with power by his colleagues, he was no Michael Foot

Corbyn invited senior members of the IRA to Parliament three weeks after the Grand Hotel bombing in Brighton which targeted the Conservative Party conference, both killing and maiming people.  His history in supporting the IRA and campaigning for those who had killed for the IRA, is brushed aside as saying he wanted to talk to "all sides", but no one can recall him ever meeting Unionists. Corbyn opposed the Anglo-Irish Agreement (which set out between the UK and Ireland how devolved government would work in Northern Ireland) and his right hand man John McDonnell opposed the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 (which ended the terror campaigns from both sides).  

Corbyn opposed the UK ejecting the fascist military dictatorship of Argentina from its invasion of the Falkland Islands.  He has called Hamas and Hezbollah "his friends" (although has apologised for his use of words), but spoke on a platform with Islamists who were calling for war with Israel.

His Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell called Lenin and Trotsky his greatest influences and stands on a platform alongside Stalinists.  Indeed Andrew Murray, a Stalinist open supporter of north Korea (which he calls "People's Korea"), is now helping Corbyn with his campaign.  The same man who after the Paris terrorist attacks said:

“The barbarism we condemn in Paris is minute compared to the barbarism wrought by imperialism across the planet in the last 13 years and we must condemn that… It is a sad lesson we have to re-learn from the attacks in Paris, it needs bringing home again and again.”

Of course Corbyn blames the US for "escalating tensions" with north Korea, not the totalitarian police state that has developed nuclear weapons and keeps testing missiles whilst uttering bombastic rhetoric about attacking the United States.  You see Corbyn was Chair of the ironically named Stop the War Coalition.  An organisation that has never once campaigned for any anti-Western regimes or militant groups to stop waging war.  It never took on Russia, Hamas, the Assad regime, Al Qaeda, ISIS, north Korea et al.  Stop the War is only too much in favour of war, as long as it is waged against any Western liberal democracy including Israel.

Corbyn claimed that 9/11 was "manipulated" into blaming Al Qaeda.  He has been paid by Iran's international propaganda TV channel, Press TV, to appear, but not, of course, to criticise human rights in Iran, but to criticise the West.  

Corbyn has admitted that he would never use nuclear weapons, effectively making the UK's nuclear deterrent worthless.  He has long campaigned for unilateral Western nuclear disarmament, including during the Cold War.  Was he a pacifist who just believed the USSR would follow, or was he not too fussed if the Red Army had rolled its way across Europe to "liberate" it from capitalism and "US imperialism"?  In any case the British Communist Party wont be fielding candidates in this election, but is uncharacteristically supporting Labour.

Corbyn is a strong supporter of the Chavez/Maduro authoritarian socialist disaster in Venezuela, but you can't be surprised at that.  After all, he says Castro was a champion of social justice, what with all those opponents he got murdered.  Corbyn also seems to attract anti-semites, not just Ken Livingstone's obsession that the Nazis were in cahoots with Zionists and Jews, but supporters.

These people appear again and again.  However he does join in on Quds Day rallies organised by the Islamic Republic of Iran (yes that bastion of peace, diversity and human rights) to criticise Israel and call for it to be pushed into the sea.

Corbyn is a sympathiser of Russia's position on Ukraine and Georgia, presumably because it is the opposite of the US and European position.  He blamed the Russian insurgency in Ukraine on "NATO belligerence".  After all, how dare Ukraine dump mother Russia led by such a nice liberal democratic regime to embrace the evil West right?

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said on balance Chairman Mao did more good than harm, which will be news to the tens of millions murdered or starved by his policies, with the bizarre justification is that he left China on the verge of a great economic boom (even though China's economic success has been because the Chinese Communist Party abandoned socialist economics).

So as awful as Theresa May is, and corporatist and centre-left as they may be, it is not a party led by IRA sympathisers, appeasers of Islamism and sympathisers of Stalin. 

The moral turpitude of these entities is utterly beyond contempt.  Corbyn refused to condemn the killing of Osama Bin Laden (much better to put him on trial, give him the benefit of the doubt), he has linked terrorism to British foreign policy (but doesn't explain, of course, why neutral Sweden and non-interventionist France get attacked).  

He and his ilk have spent decades on the backbenches campaigning for "understanding" for just about every group that sought to wage war with the UK, whether the IRA, fascist Argentina or Islamists.   He has campaigned for the UK to be disarmed, to withdraw from NATO and to distance itself from the US.  He allies himself with political leaders that torture and murder people, and who use violence.

Of course many Labour MPs know and hope he loses, just that they don't lose their seats.  It is because of them that Labour remains committed to NATO and the nuclear deterrent, both positions Corbyn opposes.

He isn't a nice guy, despite his softly spoken manner.  

He is an advocate of political violence who has appeased and turned a blind eye to brutal murderers, because he shares their political ambitions.  He supported the IRA because he believed in a united Ireland by all means necessary, and to hell with the opinions and concerns of Unionists (whose views he never courted and sought, presumably for a Marxist they were the hated bourgeoisie).  He supported the Galtieri military dictatorship, the same one that imprisoned and tortured socialists in Argentina, because it dared take on the bigger evil - Thatcher's government (hence why he didn't care less than the IRA tried to murder her and did kill several Conservatives) over the Falklands.  He is warm towards Hamas and Iran because he supports the Palestinians and supports just about any regime that dares take on the hated United States and its ally Israel.   I understand concern for the plight of the Palestinians (although keeping Hamas in power is shooting yourself in the foot), but to treat Iran as a partner is morally bankrupt.

He is without doubt the worst candidate for Prime Minister put up by any major UK political party in modern times.  Those who stand with him should be ashamed of him, and the ONLY reason to vote Conservative is to send the strong message that Corbyn and his group of violence touters have no place in government.


07 May 2017

France wont reform, wont improve, for now

Regardless of the result of the French Presidential election the outcome will, at best, see little difference to the structural sclerosis that contains the French economy, nor will it see a reform in terms of support for basic freedoms and individual liberty that France also needs.

As appealing as anti-Islamism of Marine Le Pen is, the bottom-line is that she is not from a tradition of liberty, but one of collaborationist fascism.  The facade slipped when she went into denial over the actions of the Vichy regime, which not only appeased, but collaborated and worked hand in glove with the Nazis to terrorise France, deport and execute Jews.  The fight against Islamism is not won by handing power to one who channels fascists, even though she had made significant efforts to distance herself from it (including, to be fair, rejecting the explicit anti-semitism of her vile father).

Some conservatives and even some libertarians regard her as a hero, and are cheering her on.  I'm not and I cannot see how anyone, ANYONE, with a critical mind and appreciation of individual liberty can give her support.  Even if you accept that France needs to contain and confront Islamism (and it does), to then hand it over to a fascist, nationalist, protectionist movement is figuratively cutting off your nose etc, but is more counterproductive.

Nothing will play more into the hands of France's Islamists than Marine Le Pen making it difficult for  non-Islamist and moderate Muslims to go about their daily lives, for it will recruit thousands to the Islamist cause.  Similarly, whilst she would admirably likely defend the likes of Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons lampooning Mohammed, she is adamantly opposed to Charlie Hebdo depicting her the same way or depicting Christianity in an offensive manner. 

Notwithstanding that her economic policies would be as ruinous to France as similar policies have been to Venezuela.  She is, very much, a national socialist.  Having said that, it is likely that if she were elected, the UK would be better off, at least in respect of the Brexit negotiations, because she would be friendlier to the UK.

Macron on the other hand, is pablum.  He may deliver some modest tax cuts and a "sinking lid" civil service (not replacing those who retire or leave, in net terms), but will not address France's sclerotic attitude to free enterprise and new business.  France needs the level of reforms Fillon was advocating, as a bare minimum, but his own corruption ruined his campaign.   Macron wont seriously confront Islamism, he will embrace the EU and move too little too late.  Worse, he will seek to punish the UK for leaving the EU, and will continue the main stream dirigiste economics of glacial reform that France has experienced for years (in part because the EU pushed it along).

France's fundamental problem lies in its civil service and the closed system by which the only people who advise the French government, by and large, are those qualified by a school that teaches one philosophy of government.   Until a President is elected that takes that system on, that breaks out of the single ideological domination of French domestic policy, France will remain unable to confront the primary causes of unemployment, regional stagnation and relative decline compared to northern Europe.  

I expect Macron to win, and France to continue to muddle through, but unless he has a secret agenda of serious reform, he will make little difference.  Le Pen at best will provide a distraction and a shock, but she not only would stagnate France, she would chase away private enterprise, reduce individual freedom and make her supporters poorer.

Neither is worth voting for, but I think the majority of French voters, who dislike Macron, would rather not have a President who is an apologist for Vichy.  They would be right to make that choice, to vote against opportunist blood and soil nationalist socialism.