Friday, March 31, 2006

New York University appeases Muslim bullies


With support from the Ayn Rand Institute (ARI), a New York University (NYU) approved Objectivist student group publicised that it was going to show the notorious Danish cartoons (don't need to say what they are) in a panel discussion called "Unveiling the Danish Cartoons" on Wednesday 29 March. According to ARI:
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"A day before the panel discussion was to take place, NYU gave the student event organizers a non-negotiable ultimatum: if you display the cartoons we will close the event to non-NYU guests. This was in spite of the fact that NYU's own rules leave this decision to the student sponsoring organization."
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Furthermore:
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"And even though the students opted for not showing the cartoons, NYU barred entry to at least two journalists and more than 30 registered guests. Even after learning that Muslim students had sabotaged the event by acquiring and destroying two hundred tickets to leave as many seats empty, NYU officials still refused to allow non-NYU guests to enter."
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ARI is furious, understandably so. It has said:
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"Why did NYU trample the rights of the Objectivist student group?Because it chose appeasement; it chose, out of fear, to avoid the consequences of taking a principled stand to protect everystudent's freedom of speech on campus. And so next time, the mobs will know that to get whatever they want, they need only screamand threaten more stridently."
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Indeed - NYU would rather capitulate to threats and not upset those who call for violence, than to defend those who are implacably opposed to it. How dare it call itself a university - such an attitude puts it back with the book burners of the dark ages!
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Read the full ARI press release and letter to the editor of the NY times here.
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However, there is a far more interesting dialogue about this on Diana Hsieh's blog entry on this. She goes into more detail, explaining that the Islamic centre describes that:
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"These cartoons have lead to riots, protests, beatings, and even deaths on an international level"
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Yes, only by their deranged Muslim "brothers". Drawings do nothing at all - why should anyone attack anyone else because they are offended, unless they are savages?
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Moreover, the Islamic centre has no understanding of context - these anti-reason censors of debate claim:
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"Remember that this same type of manifestation of hatred has lead to the murder of many innocent people. We can look as far back as the 1930's in the years prior to the Holocaust when Nazi Germany circulated hate-filled images of our Jewish brothers and sisters throughout society. Contemporary situations such as Rwanda have also caused bloody genocides. It is necessary for all of us to stand together and speak out against this, as hatred does not discriminate against any color, race, creed, or religion; all it does is hate."
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To claim that an objectivist group is engaging in mindless hate is ludicrous, to claim the newspaper that published the cartoons was engaging in hate akin to Nazi Germany is utterly vile. In fact, it was in response to the ultra-violent anti-semitic cartoons the Arab world is not ashamed of publishing regularly. However, they wouldn't dare criticise their "brothers" in totalitarian Arab regimes, only Americans using free speech to debate the point of free speech. ARI was not engaging in hatred against Muslims, but the Islamic League doesn't even want to listen.
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Diana wrote to NYU saying:
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"Consider the consequences of your decision. By capitulating this time, you've forsaken the principle necessary to withstand pressure from other groups to withdraw some speaker deemed offensive. What ground can you stand upon when the Campus Republicans attempt to bar Michael Moore from speaking? Or when the Christian groups band together to bar an atheist? If those groups threaten trouble, will you demand concessions from those speakers too, like that Michael Moore can't say anything mean about President Bush or that the atheist must refrain from arguing his full case against God? Soon, no speech would be permitted, lest even innocuous comments about the sunny weather offend the depressed or mentions of a good grade on an exam offend those who chose not to study. Once speech is limited on the grounds that it might offend some people, the principle of free speech is destroyed."
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I couldn't agree more.

Blogging lighter for a month

I'm fleeing to Switzerland for the weekend with my girlfriend to meet up with a friend, then back with a lot of work before fleeing downunder for a few weeks. Will be some blogging next week and some while downunder, but I'm sure you'll survive without my rantings.

What's wrong with Oxfam?


After all, they want to fight poverty worldwide don't they?
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I just got accosted by an Oxfam campaigner. Not an unusual thing in the UK, as there are people out for your money at every corner, but I confronted him and said 2 days a week I pay taxes for the government – and on top of that if he wanted to eradicate poverty he should start advocating free trade, unlike Oxfam.
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He was stunned and I walked away.
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So I thought I’d see if my own prejudices against Oxfam are well founded. I figure it is just a bunch of leftie do-gooders out for more state intervention, placing guilt upon the most productive to help the least, and generally being anti-capitalist.
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The Oxfam website states “Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together with over 3,000 partners in more than 100 countries to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. “
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Poverty presumably means anyone struggling to survive day by day materially, but suffering and injustice are a bit more difficult to define. Suffering is a fact of life, I can’t see Oxfam operating an ambulance to help car crash victims, or people suffering from grief. Life inevitably produces a state of suffering for most people at some point – Oxfam is hardly going to fix that. Injustice is slightly more insidious – as it implies something has been “done” to someone else, it can mean Oxfam is a crime fighter or, more likely, Oxfam is out to take from the rich to give to the poor.
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Now it is a private organization, and as such it can do as it wishes with whatever money it raises from voluntary sources. So from a libertarian perspective, let Oxfam be free to do as it wishes. However, from an objectivist perspective is its goals moral and are the solutions it proposes moral and workable?
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Oxfam’s beliefs and approach to its goals are contained in its strategic plan are step by step to evaluate it.
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Oxfams believe that:
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1. Poverty and powerlessness are avoidable and can be eliminated by human action and
political will.

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Well poverty is typically avoidable by those who are poor – in some cases it can’t be eliminated because it is due to catastrophe. However, the best cure for poverty is economic development. This allows people to produce surpluses to tide them over bad times, or through disaster. The only economic system that has produced such surpluses is capitalism. Political will, in respect of allowing people to produce, enforcing criminal and civil laws and property rights, is essential in this – though I don’t think it is what Oxfam means.
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2. Basic human needs and rights can be met. These include the rights to a sustainable
livelihood, and the rights and capacities to participate in societies and make positive
changes to people's lives.

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Well that’s nice, they can be met – the question is, by whom? Who supplies a right to a sustainable livelihood and what is a sustainable livelihood? Does this mean you have a right to your business continuing to be successful, if so who guarantees that if you have insufficient customers? Does it mean your employer is required to support you, even if you are largely superfluous? Who stops people from participating in societies and the right to make positive changes to your life? In other words, this is wishy washy nonsense,
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3. Inequalities can be significantly reduced both between rich and poor nations and within
nations.

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Well, of course then there wouldn’t be rich and poor nations would there. Of course, this is right – look at Korea (South only), Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and India – they are certainly getting wealthier, while the socialist France, Italy and Germany haven’t been going anywhere. However, it is telling that there is an emphasis on inequalities. It wouldn’t matter if the poor countries all fed, clothed and housed - what would matter is that there are rich countries where people own cars, engage in travel. No recognition that inequality can reflect the different value of what is being produced, different levels of efficiency and different skills. The assumption is that equality is fair – which is nonsense as well. I am presuming it is material inequality that is the concern, although socialists often say capitalists are only concerned with money – socialists aren’t wanting Britain to have the beaches of the Maldives.
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4. Peace and substantial arms reduction are essential conditions for development.
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Peace yes. Arms reduction, no. South Korea has developed very well while remaining well armed – in fact without being armed it would have been invaded by North Korea. The US is well armed and is hardly poor. The issue is what arms are used for, if used for attacking and pillaging then the problem is those actions, if used in self defence they are an asset.
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Oxfams understand that:
5. Poverty is a state of powerlessness in which people are unable to exercise their basic
human rights or control virtually any aspect of their lives. Poverty manifests itself in the
inadequacy of material goods and lack of access to basic services and opportunities
leading to a condition of insecurity.


Unable to exercise basic human rights? Poor people can’t move or speak? They can’t sell their labour? Patronising nonsense to claim they cannot control their lives or exercise basic human rights. Poverty is a lack of opportunity now – so who owes the poor opportunities? Poverty by definition leaves someone insecure as they lack the necessities of life, but does this mean something else?
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6. All poverty is almost always rooted in human action or inaction. It can be made worse by
natural calamities, and human violence, oppression and environmental destruction. It is
maintained by entrenched inequalities and institutional and economic mechanisms.

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Well it is rooted in human action or inaction, such as mistakes or negligence. However, the true agenda is in the second sentence “maintained by entrenched inequalities” (whatever they are ) and “institutional and economic mechanisms” (whatever they are). If I was generous it would because people in poor countries have poor education, no property rights, limited infrastructure and often harassment by governments, paramilitaries or groups keen to keep down anything new or innovative that may challenge their power. I could also say this could mean the nonsense of international trade protectionism and subsidies, and the appalling wastefulness of the UN. Oxfam definitely IS concerned about trade protectionism, but only in one direction – it wants developed countries to open their markets, but not developing countries. This is despite the evidence that closed markets stagnate economies.
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The Oxfam approach is that:
7. Our programs will:
a. address the structural causes of poverty and related injustice

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Marxist terminology – but does this include enforcing private property rights? Doubt it.
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b. work primarily through local accountable organizations, seeking to strengthen their
empowerment

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Not individuals, not clear if this is voluntary or government or both. Probably both.
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c. help people directly where local capacity is insufficient or inappropriate for Oxfams'
purposes

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Fine
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d. assist the development of structures which directly benefit people facing the realities of
poverty and injustice and which are accountable to them.

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What sort of structures? Independent accountable courts and enforceable property rights?
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8. In all our actions our ultimate goal is to enable people to exercise their rights and manage
their own lives.

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Wonderful, so let’s ensure governments only protect people from each other.
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9. For people to be able to exercise their rights:
a. opportunities must be created so people can participate in governing all aspects of their
lives, and

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No, rights are distinct from opportunities. People should not participate in governing all aspects of their lives, they should be in control of their lives to the extent possible. They govern their bodies, their property and how they contract those with others.
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b. they must have the genuine capacity to organize and take advantage of those
opportunities.

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Organise? Like unions? Why can’t people just act? How do you guarantee people have capacity to take advantage of opportunities? You educate them in everything so they can take advantage of any opportunity? Slightly far fetched.
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10. Gender inequalities and other diversity issues will be addressed in our actions and
programs.

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Fair enough – much has to be done about discrimination against women or other races, religions, or indeed people of different political beliefs.
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11. In the economic arena, we will seek:
a. to enable people to meet their needs by creating opportunities within markets, while
protecting themselves against the excesses of unregulated market forces
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What are these excesses? Why is there no mention of the excesses of unregulated government force?
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b. to strengthen institutions intervening in the market in the interests of the poor.
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Regardless of whether those institutions intervening actually advance their interests. Maybe intervening in the market is against their interests.
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12. Preventing and reversing damage to the environment is essential to achieving
sustainable livelihoods.

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OK, so let’s destroy buildings, roads, farmland and revert the environment back to how it was before people “damaged” it. Damage could mean any emissions, any earthworks, any weeding. There is no cost/benefit tradeoff here – not cases where “damaging the environment” saves lives.
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13.. Action against violence must include:
a. coming to the aid of victims,

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Important, ambulance at the bottom of the cliff though and Red Cross does this well already.
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b. strengthening people's capacity to peacefully resolve conflicts, and
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Harmless enough…and
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c. demanding a determined response from the international community where the situation
warrants it.

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OK, so aid victims, encourage peaceful resolution and international intervention. What about people’s right to self defence, what about government actions to do violence to people?
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There you have it. Oxfam has some good goals, and I don’t doubt how positive it would be if more people in poor countries had clean water, housing, adequate food and peace. However, they have no right to claim others in other countries to pay for it for them. The standard of living in the West was earnt through hard work and innovation, the standard of living in the poor countries needs to be earnt the same way.
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More importantly, Oxfam has a deluded old peace activist socialist view as to why poverty happens. It ignores the importance of property rights and independent fair judiciary to enforce criminal law, contract law and property law. You don’t get this in most countries that are performing badly. Peace is important, but it is not enough- because the importance of peace is not that there is no war, but that there is no violence being initiated. Violence can be initiated by governments against their people and individuals against one another. Any time this happens, it destroys wealth and is psychologically debilitating. Having no legal system able to respond makes it worse.
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Oxfam would be far better if it focused on three goals:

- End to all forms of initiated force (war, terrorism, crime, government);
- Removing all barriers to free consensual trade across borders and within borders;
- Establishment of private property rights and contract law, able to be defended and enforced with an independent judicial and law enforcement system.
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Sadly, I just think it is more concerned about making people in richer countries feel guilty. I wont give to Oxfam, because it has a socialist agenda - it is more concerned with fair trade (which is a fraud according to the Adam Smith Institute). Read also this article from the Globalisation Institute, which explains why free trade IS fair trade, and those who argue against free trade are just plain wrong. Oxfam needs to dump its ideological baggage and look at why some poor countries are doing remarkably well - it is not because of Oxfam.

Energy efficiency obsession

I see that Energy Minister Trevor Mallard and Government Spokesperson on Energy Efficiency Jeanette Fitzsimons (didn’t know that existed) have announced the ending of the current National Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy (NEECS). Unfortunately a new one is going to be developed, which will be one of the most pointless exercises engaged by bureaucrats in the next year or so.
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Why?
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Because the last one did bugger all. This government is obsessed with strategies, which are meant to direct bureaucrats, and they are usually destined to not be successful or be so broadly defined to look like every year is a step “along the path”. The new NEECS is to feed into a new Energy Strategy (see what I mean?).
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Let’s start from first premises. The objective of NEECS is to “set the agenda for government programmes to promote greater energy efficiency and renewable energy”.
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Why?
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Is energy efficiency good? Well, yes it is. Wasting energy is unproductive. Most businesses don’t like to waste any inputs into production, so they strive to be more efficient across the board. This includes everything from turning off lights, to buying more efficient machinery, to closing down inefficient operations. In respect of energy, as long as it is priced efficiently (i.e. not subsidised or not overpriced), then energy users will decide whether it is more efficient to use it or not. For example, an emphasis on energy efficiency alone may mean extra expense in labour to monitor lights or whatever. So the government doesn’t need to promote energy efficiency. If you are stupid enough to leave all your appliances on, then you pay more for electricity – nobody subsidises you. If there isn’t enough electricity to meet demand, the price should go up to encourage you to be more efficient.
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In short, there is not the slightest need for the government to give a damn about energy efficiency if electricity, gas, coal and petrol are priced according to supply and demand.
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Is renewable energy good? Well, it doesn’t really matter. If it is a non-renewable resource, when it is becoming scarce the price goes up and others are found. In itself, renewable energy sounds good – but it is rather irrelevant.
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So, in short, NEECS has little value – the appropriate answer to energy efficiency is to get out of the way, and let users pay and energy producers have freedom to seek whatever sources of energy they wish. To help that, the government ought to privatise its remaining electricity SOEs.

Working for benefits

Now as a libertarian I don’t believe in compulsory state welfare. At best it doesn’t represent caring at all, because instead of consciously considering how to assist those in need, most people simply accept that taxes are taken from them and some bureaucrats hand money over to the needy. It means the chattering classes can clink their chardonnay glasses in Wadestown or Parnell, and feel they are doing their bit for those in Cannons Creek, Otara or Murupara – without having to actually be conscious of it. They can vote Labour feeling like, somehow, this system makes them better citizens – whilst many avoid the needy like the plague. It also means that bureaucrats, many with good intentions, always have a supply of money to dish out to the needy – and have power with this, and beneficiaries think that their money is an “entitlement”. “Entitlement” is a powerful word, hard to argue against being entitled to something, like holding a certificate proving you have a right to land or some money.
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At worst state welfare breeds an attitude of dependence of not seeking the best in yourself – an attitude best represented in beneficiaries who would rather watch TV all day than get a job, or wont get a job that “robs them” of their benefit – robbed already from the productive. State welfare is money literally for nothing, taken from force by people who had to earn it in the first place.
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However, there are plenty who believe that even if the state welfare system is wasteful and has gone too far, that there should still be a bottom line “safety net” for those destitute and unable to work through sickness or disability or to bridge a gap between jobs. This is the line that ACT takes, that welfare should be short lived and be incentivised to encourage or require people to take employment where possible. In other words, welfare for those with no means to provide for themselves or their families. This was, I believe, the vision of New Zealand’s most popular socialist – Michael Joseph Savage.
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Today, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have taken that vision and vastly increased the number of those receiving welfare, with the so-called “Working for Families” package. This means that most people with children will now receive social welfare benefits simply because they bred. So let’s just think very clearly about what this system means:
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1. People work hard, earn money and have tax taken off them, around half paying 33% or more of their income in tax.
2. The state takes a proportion of that to pay bureaucrats to run a system whereby…
3. People with children, with certain income thresholds, can get welfare benefits if they apply for them – simply because they are families.
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Now the Greens moan about how unemployed and sickness beneficiaries aren’t getting this – because the Greens think state welfare is truly wonderful and if you need money, then fleecing those who make it is fair.
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However, how do YOU feel about paying a lot of tax and either having it churned through bureaucrats to make you a beneficiary, or it going to middle class families with children?
Take this statement from the Government's own press release:
Most families with children, earning under $70,000 a year are likely to be eligible for family tax relief, but many families earning up to $100,000 may also be able to claim some family assistance.
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$100,000!! Forget being a responsible young couple in your 20s saving for a mortgage, have babies and get some money from the state. Apparently Dr Cullen's tax increase for the "rich" earning over $60,000 isn't about rich people anymore - so why does middle-upper income New Zealand have to pay 39% income tax?
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One view is that everyone should share the financial burden of raising children. Why? Unless the children are collectively “owned” by everyone, why should anyone else bear responsibility for the breeding habits of others? People who have 5 children get more money than those with 1 or none. Having children is essentially a lifestyle choice, some people want none – some people can’t have them and must adopt – others want enormous families. However, having children is, by and large, a choice. Nobody makes you have unprotected coital sex, unless it is rape and that is a different matter. Making the choice to have children means taking enormous responsibility and trading off the time, energy and financial commitment of a child, vs. what else you might do with that time and money. If you are unwilling to take on that commitment, then you short change the child – and you’ve made a bad decision. It is YOUR fault – not MY fault that I haven’t given you money for your child.
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The main criticism of cutting welfare for children is that the children suffer – yet of the two main things children need, material provision is one. The other is time and attention – which is also where the greatest rewards come from. If I am expected to give up money to help children be raised for the greater good, I want to share in their upbringing – after all, children need attention and time from adults to learn and grow fulfilled and to experience life. I’m sure parents receiving welfare from non-child bearing taxpayers would baulk at anyone expecting time with their “shared responsibility”.
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Quite simply, there is nothing special about having children. Children cost time and money, both for parents and, with the state education system, for every net taxpayer (not everyone is a net taxpayer remember – all those on benefits and working for the non-productive state sector are not) – and the single biggest thing anyone does that increases consumption in the environment is to breed. However, the Greens want people to be subsidised to breed.
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So why has Labour set up this bureaucratic system to hand out welfare to middle income families? In essence, it comes down to two motives. The first is income redistribution (known as theft if you engage it in) - Labour believes that those that earn and produce, particularly those without children, should have part of those earning taken from them and given to those with children. In short, people with the income of Heather Roy with five children deserve money from people with half her income and no kids, because Labour wants to subsidise them.
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United Future and NZ First endorse this. It is pure envy – a straight out transfer from some people to others – because Labour likes them.
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The second motive is far more insidious. Tax cuts reduce dependence on the state and reduce the size of the state. They are preferred by individualists because they mean you get back money the state isn’t using so you can spend it yourself or save it, or do as you wish – after all it was your money to begin with. If you hadn’t worked, or invested or spent, the state wouldn’t have had it. It keeps a cap on the size of the state, which is why Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Bill Birch all supported tax cuts – it keeps the state from wasting money on whatever activity was popular with politicians, but which you would never choose to fund yourself. Like rap study tours or middle class children.
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Extending welfare to include middle class families ties them to the state – some see it as effectively a tax cut, because they get some of their money back, so it’s “ok”. Anyone promising to remove it better give them something as good or better. However, that is the thing – many of those on middle class welfare wouldn’t be better off with a tax cut, unless it was a large tax cut – the sort National would not introduce. Labour now has these people as more likely voters, because to reverse Working for Families and introduce tax cuts instead, there would be losers (low to middle income families) and winners (middle to high income single people). Labour knows very well that the losers outnumber the winners, and the winners are hated by the great Kiwi socialist clobbering machine working in TVNZ, TV3, Radio NZ, the NZ Herald etc etc. Labour has bought voters with this package – and knows that most will remain loyal. They are now dependent on bureaucrats and a Labour government for getting some of their income – something that a tax cut would never mean. That is why it is so insidiously evil.
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No well functioning economy needs the state to take money off of people to redistribute to middle income working families. How inefficient is that? How ridiculous is it for welfare to have shifted from being the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff for those in dire need, to being a day to day source of income.
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The appropriate response IS to replace it with tax cuts – scrap the whole Working for Families package, eliminate vast tracts of pointless bureaucracies and cut taxes, dramatically. National should stick to this, take its old tax cut plan and take it further. As much as it is hard for National to dismantle socialism Labour introduces, it is as hard for Labour to reverse tax cuts that apply to the vast majority.
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While I thought the extent of the cuts were too low, Don Brash is right in his press statement about the Working for Families package:
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As we have seen from Labour's TV ads, much of the extended Working for Families handout will go to higher income families who can afford to live in plush homes and own the latest electronic gadgets.
It's clear the extension was aimed at middle and higher income earners - proving it was a huge and desperate bribe to get Labour re-elected."But thousands of Kiwis miss out. People without children will subsidise those with children to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars."National's policy at the 2005 election was to offer tax cuts to working New Zealanders. These would have provided far better incentives for working people to get ahead in life from their own efforts.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Israel seeks peace


The Arab-Israeli dispute has origins that only the doggedly stubborn use to determine their perspective. The Palestinians who want Israel eradicated (such as Hamas) are dreaming - Israel was, unfortunately, a creation of the UN, supported by both the western powers (US, UK, France and then non-communist China) and the USSR. It had been promised by Britain, the colonial power.
The best option at the time would've been to give Palestine independence, and allow Jews, Arabs and others of Palestine to live together -in a liberal democratic state. However, the Balfour Declaration in 1917 did promise a Jewish national homeland, as long as it did not prejudice Arab communities. The events that followed meant the creation of Israel - which tragically saw some Arabs expelled or fleeing homes in Israel, while some Jews were expelled from Arab states. A unified Israel was not going to happen, as Arab states opposed the establishment of Israel - so the UN partition plan was meant to be a compromise. That plan was what Israel originally intended to be - but the Arabs were not interested in a separate Palestinian state. So then came war, and war, and war and war.
Throughout the last nearly 60 years, Israel has fought for its right to exist. Only the most blinkered socialist would say that it would have been preferable for the authoritarian bully Nasser or totalitarian Asad to replace Israel. Israel has maintained a liberal democratic state, that has allowed Israelis to develop, trade and be reasonably free (although Israeli Arabs tend to feel like second class citizens). Compared to Egypt, which has had three Presidents, none democratically elected - Syria, a one-party state and Lebanon (only recently recovered from Syrian imperialism), Israel was a shining light for individual freedom. Even Nasser would listen to Kol Israel (Radio) to get the truth of the defeat in the Six Day War, because Arab broadcasters were so beholden to state propaganda of success and victory.
The Six Day War was Israel's response to an imminent attack - a wonderful victory over bullies ready to destroy it - and take enough territory for borders that could be readily defended. It also provided the chance for some Zionist plans for greater Israel to be implemented - the West Bank was known by some as Judea and Samaria - sacred Hebrew territory, and settlement were established as part of a grand plan to keep Israeli borders to the river Jordan.
Israel has always been willing to seek peace with security. It surrendered the majority of the land it annexed in 1967 (the Sinai) when it made peace with Egypt - which cost President Anwar Sadat his life due to an Arab extremist assassin. Syria has refused to guarantee Israel peace, which is why Israel retains the Golan Heights. Jordan has made peace in 1994, recognising Israel and refusing any historic claim to the West Bank - so now it is the matter of the Palestinian Arabs.
Until 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation - a terrorist group if ever there was one - refused to recognise Israel's right to exist. At that point, Israel still did not believe that land for peace could work. After the Cold War ended (and Soviet sponsorship of the PLO evaporated), the US pushed for Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians - and President Yitzhak Shamir did not even recognise the Palestinians could be a nation. It was only because the US intervened decisively against Saddam Hussein to roll back his invasion of Kuwait, that Israel commenced peace talks with Palestinians, but not the PLO.
The Oslo Accords in 1993 saw Israel agree to the creation of the Palestinian Authority - allowing Palestinian self-government - an enormous change from the greater Israel envisaged by the Likud party previously. It cost Yitzhak Rabin his life. However, the PLO's corruption and inability/unwillingness to stop terrorism was its downfall. Every time a bus was bombed by Hizbollah, Israel rightfully blamed the PLO for being unable to secure its borders or clamp down on terror.
The second intifada has seen Israel respond with enormous force - which is unsurprising. So Israelis have faced three options:
- Continue to intervene in the West Bank and Gaza, and defend the settlements - maintaining the occupation;
- Negotiate a settlement with the Palestinian Authority for peace;
- Withdraw from Palestinian territory and defend what is left.
Voting Kadima means the third option. Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip because it gave nothing - the land was not important for defence, and it was costly. Better to leave it to the Palestinian Authority to have a go at running everything, and seal the border off if it couldn't stop terrorists slipping into Israel. The strategy for the West Bank wont be far different - abandon vast swatches of the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority - maintain a military presence along the Jordan Valley (which is sparsely populated, but can also control arms into the West Bank), clear out settlements that are not close to Israeli borders and build a wall around what is left.
Given in the first instance, despite much Western Aid, the Fatah (PLO) run Palestinian Authority was a disaster - and now Palestinians have voted for the terrorist thugs Hamas - can you blame Israel? Well, it wont probably work - unless Palestinians start running a civilised operation, Hamas renounces terrorism, recognises Israel and respects all previous agreements - and then starts to negotiate. Only then will Israel consider relinquishing more of the West Bank, moving the concrete wall barrier and talk about the hardest issue of all - Jerusalem.
A Palestinian state will only emerge when it can not be a haven for those bent on terrorism in Israel - and when it can be reasonably uncorrupt and focused on protecting Palestinians, and a shared peace in the Middle East with Israel. Nothing else would contribute to peace in the Middle East and the world more generally than a settlement - but it wont come at the cost of Israeli security. Nor should it. Those supportive of the Palestinian's plight should take time to notice how far Israelis have come. They want to leave Palestinians to govern themselves, and withdraw settlements - the dream of greater Israel is only held by a small minority. However Palestinians have not helped their cause, by having political masters that have been inept and corrupt, and are now advocates for terrorism and Israel's annihilation. Hamas could - if it tried - prove it wants to be competent and uncorrupt - but it will be for nought if it refuses to recognise that Israel, nuclear armed and war wearied, will go away or be defeated or tolerate Palestinian territory being a base for attacks on civilians. Anything less is uncivilised, and Palestinians who cannot understand that deserve to live under occupation. A liberal democratic open tolerant Palestinian state would not threaten Israel, and be a model for its corrupt neighbours like Egypt or despotic regimes like Syria - and would remove one of the reasons Arabs have to remain united, despite their governments' continued pillage and abuse of their people.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Outdoor Recreation abandons United Future


Outdoor Recreation has abandoned its agreement with United Future, because of concerns of its religious overtones. Clearly in denial, Dunne denies this! Claiming it was not unexpected, but he must be gutted. Outdoor Recreation now includes former United Future MP, Marc Alexander, who was one of the more sensible ones who lost in 2005 as United Future voters went back to National. Outdoor Recreation got over 2% at the 2002 election and Dunne would have hoped some of that went to United Future, now as No Right Turn observes, United Future will remain small.
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However, he panders to homophobia and his whole opposition to civil unions was never one of substance, but simply claiming they were a cover up for gay marriage - he never expressed a view on gay marriage himself - but the implication was that he didn't like it. Statements like this from this speech:
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Now while New Zealand society has progressed to a stage whereby we are tolerant of alternative lifestyles, and will willingly respect them as a private affair, many will baulk at the idea that the nature of marriage, an institution that also exists outside narrow legal definitions, is being altered in this way without their consent.
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Well Peter, it was a private member's bill - and if you believe in democracy you'll accept that the people elected by voters chose as they saw fit to represent the views of their voters. If you're upset about government doing things without people's consent, then there is a lot more you can get distressed about Peter - like the taxes of the Labour government you have kept going for two terms now. Many baulked at legalising homosexual acts but you voted FOR it Peter. Snake! Unlike DPF, I don't think Peter Dunne is a good guy at all, but a reasonably sensible man who has been swaying across the political spectrum to stroke his ego - centrist, pro-immigrant, religious right. hmmm.
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United Future has kept Labour in government for two terms now, so why gun enthusiasts would want to support it is beyond me. The United Future website continues to refer to Outdoor Recreation. ACT is now inviting Outdoor Recreation on board, which means ACT will need to be clear on its gun policy. I'd say Libertarianz has a lot to offer them too, with its belief in the right of peaceful people to own firearms.

Dunne the sports socialist

Peter Dunne is bemoaning claims by Trevor Mallard that sports that didn't do as well as predicted in the Commonwealth Games would have funds cut from the state for the Beijing Olympics.
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Well tough Peter - it is not the role of the state to fund athletes. They ought to fund themselves or seek it from sponsorship. This is not east germany or some other old fashioned Cold War battle - it is about people choosing to commit to being their best, and the public shouldn't be force to pay for a particular career in athletics.
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The best way to encourage athletes would be a cut in tax - then there would be more of what they earn, and what their supporters earn to help them on their way.

Sue Bradford hates Chinese workers

Sue Bradford slams Air New Zealand for buying - horror of horrors - foreign uniforms for its cabin crew (made with New Zealand wool). See it is ok for jobs to be created, just not those foreign people who don't look like us - who are more grateful for the work and charge far less for it. She says they are made in China, then says that most of them are being made overseas.
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Well Sue, get ready - so is the fuel, so are the planes, so are the seats on the planes, most of the entertainment on the planes - and half the passengers too. Presumably you'd prefer them all to be locally made.
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Outrageous - Air NZ should buy NZ made planes, using NZ made fuel, seats and only show NZ movies and TV shows and only carry NZ passengers - it can then aspire to be just like Air Koryo.
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More seriously - if locally sourced uniforms were bought, it would cost more - less money for dividends (which go mostly to the government) and fares may increase - but then again, socialists have never cared much for running businesses efficiently.

Commonwealth Games

Good on Melbourne for hosting an exceptionally well run games.
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One question though (I know the answer and it's childish) - why does the United Kingdom get to send seven teams, whereas every other Commonwealth country sends one?
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I've had this argument with Brits - the United Kingdom is ONE country, the capital is London, only the UK can sign treaties with other countries, have diplomatic and trade relations, and sit in the UN and the EU. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (and the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey) are all regions - with substantial autonomy, but still regions. No different in essence from Tasmania or Quebec.
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It's all very quaint for the English, Scots, Welsh, Ulsterites and the rest to feel some historic nationalism - but Wales hasn't been even nominally independent since 1284, Scotland since 1707 and Northern Ireland since 1800.
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Of course, if the other Commonwealth countries don't mind it, then fine. Korea can send a united team to the Olympics, and it comes from two states which are more different than any of the British nationalities - why can't Britain? Unless it is a privilege of Empire.

BBC public service parties

The BBC spent £238 a head on a party at the Criterion in Piccadilly according to the Daily Telegraph.
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Given the TV licence fee is half that, this is utterly outrageous. I emailed the BBC last week with a question for the head of the BBC as to whether it should be subscription only - with people paying the subscription getting a digital box with a card to watch BBC channels, and if you don't want it - you only get commercial channels. Then a socialist programme director rang me up asking me to clarify my question and argued with me - HELLO I pay your wages you arrogant toad. I'm forced to. I get inane questions like "what about the documentaries people wouldn't pay for" - um yes exactly my point - you make programmes people don't want. Besides commercial TV often produces the same quality or better.
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I like a lot the BBC does - I would pay for it - but I object being forced to pay.

Friday, March 24, 2006

New Zealand and North Korea

Well there you go, the Korean Central News Agency (that's north) has reported that:
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"A friendly meeting took place at the Korea-New Zealand Friendship Haksan Co-operative Farm in Hyongjesan District, Pyongyang, on March 22 on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the DPRK and New Zealand. Present on invitation were members of the visiting New Zealand-DPRK Association. On hand were members of the Korea-New Zealand Friendship Association and officials of the farm. The guests helped farmers in carrying compost. They appreciated an art performance given by farmers and talked with them about the need to boost the relations between the two countries, deepening the friendship. They handed aid materials to the farm. "
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You will hear this on Voice of Korea radio in English on shortwave today only in the news (no there is no way to listen online). Presumably the NZ-DPRK Association didn't ask about the children of political dissidents being kept in gulags, they prefer to carry compost - which wouldn't be hard to find, given that virtually everything ever published in the country is worth less than that. It would have been more helpful had they been able to hand radios to the farmers so they could find out how much they are lied to by their government.
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Still, these are private individuals, not government and it is not for me to ask why they provide propaganda for a regime that is the antithesis of reason and life itself.

Wishart vs. Cresswell

Following on from Clark's comment that Investigate magazine editor Ian Wishart is a "creep", PC gave his own opinion on him calling him a scandal monger and fundamentalist nutbar et al. Wishart is now threatening to sue him for defamation,
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Now I’ve avoided Investigate magazine after seeing time and time again headlines I’d expect to see in a tabloid, and rather empty musings like this.
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His own blog makes banal assertions like:

“There is more evidence for the existence of Christ and a contemporaneous belief of his deity than there is for virtually any other historical figure of his time.”
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Well we know people believe in Christ, but that clever use of language doesn’t get you very far. Christ may well have existed, but just because people believe in the ghost doesn’t mean IT exists. The notion that there is MORE evidence for the existence of Christ than others “of his time” is ludicrous. More than Cleopatra or Caesar? This is like saying that there is more evidence for Churchill than of Stalin or Hitler.
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So I thought I’d read a bit of Wishart, particularly an initially alarming story about hormones in New Zealand beef and lesbian seagulls (bound to excite environmentalists and adolescents alike).

The end of the articles states:

“Increasingly, scientists suspect environmental hormone pollutants caused by human agriculture and industrial waste are working into the animal food chain and creating more instances of so-called “gay behaviour” by animals. The question is, what are the hormones doing to humans?”
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Well the only case cited is of seagulls, and before that of a WWF zoologist more generally concerned about the effects of hormonal contaminants on animals. Fair enough, but the implication here is that hormones we consume through pollution or food could be making people gay. So how is this relevant to New Zealand? How valid are these concerns, or are they just scandal mongering with a joining of the dots as noted by PC?
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It starts with:

"Hormone Growth Promotants .... Known in the industry as HGPs, the official line is that the sex hormones implanted into the ears of cattle are natural or nature identical substances that simply replicate nature, mimicking the hormones lost through castration and equating to other natural dietary sources of hormones such as eggs or soybeans. But how do New Zealanders feel about growth promoting hormones implanted in their meat patties?"
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The "official line" well no Ian, it's the line of the farmers and the producers. You have a better explanation than this? He effectively rubbishes fact by implying the "official line" is like some press statement from Belarus, then "how do New Zealanders feel" should be the test? Well Ian, after reading articles like this, they will feel scared because you were remarkably selective.
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“Compudose is implanted only in the skin immediately beneath the ear of a cattle beast. Disposal of ears of implanted cattle is an issue. NZFSA says they are discarded as waste, rendered or used in gelatin production.”
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Ok so the main issue is that the ears may be used in gelatin, though the hormones spread through the beef. Nothing much more is said on this and then...
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A further issue is the use of antibiotics. Elanco acknowledges that the implant may be dusted with the antibiotic tetracycline. Derek Moore is unsure if the New Zealand version contains any antibiotic. He suggests that perhaps the implant is coated in talcum powder.”
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Ohhhhh “unsure” and “perhaps” smells of a cover up now, scandal, especially since...
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“In the United States the needle used to insert the implant is also often coated with an antibiotic. Vet Services in the Hawkes Bay are adamant they do not use antibiotics to cleanse needles. But either way the trace use of an antibiotic for non-therapeutic purposes is concerning.”
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Says the non-scientist – even though there isn’t evidence it is used in New Zealand and no evidence of it being harmful if it was used, as the article itself states. The facts are hear, but with a sprinkling of skeptical fear pepper makes it taste a bit foul, so all you non-scientists can go – whoa I don’t use antibiotics unless I’m ill, something wrong here – except by now you’ve forgotten that there is no evidence antibiotics are used in New Zealand at all for this process. In addition...
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“Elanco says it has yet to be demonstrated that non-therapeutic use of antibiotics has a detrimental effect on humans.”
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BUT that’s ok, the whole tone is “can’t be too careful” and you can't trust industry can you now? You know what THEY are like.
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Then we have the comfort that if you really are concerned about it, you can take this advice:
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“New Zealand Beef and Lamb Marketing Bureau advises consumers to look out for their red tick of hormone-free approval. Seager Mason, tech-nical director for BioGro says organic food by definition is free of additives. “The whole point of organics is the system for monitoring the producers. Food producers should always declare the means of manufacture.” He comments that any decision on the safety or otherwise of food ingredients should be made by the consumer not the ‘vested-interest’ producer.
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So first you can avoid beef with hormones in it, then you have an organic producers claiming that producers have vested interests, as if organic producers don’t have a vested interest in raising questions about the safety of their competitors’ typically cheaper products? No, that isn’t even raised. However, organic producers like to raise issues with non-organic produce, especially scaring people into believing what is "really in their food". The whole industry is based on scaring people into thinking non-organic food is bad for you, so why should you be surprised? Wishart ignores this.
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So why are HGPs used?
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“The industry calls them ‘quality enhancers’. In a local trial cattle treated with Compudose had an average weight increase of 23.5% (9). Cattle treated with HGPs grow faster enabling them to be sent to the works in shorter time, lowering the farmer cost of beef raising. It’s estimated that for every dollar spent on an HGP there is a five-dollar return.”
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The first sentence drips of a huge "yeah right" by saying the "industry calls them" and quotation marks around 'quality enhancers', rather than simply explaining the rest of the point. So it produces bigger cattle at lower cost - anything to complain about there?
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Then he makes sense:
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“Consumer choice is promoted as the ultimate freedom. It is the market that must test the validity of claims in support of HGPs. It is the market that must sort out whether consumers really want to eat meat grown with growth promoting hormones.”
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It sure is, as long as the market is free and informed by fact, not fear. The organic sector provides this choice, as to other farmers explicitly growing beef without HGPs - no problem then..
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So what about those lesbian seagulls?
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“A University of California, Davis, study by avian toxicologist Michael Fry in the 1980s determined that estrogenic pollution lay behind the “lesbian behaviour” of seagulls. Significantly, to test their theory, they injected normal seagull eggs with estradiol, the additive being pumped into some New Zealand and Australian beef.
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Pumped into? Injected into ears – but then hyperbole sells more magazines.
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“To connect these effects with estrogenic pollutants, Fry and his colleagues conducted a number of experiments during the 1980s. In one, they injected eggs of contaminant-free gulls with estradiol…When the hatchlings emerged, they exhibited the same array of feminized sex organs as DDT-contaminated Western gulls on Santa Barbara Island, off the coast of California.” The estradiol, and a range of other estrogenic pollutants like DDT, effectively “chemically castrated” the males, Fry says.
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So there you go, because some seagull eggs were injected with estradiol and were chemically castrated, and some NZ cattle use HGPs and this is the same substance, it could chemically castrate your children, maybe turn them (horrors!) gay! See the "joining the dots" that PC mentioned? That is what you may surmise.
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So what ABOUT these hormones anyway? Well they actually are about increasing the amount of naturally occurring hormones in cattle that may be reduced due to castration. This article below from Clemson University South Carolina claims that no residues remain in cattle treated with it through the ears.
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The US Department of Agriculture states:
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“The amounts of estradiol, progesterone and testosterone in animals raised using hormones as growth promotants are extremely low compared with their production in humans. Even a young boy would need to eat more than 7000 grams (about 16 pounds) of beef raised using estradiol daily in order to produce a one percent increase in his production of this hormone. A 500-gram portion of beef raised using estradiol contains approximately 15,000 times less of this hormone than the amount produced daily by the average man, and about nine million times less than the amount produced by a pregnant woman.”
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or how about:
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"A one pint glass of milk from an untreated cow contains about 9 times as much estradiol as a 250 gram portion of meat from a steer raised using hormones"
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Or is Ian going to claim that the USDA is in league with the producers of these drugs?
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Well no, the article does contain a link to the NZ Food Safety Authority which defends the use of HGPs here.
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So what does it all mean? It means that you've been eating beef with HGPs in it with no ill effects, your body produces far more estradiol than you consume through beef. That is the fact, but could you sell magazines by claiming that chemicals used in agriculture are harmless? No - people like scandals. A bit like implying that the Clark government is all about some covert gay agenda and was going to decriminalise cannabis - chance would be a fine thing!
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Belarus protest shutdown

The bully of Belarus has his batons on, clearing the protest against the rigged elections in Europe’s most fascist state. According to The Times they have been taken away, I can only hope that they don't disappear - like some other political opponents have.
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It is a shame that more people in Minsk were not willing to stand up for freedom, but the grinding dreariness of Belarus in late winter is hardly inspiring - Belarus should be subject to international isolation. New Zealand should ostracise it economically and diplomatically, as it has Zimbabwe. No Right Turn has also blogged this and supported liberal democracy in Minsk. I suspect Belarus will lose more of its brightest stars to Russia and Ukraine, where there is more freedom and more opportunity - while its sad people continue to exist, not live.

Kember, Sooden and Loney freed

Congratulations on the SAS for rescuing Norman Kember, Harmeet Sooden and Jim Loney from their kidnappers in Iraq. DPF, PC, Whaleoil and Oswald Bastable have blogged on this, but I am pleased at last that the CPT website thanks the soldiers for risking their lives for these misguided peace campaigners.
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As much as I disagree with IFR and CPT, I am pleased that peaceful people have been freed. To paraphrase Voltaire’s famous phrase, I disagree vehemently in what they believe in, but I defend their right to freedom and their own lives. The soldiers who risked their lives for these misguided fools are the true heroes - the soldiers have been thanked after some outrage that it was reported the hostages were "freed" (as if the kidnappers had chosen to do it).
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The so-called “peace movement” is always keen to advocate peace between countries, to exercise moral equivalency in treating evil murdering totalitarians with the semi-free world and to ignore peace within countries (it is “ok” for Iraqis to be attacked by Saddam’s government, but not US forces). Had the peace movement had its way, you wouldn’t be reading blogs, you might be speaking German or Russian, as Europe would be divided between Hitler and Stalin, and the USA may have sat back and negotiated “peace” with evil. War is the second greatest evil in the world, the greatest in when governments turn on their own people.
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Ask yourself whether, truly, politicians in western democracies want war. Bush would have much preferred Saddam to have been overthrown, Libya ended its nuclear weapons programme and normalised relations with the west - which was a relief. It would be a relief if Kim Jong Il ended North Korea's weapon's programme and talked about reform and opening up. The savings to western democracies in reducing military expenditure are appealling to politicians on the left, because money can be funnelled into other spending, and the right, because it can fund tax cuts. War is risky, messy and expensive - and western democracies always fair worse because the media is uncensored - and because only in a free country can people protest against the government's side during war. Notice when the Cold War ended how the US and the UK withdraw massive forces from western Europe, shut down bases (low cost airlines fly to some of those now!), cut weapons and troop deployments - because the threat had gone.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

UK Budget yawn

I thought about what to say about this - just more tax and spend, more throwing money at the broken inefficient NHS and the education system, letting Britain slosh around on welfare, a massive inefficient regulatory behemoth of a bureaucracy, dishing out subsidies to whoever shouts the loudest.
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For all I am grateful for with Tony Blair (reforming Labour to not be an outpost of the Warsaw Pact and a solid commitment to enlightenment values and Western civilisation), Gordon Brown reminds me a lot of Michael Cullen, except I think Cullen is better. Brown doesn't ridiculously overspend or ridiculously increase taxes, he doesn't rock the boat, but bit by bit he adds on extra spending, little discounts on taxes here and there, making the state ever more complicated and ever more intrusive. The idea that people should pay for what they use where practicable, and be taxed on a fairly uniform basis is light years away from Brown or Cullen. It is a trend since the end of Thatcher and Ruth Richardson that Budgets have been about satisfying interest groups with axes to grind. Axes they grind at the expense of the silent majority.
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Britain has had its halcyon days of heady reform, which brought it back from the brink - the only thing stopping it being the poor cousin of Europe is that France, Italy and Germany are worse.
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Look at this load of pork and thieving from the budget:
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- free off peak bus travel nationwide for pensioners and disabled people;
- establishing a £1 billion health research fund;
- establishing an International Business Advisory Council;
- increase to Enterprise Capital Funds scheme;
- Money for Elite athletes training for the Olympics
- Increase road tax for large so called "more polluting" vehicles
- Increased landfill tax credit
- Fiddling of stamp duty to increase net revenue (increase threshold, remove exemptions)
- Money for developing microgeneration technology
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Yes I know Cullen does that too, but the tax system in NZ is far simpler, and the subsidies are far lower for businesses and pork. In short, more of the nonsense was ripped out under Douglas and Richardson than under Thatcher.
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£552 billion of Brit's money is being spent by Brown, that's £9200 per person, £516 billion in tax is being raised, which is £8600 per person. So it's borrow and spend. Someone's getting a good deal, since I am paying more than that in income tax alone. The single biggest item is "social protection" at £151 billion - in other words, compulsory social welfare. Health is second at £96 billion, and it continues to disappoint.
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and anyone who thinks National Insurance pays for health and pensions needs to wake up - the total revenue from national insurance contributions is £90 billion. Hiding this cost helps to ensure the average Brit thinks he is paying the full cost of the NHS from national insurance - which is a lie.
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but I did learn the median income is £24000. Translate that into $NZ and you'll see that New Zealand has low incomes, and a lower cost of living (translating £prices into NZ$ prices would drive a kiwi mad here). Dr Cullen's rich tax bracket would hit the average income earner in the UK.
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oh well, it's daylight from 7am till 6pm now :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

ETA to end terrorism

CNN reports Basque separatist terrorist movement ETA (Euskadi Ta Askatasuna) has declared a permanent "ceasefire" as of Friday (ceasefire being the word used by cowardly murderers of innocent civilians who think terrorism is akin to fighting a real war), which is about time.
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It declared a "ceasefire" a few years back that only lasted two years - although this time it appears to be genuinely permanent, a commitment to using democratic means to advance self-government for the Basque people. Frankly, given its appalling conduct in recent years, it has turned off most Basques from it. ETA was founded as a response to the oppression of the Franco regime against the Basque people, it has continued terrorist action, with five bombings last year, none of which claimed any lives.
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I'm not commending ETA at all, it has been responsible for much damage and many injuries and deaths over several decades. One of the worst was a bomb in a supermarket carpark in Barcelona in 1987 killing 21. Amnesty International has for many years called for ETA to cease terrorism. It simply is a relief that it is ending - Basque separatism was never going to happen, and with the European Union, having your own nationstate was increasingly irrelevant. Nationalism is a game played by the ignorant - it doesn't define you, it limits you.

Libertarianz influence

Ten years ago the only people you could hear talking about politicians or bureaucrats suckling off the state tit were Lindsay Perigo and Deborah Coddington, on World Service New Zealand and then Radio Liberty. It was also found in The Free Radical, and in coming years would be the language used by Libertarianz in its many press releases.
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Oswald Bastable has rightfully pointed out how wonderful the Dom Post is in using language such as "He is also young, personable if reserved, and can boast something almost no one else in Cabinet can: that he is a successful businessman and lawyer who did not spend his formative years suckling at the public teat" to describe David Parker.
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Those are words rarely heard from ACT or National - but accurate nonetheless and not the language that people beholden to the sacred state use, but the language of laissez faire free market capitalists.

Muslim religious teachers abusing children in the UK

With a story that harks back to the many cases of Catholic child abuse, the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain is claiming that thousands of Muslim children in the UK are being physically and sexually abused by their religious teachers. It wants a national register of Madrasses (Islamic schools) and greater transparency and accountability for what goes on in Madrasses. It claims some parents are preferring home tuition for fear of what will happen to their children in some schools. The Muslim Parliament, by the way, is a non-governmental forum, and it is indeed courageous, but only right that it speaks out about this - shaming and hopefully encouraging an end to such practices. According to The Independent, around 100,000 children attend Madrasses in the UK - for their sake, those who commit abuse should be swiftly removed from the schools, and parents and children told that they don't need to tolerate this barbarity.

Diesel tax evasion in the UK

The UK has the highest rate of diesel tax in Europe, ostensibly to help pay for roads, but in reality most of the revenue goes to government for general spending. One thing New Zealand truck, bus and diesel car owners should be grateful for is road user charges. All revenue from road user charges is dedicated by law to the National Land Transport Fund. Most of that revenue goes on roads, with the remainder going to help subsidise public transport, pay for Police enforcement of traffic laws and those road safety ads you see. Because road user charges vary according to vehicle weight and configuration, and are charged by distance, they are an effective form of user pays that means trucks pay their way in terms of wear and tear on state highways (and half in terms of local roads, as councils pay the rest from rates). You can argue about what the money is spent on, but the money is dedicated to transport (unlike all of the petrol tax).
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However in Europe, the vastly differing levels of diesel tax means there is a black market in smuggling diesel across borders. Trucks with extra large fuel tanks enter the UK and siphon diesel to buyers at vastly reduced cost. In addition, other trucks legally enter the UK and drive on British roads without paying any British tax, effectively using them for free, competing unfairly with British truck operators.
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The UK tax is 47p per litre, that's NZ$1.32 a litre of tax alone!! That is 70% of the cost of the fuel. The EU average is 22p per litre (around NZ$0.62). There are different rates for industrial and residential use compared to road use. Smugglers are selling diesel to British truck operators at around 50p a litre compared to up to 1.04p a litre at the pump.
The solution? Well the Blair government had one - it was going to replace much of the diesel tax (the EU has legal MINIMUM levels of fuel tax that Britain couldn't go below) with a road user charge system for trucks. The trucks would pay by distance and weight, as they do in New Zealand and, in exchange, get fuel tax and licence fee (road tax) refunds. It got held up in bureaucratic red tape, and another move to harmonise fuel tax in the EU at one, lower level was opposed by the House of Lords because it would cost £2 billion in revenue and it thought it wouldn't be good for the environment.
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What rot. The diesel tax smugglers are legitimately bypassing a punitive tax which is stealing from the British road transport industry to fund anything BUT roads in Britain. The UK road transport industry supports tolls because it would mean foreign truck operators would pay the same as they do - but Gordon Brown and Tony Blair are into tax and spend, and the British public likes paying for an unproductive bureaucracy.

French socialists punish ipod and itunes for success


Having managed to achieve unemployment rates of 10%, forecast GDP growth of 1.9%, GDP per capita (on PPP basis) not far above Spain and New Zealand – the anti-success Nazis in France want to punish Apple for the success of the iPod.
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Apple, after years of being ranked as the poor cousin of the IT sector, has had stunning success with the iPod, because it offered people a convenient, easy to use way of storing and listening to vast quantities of music. In association with that is iTunes, Apple’s online music store providing a legal way to buy songs to play on your iPod. However, the French Parliament says this is “anti-competitive” – as if the French Parliament ever produced a single thing that made people’s lives better without stealing it from someone in the first place.
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CNN and the NZ Herald reports The French Parliament has passed a law forcing Apple to effectively open up its anti-copying technology so that iTunes songs can be played on players other than iPods, the same would apply to Sony and its Walkmans and music store.
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Thieving Vichy-like bullies. France has produced much that is good in the world, and has food and wine that is immeasurably better than much of the salty sugary fat laden slop in Britain. They have healthier attitudes to alcohol, sex and aesthetics - I understand why the French can be arrogant about what is French. The language is far more beautiful than most and the passionate "joie de vivre" of the French is an example to the world, compared to the inert mind numbing nihilism of Anglo-Saxons, unless they are drunk and become either obnoxious or perverted. The French don't have page 3 girls in grotty tabloids, because it is no big deal for a woman to show her breasts off on the beach - it is just a fact of life, neither repressed nor obsessed.
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Unfortunately, a great attitude to life is not matched by a lauding of commercial success. Yes innovation is lauded, the French were one-half of the team that made Concorde, the TGV high speed train, its commitment to nuclear power and the Millau Viaduct.
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but IT? Sorry. You see IT innovators that aren't focused on major infrastructure or defence don’t reside in France much, as the tax and regulatory regime punishes success – why should Apple have bothered when the parasitical little busybodies in the French Parliament think those who DIDN’T invent the idea, didn’t make it successful ought to profit from it at Apple’s expense. .
Do you really think there would be iPods, Walkmen, compact discs, cassettes, DVDs, video cassettes or LPs if you let politicians decide? No. They would spend umpteen years arguing about whether it would be too expensive for the poor, whether not enough local content would be available for people to listen to – or whether the machines should have local songs already on them before they are sold blah blah blah.
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France wants the Eurosocialist Union to support such a law – given France’s less than enthusiastic adoption of most European liberalisation measures (ever wondered why France has virtually no low cost airlines?) – the EU should tell France to bugger off and consider liberté as least as much as fraternité and equalité.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Abortion

PC has posted some thoughts recently about this, but I have one.....
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Being libertarian I am naturally inclined to believe that up to a certain point - abortion on demand, but not publicly funded, should be allowed. That certain point is when the foetus can either be viable outside the womb or when a conscious faculty exists.
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So... abortion on demand - it is ok to abort a foetus because it is female or male.
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Comfortable with that? I'm not - but I'm not prepared to use the law to stop it. I think many doctors would refuse to do it, but it makes you think.

Auckland's socialist transport czars

Mike Lee and Dick Hubbard both want you to pay for electrifying Auckland's rail network, whether or not you'll ever use it, you might be in Wellington, Wanganui, Whakatane or Winton, and regardless of whether there are net economic benefits in doing it.
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Both are under the delusion that somehow, a network that the Prime Minister once described as being so good that "most Aucklanders don't live within coee of a railway station", will relieve Auckland traffic congestion. No proper peer-reviewed modelling has been carried out that demonstrates this beyond a tiny margin of error.
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Dr Cullen has said the government (you) will pay the full cost of double tracking the Western rail line and other track improvements that are essential if the system is going to run at any reasonable frequency - while Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) will have to pay for station and train upgrades itself. Fare paying passengers can't even pay for the cost of running the trains (around 20%) so don't even think anyone wants them to pay for the upgrade. Clearly the private sector doesn't think it could attract many motorists or bus passengers so it wont invest. So the question is why should you?
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Well you Aucklanders elected Regional Council Chairman Mike Lee and Mayor Dick Hubbard - they want your income taxes and GST to pay for a big electric railway. They think Wellington is getting a better deal, when in fact it is only getting $65 million of taxpayers money for its rail system (the rest comes from a fare increase, rates and is approved funding from Land Transport NZ from petrol tax). Somehow electrified railways reduce urban sprawl - which is apparently bad -far better to have people live on tower blocks near railway stations (although few MPs or Aucklanders want to do that).
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Lee and Hubbard should butt out - Auckland's congestion is hampered by them both managing most of Auckland's road network not as a business, but as a political toy. If they want to see how public transport can work, they might look at the bus stations partly funded by North Shore City Council along the Northern Motorway. The car parks are filling up every morning as bus services, run by private companies (albeit some subsidised) get patronised - and that is before completion of the busway that will speed them past the traffic congestion approaching the bridge.
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If Hubbard and Lee stopped thinking about flash shiny sexy trains and thought about simple measures to improve the efficiency of the existing roading network, they could make quite a difference to Auckland traffic. If they supported replacing petrol tax with variable user charges it would make an enormous difference. The ARC will hold up the Avondale extension of SH20 because it supports a route that is 33% more expensive with little difference in traffic effect - Auckland City Council opposed the Victoria Park Viaduct duplication project, until Transit changed plans to make it a tunnel, effectively doubling that cost - and you think these bodies are good custodians of your money?
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but they wont support user pays - they are socialists - bent on making you pay for what they want other people to use.
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Nowhere has a new world (North American/Australasian) city invested in new rail and reduced traffic congestion, and spending a fortune on a railway to take people to where only 12% of Auckland jobs are certainly wont do it.

Bush will defend Israel

As he should. Iran should understand that in no uncertain terms the price of an Iranian attack upon Israel will be an attack in kind from Israel and the US.

The Daily Telegraph quotes him "I see a threat in Iran. The threat is, of course, their stated objective to destroy our strong ally Israel. I've made it clear and I'll make it clear again, that we will use military might to protect our ally Israel,"
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This should be wholeheartedly endorsed by the EU and New Zealand, among others. Iran’s threats to eradicate Israel are contrary to the much loved UN Charter, and hardly peace-loving. May any leftists who hate Israel consider that attacks on Israel don’t discriminate between Jews, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs. Israel has never had aggressive intent against Iran.
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The point of Bush’s message is clear – it is futile for Iran to develop nuclear weapons, for if it does it will at the very least face war with the US if it uses them, at the very least may risk air strikes to destroy them. The mullahs in Iran should be overthrown by the Iranian people, but barring that there should be a clear deal – open up your nuclear programme to inspections, make peace with Israel, cease supporting international terrorism – and an end to sanctions and renewal of diplomatic relations. There is a path to peace, Iran can embrace it - the so-called "peace movement" should be encouraging it along that path.
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UPDATE: Oops I typed Iran instead of Israel at the top DOH!

Quotes from Stalin


Next time you see a successful company kowtow to government, apologise for its success, seek to be regulated and show guilt for selling products to customers at a price they are willing to pay and profiting from it, think of this quote:
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"When we hang the capitalists they will sell us the rope we use. "
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Alexander Lukashenko learnt from Stalin:
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"It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything. "
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and finally, why free speech matters:
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"Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas. "

Brave people in Minsk remain defiant against duckling strangler


Today, several hundred demonstrators remain in the centre of Minsk protesting the “elections” which saw Belarussian dictator Alexander Lukashenko get re-elected with a supposed 82.6% of the vote. The EU, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the White House have both condemned the outcome, saying the election was severely flawed. Russia and an observer from the Commonwealth of Independent States both claimed the elections were open and transparent – well freedom and transparency are not hallmarks of the Putin regime.
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It is unlikely that this protest will achieve change, too many Belarussians are resigned to their lot, and it is a hefty ask to sit in weather that tops -2 degrees Celsius during the day and as cold as 13 below overnight. However, there are some determined to defy the evil bully Lukashenko’s declaration that he would strangle them like ducklings. Besides being an evil thug, saying such a thing upsets small children – who wants to visualise ducklings being strangled?
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They are cute after all.

Socialist Britain protecting who

A couple of minor gripes:
1. My girlfriend injured her shoulder over the weekend, tried to find a doctor - "oh there isn't an appointment for 2 weeks", "you need three forms of ID including photo ID", "oh we can't see you till April". That's the precious NHS - because you see, GPs are "free" in the UK, so you can't see one when you are injured or sick - she was better off ringing an ambulance (for what is probably a bruised muscle) and going to accident and emergency - except she DID ring the hospital and was told it would be around 4 hours before she was seen. 4 hours!! This is what the Labour Party is so frigging proud of, a system that costs a fortune in taxes, which doesn't deliver when you need it. Where you can't find a private GP easily (they aren't allowed to advertise and the NHS helpline wont tell you who they are) , and the public ones treat you like you're applying for a Swiss passport or have you queuing up for weeks because it's not convenient that you're sick or injured today. I had the same thing happen with a chest infection last year, rang one NHS doctor to find I could be seen in about 10 days, rang another who wasn't there and rang a third who had a even longer waiting list because the masses were getting flu jabs.
2. Health and safety nazis stop a girl with a cut finger getting a plaster because "some kids might be allergic to them" part of the wisdom of council safety guidelines in Somerset - YET, this morning at my local tube station, because the exit side of the lift doors are closed (due to footpath maintenance outside the building), people at peak times are entering and exiting from the same doors. The doors are only open for enough time for one of those movements so as people go in they keep closing on your shoulders - fine for me, but if I was a child or elderly then I'd get whacked by them while some irritating school-ma'amish South Asian voice says "doors closing stand clear". Braindead fucking tube company - how about reprogramming the doors to stay open for longer, or how about the stupid council NOT undertaking footpath maintenance in peak times.
Please stop reading if you get upset at strong language, then click here.
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FUCK this stupid egalitarian socialist system. How fucking long do you have to be off work and ill before you can get service. How fucking long does someone work 2.2 days a week to pay taxes and "national insurance" and find it doesn't deliver unless you plan to be sick at a certain time or have a heart attack or accident. How many people in this country are ill because they can't be arsed wasting their time on waiting lists and how many people are seeing doctors because they have a snotty nose? All I know is this - in New Zealand, which is not exactly the land of free market medicine - the GPs are all private. People on low incomes or the elderly or children of the rich and poor get subsidised treatment, but I can usually get a doctor's appointment within 24 hours. Yes I would pay the equivalent of around £15 for the visit - but it did the trick. I also swapped doctors and lo and behold, I didn't have to take my passport, driver's licence or anything else to prove I'm not trying to steal from the system I am forced to pay for.
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The NHS is a frigging joke unless it is emergency time - wake up Britain - give up this fantasy that having all healthcare for free is working. Why don't you free GPs from the shackles of state control and let them charge you - pay for it - it will be better.
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and yes I know I can leave.

Monday, March 20, 2006

It's for the children - state surveillance is only to protect them

How ridiculous it is to oppose doing something that is good for children, stupid hysterical idiots bringing up nonsense of privacy when it is childrens' lives at stake and how best to help them.
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So the Commissar for the Next Generation Cindy Kiro has her little fascist bureaucrat eyes on a single ID for all children - so that she can put her maternal loving arms around your kids, because - you see- you're not competent enough to know what's best. You see we apparently have the third highest child homicide rate in the developed world - and that means your kids need to lose their privacy for life.
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"Oh, but these issues can be managed". Of course, who wouldn't trust education, health, justice authorities to use data collected fairly - nothing wrong with them all knowing about your kids, after all "you have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide". That, of course, justifies random searches of people's homes without warrants, or any state invasion of privacy.
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So how is this meant to protect your kids from abuse? Well you see, Police and CYFS seem incapable of identifying children at risk of abuse - odd really, since the worst cases mostly appear to be committed by convicted criminals as it is. Odd further that the people who do so are often welfare beneficiaries, who the state should be checking up on to see if they are looking for work and trying to get out of the rut they are in. I am not saying it is an easy job, but giving all kids a national ID is a bit like saying we should fingerprint everyone, because we might then be able to match a few crimes to suspects we don't know yet. It is presuming that every child is at risk, which is nonsense - most parents do a perfectly reasonable job of raising their kids - certainly better than the state does when it holds them in its custody.
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Kiro says ""If there is glue ear, or major issues about safety at home, then people do not learn properly. All the little bits need to come together." So glue ear means the kids are being abused does it? How do you know about "major issues about safety at home", unless the state has released convicted rapists, child abusers and murderers out and allowed them to live with children again. What is most disturbing is the phrase "all the little bits need to come together" as if bureaucrats can piece together what is about to happen. When they get it wrong it can be devastating - consider when families are split up because some busybody social worker thought that a child was being abused, and the parents (usually fathers) were guilty till proven innocent. The state rarely compensates for getting that wrong.
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You pay for Kiro and your pay for more of the incompetent abusive parents than you'd like to, and you pay for David Benson Pope, who is "seeking advice on how to set up such a scheme", not even evaluating the merits.
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Before even contemplating treating everyone's children at risk, the state might think about offering judges the option of sentencing murderers, rapists, child molesters and other serious violent criminals to be denied custody of children for life. In other words, you have lost your right to be a parent when you acted violently against another.
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For all of the allegations of DBP bullying, this is far more disturbing than any of that - because it means a national ID system for the whole country, in due course. You see all you need is to implement it for immigrants (you know those suspicious aliens who might change jobs without informing the authorities - deport them!) and within a generation, you all have a national ID - like Malaysia, Belarus, North Korea.
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