Friday, January 27, 2006

The End of Celebrity Big Brother UK


I am SOO bloody thrilled that George “I miss the USSR” Galloway got booted from Celebrity Big Brother here in the UK on Wednesday night. So did Dennis Rodman, although that is probably more because he blew up at Chantelle – the dizzy blonde Essex girl who I think will end up winning.

So the final is tonight, and in penance for my sin in watching such tripe, I wont be watching any TV after Saturday – as I am moving flats this weekend, from a furnished flat to an unfurnished bigger one with my girlfriend. As a result, I wont have a TV till the one I have ordered appears next weekend.

So, for Big Brother those that are left are:

Michael Barrymore: A rather sad and wornout man, who is obsessive about cleaning, cooking and keeping busy. He blows up about control over cigarettes, but generally has a heart of gold. You can see why he fled to NZ, and the British tabloid media will have another fieldday with him. He wont win, unless there are more older British viewers than I think.

Traci Bingham: Known for being a Baywatch babe, she studied psychology at Harvard, though it is unclear whether she graduated. She has been notable mainly for her Californian expressions of “loving” this and that, and “oh wow”, and for having big tits. She wont win because she is American.

Samuel Preston: Lead Singer of the band “Ordinary Boys”, who has come across as the young pretty nice guy. He hasn’t shown much else, other than defending Barrymore from an attack by Galloway, and his pent up sexual frustration with Chantelle. That is the main issue, as apparently his French girlfriend outside the Big Brother house is less than amused by him fondling Chantelle’s bum in the house. Having said that, he has a fair chance of winning – girls like him.

Maggot: A Welsh “hip hop artist” from the band “Goldie Lookin’ Chain” which is a piss take of gangsta rap – which is a good thing, since gangsta rap (or Negro chanting as Bob Jones calls it) is not music, but basically inane rhythmic poetry at best. Maggot isn’t the best looking guy, so he wont win, but he is largely a nice guy.

Pete Burns: Dead or Alive’s diva, who showed himself to be the bitchiest in the room, but also the person who was very WYSIWYG. You know where you stood with him, and he would get angry and then get over it. His appearance is notable for involving much cosmetic surgery, including lip enhancement which has gone horribly wrong (and which he is suing for), but also dressing rather spectacularly (and explicitly). Skirt which show half his bum cheeks off have been common. He claims to not be a transvestite nor transsexual, but that he simply likes wearing the clothes he wears – and that nobody criticises women for wearing trousers and shirts. He has been a polarising figure – many hate him for his cruel comments to many in the house, and for his possession of a monkey skin coat, others find him hilariously entertaining. There have been allusions to him having a beastly childhood, which could explain his character and nature, but he is definitely a star in his own right.

Chantelle Houghton (see pic): She describes herself as a bright (as in happy not intelligent), blonde bimbo. A Paris Hilton lookalike (largely by accident), she came across as being not very bright, but sweet and naïve. She acts very young, has the naivety of a girl ten years younger than herself, and is genuinely polite and thoughtful. She backed off Preston when it was clear he was worried about what his girlfriend would think, and she is the clear favourite to win. She is not famous for anything except this show – a nonebrity – she can’t sing, she can’t do anything besides look like Paris Hilton and say very ditzy things. Classic phrases like “what’s a gynaecologist”, “are you from Dundee” (to Maggot who is Welsh) .

So that is that – my money is on Chantelle to win. Britain loved Jade Goody, another nobody from Big Brother. A woman who has made a fortune being common, speaking explicitly and being ignorant (she once said “I thought Portugal was in Spain”). They will love Chantelle, she doesn’t make them feel stupid, she hasn’t done much – which most locals will relate to – and she is pretty and sweet, and not arrogant about it, which is hard to find unpleasant. She is sweet, but she isn’t special. She will make a small fortune out of doing nothing – that is way of culture today.
Those in NZ who care who wins can read it on the UK Channel 4 website.

Toll existing Auckland roads?

The call by the Mayors in Auckland to toll existing roads is a healthy one. They want to do it to raise more money to build roads, but it will have a number of impacts when it eventually happens – and I believe it is inevitable. It will cut demand at peak times sufficiently that there wont be a need to build many new roads – this should please the Greens, as well as the economists. You see with road pricing, if done properly, everyone wins. The loony leftwing populist Residents Action Movement (RAM) which won some seats at the local body elections two years ago opposes it, and frankly it is a bunch of conspiracy theory driven lunatic rabid slobbering at the mouth old fashioned socialists.

The Auckland Mayors want road pricing to get additional money (to build more roads), rather than replace existing charges – it should replace rates and mean a cut in petrol tax – that is the main argument for it. Then at off peak times you pay next to nothing, compared to peak times – on average, the same amount of money is collected to pay for road maintenance and construction.

With road pricing, done properly and on a commercial basis, the motorist wins because roads are no longer congested – you can pretty much guarantee that if you pay for the road, you’ll get to where you are going on time. In addition, instead of a tax you pay with petrol, the money you pay goes to whoever runs the roads, so your roads are better maintained and there is money to pay for new roads when they are really needed. Public transport wins, because buses and taxis wont be on congested roads and pricing means that they are more competitive with cars (as the price of road space can be more readily spread among many passengers). Residents win because there is less traffic and less pollution. Environmentalists like it because it reduces congestion, reduces emissions and improves the attractiveness of modes other than driving. People in uncongested parts of the country win because they can no longer complain about paying for Auckland’s roads (which they never actually did anyway) – Aucklanders would be paying for their roads explicitly. Businesses like it because they have certainty of journey time.
and who can argue against paying for what you use - well plenty...

The problem is that as long as roads are run through socialist central planning with flat rate pricing, we don’t KNOW if there aren’t enough roads, too much roads or if it is about right. If a company ran all of the state highways and main arterial roads in Auckland, it would price vehicles to pay for the cost of maintaining those roads (and non-state highways are about half funded from rates) and to keep traffic flowing. Why? Because stationery traffic doesn’t pass a toll point or generate many kilometres of travel – some toll roads overseas do this, and it works. Yes revenue is high at peak times, but for about a third of the day the roads are underutilised – and the price is very low at those times. The price would be higher in the peak direction flow in the morning (to the city) than in the other direction. Just like airlines, phone companies, hotels and other services. Peak demand would be suppressed by pricing, but if there was sufficient high demand spread out during the day, a road company may pay for more lanes or a new road. Another company may build another road. At peak times, people who drive would choose to pay to get a fast trip, or catch the bus or train, or businesses may shift to less congested areas, which is surely a good thing. In addition, telecommuting and other more innovative ways of working would get an enormous boost – because the resource that is run like a Polish shipyard (the roads) are now priced properly.

So what about the arguments against it? I thought I should go through RAM’s “facts” on its press release and see how true they are (note RAM has no website):

1. “tolls will likely have a negative impact on those who can least afford them, being - low and middle income earners, students, the elderly, those who do not live close to work and those who are not close to public transportation. In addition, tolls will probably cause house prices to rise near work centres.” Well this is called pricing, but lets think about this rationally. Road pricing will match congestion, and be targeted at peak times (when unemployed people and the elderly never travel, or shouldn’t travel!), on routes to the central city (where most low income earners don’t work). It will mainly impact on people middle to upper income with jobs in the central city – but regardless, this is about people paying for what they use. Road space is at a premium on certain routes at certain times, at those times you pay for the privilege.

2. “Low income workers tend to travel greater distances across Auckland than other groups and will be most disadvantaged if tolls, cordon or other, are introduced.” This depends entirely how a scheme is developed, but most of these workers aren’t working downtown – they don’t use the most congested routes as much as others and at the moment they pay the most petrol tax. Besides, if you use more road space than anyone else, why shouldn’t you pay for it?

3. “Tolls will likely have serious consequences for families with children and those with high overheads such as mortgages “ Since when are the children taken downtown at peak times, unless they are going to school there? This is raving nonsense. This same organisation tends to support higher taxes, but only on the hated rich – this has serious consequences for this group.

4. “The CEO of the MoT and Secretary of Transport Dr Robin Dunlop, has strongly advocated for tolls in the past - as co-author of Road Reform, The Way Forward (1997), and a few years ago within an opinion paper to the World Bank suggesting that New Zealand roads will probably be tolled in the future" So? It is up to Parliament to pass the legislation, the Ministry only provides advice, and the existing legislation to allow tolling on new roads was passed before Dr Dunlop became Secretary for Transport. This is probably some claim there is some World Bank conspiracy to introduce tolling - since these are the claims that RAM has made in the past.

5. “A visiting professor said last year, that it was almost impossible to conduct an audit on Britain's toll regime. Issues involve the deliberate lack of transparency and accountability on the part of Government and private sector investors.” Notice how RAM wont quote the person by name, so the source cannot be checked. Britain has no toll regime, but there are a handful of toll roads and two congestion pricing schemes operating. This claim is arrant nonsense in relation to the London scheme, which does not have private sector investors involved and is under very close observation. Ken Livingstone (hardly a pro-capitalist big business friend) introduced it and got re-elected – the London public obviously are reasonably happy with him.

6. “The Mayors are pushing for a toll regime that potentially will line the pockets of Councils, Government and private sector corporations and interests. Predictably, the Government study on tolls due for publication this year will show tolls to be a viable means of raising funds for land transport. Officials are key stakeholders with a vested interest.” This is very close to defamation, accusing your political opponents of corruption. The government study on Auckland road pricing will say what it says when it is completed, but it probably WILL say road pricing is a viable way of raising funds – it works elsewhere, it is not a conspiracy. To further accuse officials of promoting this because they may get some backhand deal of money is simply wrong – this is New Zealand, not Africa. Maybe road pricing will be supported because it makes rational economic sense!

7. “I organised and was a representative at a public meeting with ACC, ARC, Transit, Transfund and local iwi (invited) on the Victoria Park Tunnel (SH1) issue in 2003. It was at this meeting that Transit agreed to a tunnel given adequate funding. At the time, Auckland's Mayors, Councils and Government were working on tolls to pay for new roads and changes to the Resource Management Act, behind doors closed to the public.” Actually no, the Land Transport Management Bill went to Select Committee, it was quite public, Labour announced the policy of tolling new roads in 2002. You’ll find that every single step of public policy is not open to the general public, because nothing would happen.

8. “Over the last 20 years, the New Zealand public demanded successive governments pay for land transport infrastructure using existing road user charges which are petrol taxes. For 20 years, successive governments have ignored the public's request and used around half the billions of dollars collected in petrol excise taxes for other expenditure.” Yes, that’s true. Although all road user charges, which are a form of road pricing (licensing distance, weight and axle configuration, paying for the use of the roads) have been around for 27 years and all of that money goes on roads. Labour, National, NZ First, United Future, the Alliance and Greens all supported governments that maintained this. See my post below that explains that Labour has been using more petrol tax money than any other government for land transport.

9. “Mayors Dick Hubbard (ACC), Sir Barry Curtis (MCC) and Bob Harvey (WCC) seem to have no idea about the toll-trap that New Zealanders will fall into if they go about fund-raising as they propose. Mayors without common sense are useless leaders at best, and at worst, will likely lead us into a financial quagmire from which we cannot escape.” Meaningless drivel. If done properly (by privatising the highways), it wont be a financial quagmire. Even the public sector has done it well in Norway and Singapore, but still, I am not convinced that Auckland local authorities could do road pricing well. Look at some of the people elected to it from RAM!

10. "Do the Mayors of ACC, MCC and WCC know that government is investigating getting overseas companies (countries?) to manage New Zealand's toll accounts? If not, then why not and what other facts have they missed before pushing tolls onto the innocent public? Serious factors such as New Zealanders' rights and civil liberties must come into play." Well it isn’t looking at getting government to do it, it is looking at whether financial institutions can manage the transactions and accounts for tolling. You know, like Visa/Mastercard, American Express, the banks. This is positive, as they are all far more accountable and efficient than any government agency, and are far less likely to abuse information than the government. If you think your rights and civil liberties are at threat because you might pay to use a toll road with your credit card then you need serious psychiatric help.
RAM wants free buses -well, paid for from your rates and taxes, while other people use them. This doesn't work, it doesn't reduce traffic congestion, just costs a lot of people more in taxes and sees a dramatic decline in walking and cycling (which costs taxpayers nothing).

So, beyond that inane drivel, there are serious issues about road pricing:

1. Who should do it? (not local government, it is just as likely to divert the money to other purposes. Preferably privatise the roads, or have an SOE do it)
2. How should it be done? (preferably across the network of the road owner, so you don’t get distortions by tolling some routes but not others)
3. What about existing charges? (if road pricing is introduced nationwide, scrap petrol tax – it shouldn’t be about raising additional money, unless the company running the highways needs it to build new ones).

There is a study underway commissioned by central government into whether to price Auckland roads. When it is concluded, the government will consider what to do – and it wont be easy. Technology currently allows single point pricing to be easily introduced, using tags you install in your car with a gantry or beacon to pick up the signal as you drive by. This would be easy. It is more complicated to charge distance across the network, varying by route and time of day, especially just for one region (Auckland). So, expect things to not go much further for now – especially since NZ First is rabidly opposed to tolls.
However, road pricing is a good idea - it is about the market working, on something run by governments. As I may paraphrase a quote by Andrew Galambos (hat tip Not PC) he said "A traffic jam is a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity. " I would say free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build AND MANAGE roads and road capacity.

Are we being fleeced by petrol tax?

Following on from Auckland mayors calling for the law to be changed to allow tolling on existing roads – in effect, road pricing, one argument against this is “we are already paying enough, this would be a new tax”.
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The AA has consistently argued against congestion pricing, believing that tolling should only exist where there is an untolled alternative route and that priority should be to complete Auckland’s motorway network before considering pricing existing roads.
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The AA simply fears that road pricing would be an additional tax, given the amount of money motorists already pay in petrol tax – but it ignores two very important points. The first point is that petrol tax is a very poor way of charging roads to manage the network – unlike pricing, it is a very blunt mechanism. At times of peak demand, when pricing should be high to ensure the level of service of the road (speed of traffic flow) is maintained, the road congests – Soviet style. Like queuing for bread, because everyone pays the same, it takes too long – and then people complain that there aren’t enough roads. The AA secretly knows congestion pricing works, London, Singapore and now Stockholm are examples of it working – it just fears that motorists will be fleeced more. However, are they being fleeced?
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Setting aside GST (which is placed on top of everything else, so if you fixed petrol tax, GST would fix itself), the ACC component of petrol tax (which should be replaced by being able to choose your accident insurance provider) and a couple of tiny other taxes (which come to around 1c/l), it is petrol excise that is the bulk of the tax on petrol. I mean petrol, not diesel, not LPG.
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If you are in a diesel or LPG vehicle all the money collected from your road user charges and LPG tax goes to the National Land Transport Fund, of which 85% or so goes on roads (the rest almost entirely on public transport). There is no tax on diesel, besides GST and a tiny local authority tax of 0.33c/l. So, except for GST, you’re not contributing towards other state spending from your road use. So buy a diesel or LPG vehicle if you want to deny Dr Cullen some tax.
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Of the current petrol tax, 22.5c/l goes into the National Land Transport Fund, and another 18.7c/l (rounded to the nearest 0.1c) goes into the Crown Account. However – this is where it gets complicated.
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Dr Cullen has pledged a good deal of that money for roads and public transport in Auckland, Bay of Plenty and Wellington. $900 million for Auckland, $885 for Wellington (assuming it can sort out the Transmission Gully vs. coastal highway argument) and $150 million for the Bay of Plenty. In addition, Dr Cullen has pumped another $800 million of Crown money into road spending nationwide at the last budget, $300 million over three years and the remainder over a longer period. This was surplus money that he didn’t want lying over for a tax cut or to be soaked up by wasteful spending down the black hole of health. In all, $2.735 billion of Crown funding for land transport, and most of it is likely to go on roads (Land Transport NZ ultimately decides).
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These figures are spread over a period of 12 years, (some is already spent) so you get $228 million per annum approximately in Crown funding for (mostly) roads. 1c/l petrol tax produces about $33 million p.a. in revenue. Now ignoring that a good third of that money comes in a five year blip in the middle (assuming that can be smoothed out over 12 years), you can assume that around 7c/l of petrol tax revenue that goes to the Crown is now being reinvested in land transport. So that means around 30c/l of your petrol tax is being spent mostly on roads and about 11c/l is not.
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You are still paying more in petrol tax than gets reinvested in roads, but it is a lot less than it has been for 25 years. A feather in the cap for Dr Cullen on that one, but that still means 11c/l is not going on roads. The AA is right, but it is clear that this Labour government is the biggest road building government New Zealand has seen since the early 1970s – so much so, that Dr Cullen has been voting extra money for roads time and time again in the last couple of years, beyond the growth in petrol tax revenue.
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In short, you are being fleeced at the petrol pump, but about a third less than you were under previous governments - although the 22.5c/l dedicated to land transport is going to increase annually according to the Consumer Price Index. It isn't as transparent as it would be if Dr Cullen simply changed the rate at which petrol tax went to the National Land Transport Fund, but it is still better than it was in the 80s and 90s.
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It is too much to hope that Dr Cullen will spend the other 11c/l on land transport, I don't think the budget would cope!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Celebrity Big Brother continues

George "I miss the Soviet Union" Galloway is my top pick for the next eviction - he has tried too long to be the fatherly figure of the Celebrity Big Brother household, and nauseatingly wears a Cuba tracksuit jacket while he works out -because Cuba is such a great role model for Britain or the world.
I used to listen to Radio Havana Cuba on shortwave in English some years ago, as the signal could be received well in New Zealand on a Sunday morning and I was studying international relations at the time. It sounded all friendly and nice, and Cuba loved how all of its health and education statistics were better than those in the US. As if anyone can verify them!
Galloway is evil and I will be (horrors) text voting him out tonight.
The other two, Dennis Rodman (who is far more sensible and level headed than I had ever thought) and Chantelle Essex (well don't know her surname and she isn't famous for anything other than being on this show) don't deserve to go - yet.
Michael Barrymore on the other hand, seems to have lost it, flaring up at opportunities to get upset at what really is nothing.
The real disappointment is no real scandal - nobody has snogged anyone, and the most likely paring (Chantelle and Preston) wont happen because Preston has a girlfriend on the "outside" and Chantelle is too nice a girl to do anything while she is reminded of that (and Preston is too). However, they are both clearly gagging for it and avoiding being too close most of the time.
However, for me, the star remains Pete Burns. An individual through and through, who can be nasty and critical, but also encouraging and thought provoking. He has had to put up with the fur police barging into the Big Brother household and confiscating his "monkey coat" secretly to check if it was legal. Apparently it is made of an endangered monkey, but could be so old that it doesn't matter - nevertheless, the "cuddly animal lobby" apparently clamoured for something to be done about it and about him. Yes, there is a law against it, but what good is done by prosecution over the possession of a coat that exists? Endangered species protection is best done by other means, but that is another issue.
What is most shocking of all is how my girlfriend and I are addicted to this damned show!

Homeless, welfare and labour laws



One of the less desirable facts of living in Europe are the homeless people. Despite protestations about how socially inclusive and fair Helen Clark’s model societies are, there are more homeless people or beggars (who knows who is homeless and who isn’t) per kilometre in London, Paris, Zurich and other major cities in Europe than there are in New Zealand cities. So why is that?

One reason could be the population is huge – therefore more poor people. Well, maybe so, but that doesn’t explain why they congregate in central London and Chelsea (where I am usually at). What explains that is something very simple – the homeless aren’t entirely stupid. They target commuters because with the million plus people entering central London every morning, even if you get 1% of all those walking past you giving you some change, you wont be too badly off. Secondly, sitting on Kings Road in Chelsea means that you can target the guilty wealthy who live there and tourists who are shopping. You don’t find the homeless hanging out so frequently in High Barnet or Wimbledon. Let’s not forget that if you were homeless and seeking somewhere affordable to live, the LAST part of London you’d be in would be Chelsea – see a one bedroom flat there costs between £300-£450 easily a WEEK. The £300 one would be noisy, small and unbearable, whereas £450 would be pleasant. If you were homeless and serious about finding somewhere to live, you’d go to Hounslow, Brixton or somewhere else where not so many wanted to live.

However, you say, they probably don’t have a job. That is where the government is partly responsible – for pricing jobs out of the market.

One thing that is sadly lacking in the UK compared to New Zealand is service. You don’t know how lucky you are to go to a supermarket and find that someone on NZ$10 an hour (or less) is filling your shopping bag with your groceries as everything is being passed over the barcode reader and scales. These are jobs that anyone without serious physical or mental handicaps can perform – but they don’t in many supermarkets in the UK. You do it, unless you specifically ask for it to be done – which the entire British population should do because it would bring the absurdity of packing your own groceries to an end, and give a nearly unemployable person a job.

However, there is, no doubt, minimum wage laws and other socialist inspired restrictions that stop this. So there are people begging on the streets instead of being “exploited”. I am sure that the supermarkets would happily pay someone £5 an hour to fill shopping bags, partly because customers hate having to do it, but it also slows things up immensely – as the checkout person (not chicks – but then it could be that Chelsea teens wouldn’t be seen DEAD working in a supermarket) has to wait for you to finish packing before serving the next customer.

The same thing happens in other sectors. Furniture removalists work on Saturdays grudgingly with a massive surcharge. Why? Well, you see, this is considered overtime – when flexible labour laws should mean that Gary Upminster can work Wednesday to Sunday, and his employer doesn’t need to pay him more to work weekends, because HIS weekend is Monday and Tuesday. I’d LOVE to not work Mondays and Tuesdays, when the shops are open but quiet. Supermarkets are not open beyond 5pm on Sundays.

Now I could be wrong – maybe people in London don’t want the level of service that people in New Zealand expect. Somehow I doubt it. More liberal labour laws and abolition of the minimum wage may give homeless people a chance to get jobs. The left may say this people would be exploited earning low wages - but I don't see too many of THEM giving money to the homeless. I'd rather work 4-8 hours a day for low wages that sit in the cold begging for money - there is at least a chance I could do better if I was working. More inexplicable is the huge amount of local authority housing that remains in Britain, yet there are homeless people.

Overall the homeless are rather sad – but when I see the tax and national insurance confiscated from my pay packet, that really pisses me off. I don’t owe the homeless anything and it is preying on consciences (and frightening to some) to sit in a blanket in Chelsea beside an ATM and ask people for money. If I didn’t have so much of my income confiscated by central and local government, much of it dedicated to helping those “less well off” (because being well off is a matter of luck to most of us, not hard work), then I might feel more inclined to give some change to people begging.

People selling the Big Issue, on the other hand, are doing something useful. Albeit the only ones I consider are those who are friendly and making an effort, the drone like man staring into space mumbling “big issue” isn’t going to get my attention, when there is a guy on the Strand who is full of life and greets everyone with a smile and thanks them whether or not they buy a copy.

Yes, there are similar people in Paris – in fact I saw a boy of around 15 begging outside a bakery in Paris. Homelessness is seen throughout Western Europe, and although I have not done research into it, I suspect that much can be done in changing labour laws and other restrictions on business that would give such people a chance. However, for too many of them, they have psychologically given up - and the welfare state does nothing for them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Victim of sex offender witchhunt

Lloyd Walsh, a Dunedin bus driver is a single father of two kids, he is 50. He is a convicted sex offender.
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As a result, he has lost his licence, because the law denies sex offenders the right to drive buses.
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Quite right too, I hear many of you say. The National Party, ACT and even Labour all support a tough stance on sex offenders. Many even believe a public register with his name on it, so everyone knows that he committed a "sex offence" (whatever that may be, they're all dirty perverts!) and when he moves the local community should be warned. I bet some even wonder whether he should be allowed to have custody of his children – a man, alone with two children, who knows what he might do! Terrifying really. After all, once a man commits a sexual offence, he is a danger to children and women everywhere.
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Particularly when the offence was to have sexual intercourse with a girl under 16. That’s it, he’s a pedophile, a pervert, hang him high by his testicles. There is nothing lower than a sex offender is there? I can see the MPs nodding their heads and tut tutting, Lloyd Walsh needs ostracising and nobody need forget what he has done.
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Really?
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Well it was his first and only offence, he was 16 at the time and his girlfriend was 15, in fact two days away from her 16th birthday. You might still think – who cares!! It’s wrong. Well tell that to him and his kids. He is out of a job now, because so many supported Nanny State used an elephant to crack a nut. He committed a victimless crime, there was no rape, there was no exploitation - he is no pedophile, but the witchhunt about sex crimes now has its latest victims - Lloyd and his children.
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Labour had legislation to amend the Crimes Act to remove such an offence, it would have meant that a 16yo with a 14yo was legal, and would have seen a two year exemption from the age of consent, largely because there was some recognition that young people of similar age experimenting sexually and consensually. More importantly, the criminal law is there to protect them from rapists and predators, not from their peers engaging in consensual activity. It is not the business of the law to criminalise consensual teenage sexual experimentation.
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However, it didn’t matter, the Victorian era outcry and caterwauling from the interfering do-gooders was that this was perverted and would encourage teenagers to have sex, despite the evidence to the contrary. Tony Ryall, in a vile display of scaremongering claimed that keeping the law as he claimed "the law should protect children from sexual pressure and support families in their efforts to provide boundaries for their young people" As if a teenage couple think about the law before they get intimate, as if hormone ridden teenagers get encouragement from a law change? Ryall wasn't thinking about policy - he was thinking about scaring parents away from voting Labour and voting National. It is not Ryall's business whether or not a teenage couple get intimate. Well Lloyd Walsh's children don't have a father with a job anymore, that's Ryall's family values as he pandered to the Christian Heritage/Destiny NZ voter.
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So when you next think about cracking down on sex offenders – decide what you mean. Do you mean rapists? Do you mean adults that molest children, not teenagers fooling around together? And ask, why don’t you care about violent offenders? The ones who beat up children, stab adults, attack old ladies – why does it matter whether or not it is sexual?
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And ask yourself, did you really mean that Lloyd Walsh can’t be a bus driver because he had sex with his similar age girlfriend when he was 16?

Privately owned river?


In New Zealand - there is one, at least according to government highways agency Transit New Zealand which states on its site:
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"The Arahura River is unique as it is the only privately owned river in New Zealand"
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In case you didn't know, the Arahura river is on the South Island's West Coast. Transit's only interest is that it is responsible for the single lane State Highway 6 bridge over the river, which it shares with OnTrack - as the branch railway line between Greymouth and Hokitika shares the bridge with the road, causing a few headaches for motorists when they have to give way to trains. Transit has some of your petrol tax money to investigate options for replacing the bridge, but that is not my issue and there is no claim that the fact the river is privately owned is causing any difficulties with this project.
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What IS important is that, if true, the Arahura River is an example of what can be done with other rivers. The world has not fallen in, Grey District Council has not foretold disaster and nobody seems to notice. A bit of research uncovered that Mawhera Incorporation owns the river according to Trade and Enterprise NZ. In essence, a company owned by a local Runaka (subset of Ngai Tahu). Nothing wrong with that. I would presume the Maori Party would support this being maintained, as does the Libertarianz, as should ACT.
It is one response to concern about libertarians privatising what is seen as "the commons". Would anyone notice if all the rivers were privately owned? Who would want to nationalise it?

How to deal with yob culture?

Social misfits, like the young cretin I saw the other day, who threw away his McDonalds thickshake across the footpath on Kings Road the other day, to impress the girls he was with to some extent, are repulsive. I wish I could have dumped rubbish on his bed and made him clean up the street.
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Britain has more than its fair share of them. Essentially there is a lack of respect, of others and their property, and a lauding of a culture of looking and acting tough and threatening, and not caring how obnoxious you are. It is about attention seeking and rebellion, and its vile. It scares older people, and sometimes involves intimidating people for a laugh or vandalism. It comes from regarding all around you as demanding your attention, and you not needing to take responsibility for you or your actions.
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Tony Blair is declaring war on it. Having already introduced ASBOs (Anti Social Behaviour Orders) which can be taken out on anyone down to the age of 10 for consistent behaviour that can be considered a nuisance or comprises low level criminality such as vandalism, tagging and the sort. It is effectively a fast track prosecution, without actually being one – it prohibits people from being out at certain times or being in certain locations. Unfortunately, they are often broken.
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Blair’s concern is understandable. The Guardian reported him saying:
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"In practice, the person who spits at an old lady on her way to the shops is not prosecuted because to do so takes many police hours, much resource and if all that is overcome, the outcome is a fine. The result is the police do not think it is worth it; and so it doesn't happen."
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Unfortunately his response is a mixed bag. Some have value, such as increasing some fines, lowering the threshold for seizure of proceeds of crime, providing an option for requiring offenders to undertake unpaid work to make good damage (such as cleaning tagging off of properties), a national non-emergency police contact number and orders that be sought against parents for serious misbehaviour by children.
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Others are either silly or disturbing. Silly, like paying teenage parents to attend parenting classes – disturbing such as the suggestion that the burden of proof be reversed in some cases. That is a dangerous precedent, that could lead to false accusations by those who are the problem – what if an obnoxious 14yo told the Police you spat on her and made a lewd comment and you had to prove your innocence? Trust the Police isn’t good enough.
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So what IS the answer? Longer term, it is about cultural change, about decrying the nihilistic, do what you want, have no responsibility, blame everyone else for your problems culture that has grown in the last few decades. It is about celebrating excellence, and not snarling at it, and about genuine benevolence for those in need, not as a right, but because people care about people who genuinely show effort and desire to look after themselves. This means not glorifying the stupid, vapid, obnoxious, tough and unproductive. It means a culture where entrepreneurs, inventors, scientists, surgeons, shopkeepers and others who create are what people aspire to – rather than aspire to be rich, rude and otherwise useless, as the glorification of fame for the sake of it, rather than due to talent, continues to grow.
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Shorter term, it is about giving those who CAN deal with obnoxious people the means to act, and about not subsidising the obnoxious at all.
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This means:
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1. Abolishing victimless crimes, so the Police can concentrate on offences of the person and property. Leaving peaceful people alone so that those who are not can be targeted, and then the Police themselves may be respected more, and have a greater presence in public places as a deterrent;
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2. Asserting the right of people to defend themselves and their property. This means not banning pepper sprays, allowing peaceful people to own firearms and making it clear that you have the right to use reasonable force to respond to any attack;
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3. Defending private property rights – which means ensuring landlords can evict tenants who damage property and harass other people, and shopkeepers can ban people from their shops and impose whatever restrictions they wish upon who enters or not. Private property is not a public place – people may learn than entering malls, shops, railway stations is not a right;
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4. Stop subsidising failure. At the very least, convicted criminals (offences against the body or property) should be prohibited from receiving any state welfare or state/council housing. As long as welfare remains, parents who do not control their children’s behaviour should have their benefits cut off after a warning, and face eviction from state provided housing. The public should not be forced to subsidise the lives of those who damage the lives of others. This should be the first step towards abolishing compulsory social welfare.
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Blair has a point that many Brits will agree on, but it needs people to act and for parents to be held accountable. There are many reasons why a segment of young people spit, vandalism and disturb people – the change in families, erosion of fear of parental authority for starters, but it needs a concerted effort to turn back over time.
Changing the burden of proof for any criminal offences removes a fundamental freedom, that will be exploited by a segment of the public and the police - and should be resisted.

Iran - how long is nothing done?

Iran continues to metaphorically tell the West to “get fucked” once more by ripping off seals placed on equipment at several nuclear sites by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Iran has been sidestepping the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty for around 18 years, but the appeasers in Europe have kept blocking the desire by the US to impose sanctions through the UN Security Council. Bush was not wrong when he included Iran in his axis of evil - the current Islamic Republic is a cancerous proponent of terrorism which has only been beaten by the Taliban for its stone age barbarity based on religion.
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Of course, many on the left will remain wilfully blind to this. Iran after all sent child soldiers in war against Iraq, has the state forcing women to dress as it says and bans any literature that it deems contrary to Islam, but that is nothing compared to the evil West. Iran wants to wipe Israel off the map, but that isn’t warmongering. Iran tortures prisoners as a matter of course, and has done so for many years (before and after the Islamic revolution), but lets ignore that. On top of that, the fact the US has been attempting to use multilateral mechanisms to deal with Iran is ignored – especially as they have failed.
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There must be one more attempt to get the UN Security Council to threaten economic sanctions against Iran, of course if it withdraws from the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (as North Korea did), then the toothlessness of international diplomacy in the face of determined evil is exposed once more.
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The Daily Telegraph reports that

“Teheran claims its nuclear programme is "peaceful", and it intends to carry out only "research and development" rather than full-scale enrichment. But it has stretched the definition so far that experts say there is no real distinction.”

Economic and diplomatic sanctions should be imposed until Iran demonstrates transparently that it is not pursuing nuclear weapons. If they do not work, either Iran withdraws from its threats of aggression against Israel and support for terrorism, or military action must be contemplated. For the leftwing advocates of peace - this is called SELF DEFENCE. It is TOO LATE to respond when Tel Aviv has been flattened by a nuclear missile - although you can be sure Israel will flatten Tehran in response, and rightfully so.
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The new Iranian President has demonstrated that he puts the mental into fundamentalism, and is an enemy of civilisation and peace. He denies the Holocaust and he is instrumental in murdering those who disagree with Islam.

So what is likely to happen?

Nothing.
The noise about Iraq will mean Bush and Blair will probably not undertake any serious action against Iran, while Iran will continue to develop a nuclear capability. Once it has done so, it will either declare it explicitly or through a test, or it will allow such a capability to be used by the terrorist groups it funds, trains and supports.

The question for Israel is this. How long do you wait, before a country that has vowed to eliminate you acquires the means to do so? Even if the US and Europe go weak kneed, Israel will not – I expect it is considering military means to put back the Iranian nuclear project by years, much as it did for Iraq.

Any Israeli government that wasn’t would not be doing its duty – I would much rather an angry Iranian government and hoards of mindless drone Muslims protesting, than a mushroom cloud over Tel Aviv.
Unfortunately, promising that any use by Iran of nuclear weapons will result in all out war against that country, is worthless to people in power who think the afterlife is more important than the here and now. However, it is all that there is. The evil thugs in Tehran must know that if they persist, they will be overthrown.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Religion - the root of all evil?

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The Marquis de Sade thought so, but then he was no paragon of virtue himself.
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That is the name of an excellent documentary that was on Channel 4 in the UK last night (which led nicely into Celebrity Big Brother afterwards).
The documentary claimed religion was the root of all evil – because it was faith over science and reason. This is a point that all objectivists would agree with, with one exception - religion isn't the only source denying reason - but it certainly is a major one.
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There is a clash of cultures between pre-modern Islam and modern Western civilisation, but also between post-modern Christianity (evangelical) and modern Western civilisation. The war on terror is just, and should be waged for the sake of secular Western modernity - but this is blurred by those claiming it is a Holy War between Christianity and Islam, which is what fundamentalist Muslims believe. ANY adherents of Islam or Christianity (or Judaism) which seek to use force to achieve their goals are evil - but unfortunately, the battlelines are messy.
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To have such a controversial topic on prime time television is a testament to the courage the commercial privately owned Channel 4 has in confronting Christians, Muslims, Jews and others over what they believe. The presenter, Professor Richard Dawkins no doubt is hated by fundamentalist Muslims, Christians and Jews alike. He went to Jerusalem and the United States to talk to people who propagate their irrational hatred of reason, to see if he could understand or get them to understand why people might think differently – he got barely disguised hatred. One man who was raised Jewish in the US, moved to Gaza as a settler and converted to Islam blamed him for allowing women to dress like whores in the streets – when he responded “they dress themselves, I don’t dress them”, the response was “but you let them do it, you let your society allow this”. Islam thinks men should be controlling women, regulating them - hmmm.
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Religion is a denial of reason, science doesn’t pretend to have all the answers, whereas religion does – God did it! Not only did God do it, but some book, written by men centuries ago, contains all the guidance you need to live your life and run the lives of others.
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My beef with religion is twofold:
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1. It is about denying reality. It is about asserting a being exists without there being evidence for its existence – indeed faith is just that, an acceptance that something is real without any other grounding for that belief. Denying reality is fatal, it reduces what your life can bring you and what your life can bring others, it is a form of insanity. Nothing more and nothing less, belief in religion is a form of madness.
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2. Many of the rules propagated by the major religions are irrational, illogical and immoral. Take how Islam treats women, like second class citizens that need cared for. Take how Christianity treats sex, filthy and vile – necessary to have children, but otherwise filthy and vile. They do not believe human beings own their bodies or their property and should be able to do with them as they please, as long as they do not interfere with the rights of others to do the same.
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Go to the website here and check it out, next week is part two of the series which argues that religion is a virus when taught to the very young, it infects their minds and warps their thinking. After all, why do some countries produce generation after generation of Muslims or Christians, because children are raised and never doubt it?
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Ask TVNZ, TV3 or Prime to buy the programme and show it in New Zealand.

"You can lead a whore to culture but you can't make her think"


Celebrity Big Brother UK! no not the latest surveillance system devised by bureaurats in London to watch you online or on the road - but the popular reality TV show on Channel 4.
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After my little spiel on French culture I will digress with some mass culture - the voyeuristic pleasure gained in watching celebrities be watched and stuck in a house for days on end.
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The quote in the title of the post is the BEST quote so far from this programme, it was Dead or Alive singer Pete Burns talking about slapper Jodie Marsh. Now if you haven't seen Pete Burns since "You Spin me Round like a Record" you'll be shocked, as his cosmetic surgery has been drastic, and not necessarily how he expected (the lip surgery cost him a fortune to fix after it went wrong).
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I never watched any other "Big Brothers" but I ashamedly have been seduced by the sheer entertainment value of the people in it:
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Starting with Chantelle, a dizzy blonde Essex girl (which, despite reputation, can be good), unfortunately not that bright, though rather sweet really – she didn’t know what a gynaecologist was when it was being discussed, and didn’t even know that she should have known. She’s said many naïve things, you’d think she was around half her age, she’s only endearing because she is kind – but now she is an instant nonlebrity – famous for doing nothing other than appear on this programme. She convinced the others for the first 3 days that she was a celebrity leading a non-existent band called Kandyfloss with a "hit" called "I want it right now" - by convincing them of this, she got to stay. However, I think this is largely because two of the other musicians (Maggot and Preston) don't rate themselves too highly anyway.
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David Farrar has blogged about the extreme leftwing Saddamite George Galloway appearing on Celebrity Big Brother a man who said in an interview with the Guardian that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a tragedy. That tragedy that cost 30 million lives, that invaded Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Mongolia, Afghanistan, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, ran a totalitarian state of brutality and lethargy. Great one George.
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However, he isn’t half as interesting as the rest. NBA basketball star and notorious womaniser (and occasional cross dresser) Dennis Rodman, is by far the most famous person there (internationally) and looks distinctly uncomfortable, probably because this is the longest time he has spent without having sex for a while – and he has tried to get into the knickers of the three sexiest women, Traci (ex. Baywatch), Jodie (Essex porn channel host, nosejob victim and slapper who complains endlessly about how she is misunderstood and quite intellectual) and Chantelle.
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Jodie Marsh is a bitchy model, who got her nose done when she was 15 (big mistake it looks far from good) with big self esteem issues that she handles by being loose about sex, talks about it all the time, and by crying about how hard it is to be famous, to be called a slapper, to have her boobs criticised, then she criticises others. She has been in an orgy, wants to have sex with Pamela Anderson and likes girls as much as boys (and I mean boys, she likes them younger).
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Then there is Pete Burns, the diva from band Dead or Alive (You Spin Me Round like a Record) who looks rather scary but is bitchy and incredibly funny. He disclaims that he is gay or a transvestite, but appears to be comfortable simply saying he wants to look the way he does and wear what he wants, but he is a man and is not interested in changing his sex. He’s my pick if only because he is comfortable about who he is, and has upset some of the others by claiming his fur coat is gorilla (which is almost certainly is not).
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Michael Barrymore is the last interesting one, although he is a shadow of his former self, looking worn and tired and sad. I don't need say much more about him, except that he clearly looks like the UK tabloid media have chewed him up and spat him out and it has hurt.
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So there you have it, while Brits will remain addicted to this, so will I – watching a range of semi famous people interact like goldfish in a bowl, being bitchy, being bored and half of them waiting for something to happen.
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I’m hoping that Galloway is booted out this time – because he has been boring, and the prick deserves to lose this publicity vehicle (which has backfired both against his traditional supporters and the youth he was trying to target). He is evil.
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If you want to keep up to date, go to the website here. If you are really addicted pay around £8 for continuous broadband video coverage access - I wont be, it helps to have digital TV!

Bonne Annee - Vive La France - Happy New Year


May this be your year of Joie De Vivre.
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Well I’m back, I hope you all had a good end of year/new year vacation – with lots of good food, drink, sex and relaxation whether you were in summer or winter.
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I learnt one thing over my break, and that is that the French have gone some things very right.
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Food, drink and attitude to life is wonderful – there is little doubt that their passionate, romantic and sensual belief in living from day to day is light years ahead of the protestant masochism of so many in the English speaking world. The contrast in food between Britain and France is dramatic, even though the French love McDonalds - it is the most successful country for McDonalds in continental Europe and fastest growing.
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Yes French public services are rather disastrous, with the exception of the Paris Metro and the TGV, most French railways are far from alluring. Charles de Gaulle Airport (the terminal for non French airlines) is the worst in western Europe.
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Yes French politics are about left or lefter – and I have written before about the abominable agricultural policy that continues to be propagated by French governments.
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Yes, outside central Paris, much of the city is dire, there is tagging everywhere, a loose attitude to respect for property. Indeed, the poor state of the French economy is very apparent, with closed department stores and shops in Paris - and Paris has its share of homeless people, despite the generous welfare state.
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However, in France joie de vivre means something – life is to be savoured, food is to be enjoyed passionately. I have never been in a city with so many chocolatiers. I need say nothing about wine or art. The French language is more beautiful than English, so it is little surprising that they look down about it – and the arrogance? I saw little of this, and certainly no more than in the UK. France may be strangled by bureaucracy, the legacy of philosophers that were wrong (like Foucault, Rousseau and Sartre) and a suspicion of laissez faire “Anglo Saxon” economics and politics – but the French love life and beautiful things. They are also, usually, polite - if you are polite, you will get courtesy in return.
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If New Zealand and the UK learnt to enjoy life, to enjoy good food, wine and beautiful art and music - and to love romance, passion and creativity, over banal mediocrity and vacuousness, they would be much better off. If the UK could round up its yobs and transport them to an island where nobody could find them and where they couldn't leave - it would be better to, but more on that another day!