Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dunne full of it on Transmission Gully

Remember his only policy? Well, setting aside the debate about the Western Corridor plan – which exists. Peter Dunne has told a few porkies about the State Highway forecast just released by Transit. Check out the Wellington section (42kb) or the whole document (3.5mb) to see that I am right.
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He says “the Gully route is now at the top of Transit New Zealand's Wellington roading construction programme” No it’s not. Table 2 of the Forecast indicates that next year $5.12 million is being spent on investigation of this project. It also indicates that the Dowse to Petone Interchange on SH2 is at the top of new projects for construction – in fact it is the only major new project that is likely to get construction funding in 2006/07. So Dowse to Petone is at the top, followed by Basin Reserve interchange, then investigation and design for Transmission Gully. They are listed in priority order. There is no construction funding in the next ten years. Why? Because there isn’t the money for it, and Transit wont know the costs with enough certainty until it has finished the $10 million investigation phase.
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He confirmed with Finance Minister Dr Michael Cullen in Parliament today that it was the confidence and supply agreement between United Future and the Labour-led Government that enabled the Government to set aside the necessary funding in the last Budget.” That funding was $80 million for investigation and design – not construction, except the finishing of the environmental tree planting to avoid runoff, but as I said, that was approved five years ago – United Future wasn’t part of the government then. The necessary funding for construction does not exist.
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Dr Cullen further confirmed that the Wellington Regional Council's view that there would be no decision on constructing the Gully motorway for at least five years was not consistent either with the confidence and supply agreement nor Transit's announcement.”
Actually it is consistent with Transit’s announcement. Read the 10 year State Highway forecast Peter, there is nothing in there specifically about construction of Transmission Gully – and given the size of the project, it will take about five years of investigation and design to get a billion dollar motorway costs and specifications sorted out to go to tender. Although Transit has said “The construction of Transmission Gully Motorway has been included in the corridor plan, but is subject to a funding plan being finalised by the region. Funding for investigation and preliminary design has been included in the 10-year forecast. Initial work on this will begin immediately but full development will be contingent on a funding plan being approved.” The tables do not show a construction symbol within 10 years. So you will be waiting at least that long.
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Sorry Peter, Transmission Gully wont be getting built at the next election, and it wont be built at the one after that. It certainly is impossible to get it started within five years, as this would be the largest most expensive roading project in the country’s history – and the big risk is cost. It is $1 billion now, what if, as is likely, it is $1.5 billion in 5 years? Then the current level of funding will only buy you a third of it – and tolls 5% of the cost. Then what Peter? Might you start to admit that your single highest profile policy obsession needs rethinking?
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Oh and by the way Peter, the regional council has next to nothing to do with this, unless you want it to raise regional rates or be responsible for introducing congestion pricing - and if it that happened, why would you need Transmission Gully?

Darnton v Clark

Helen Clark and the Labour caucus are being sued by Bernard Darnton, claiming breaches of the Constitution Act 1986, Public Finance Act 1989 and Bill of Rights 1688.
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Bernard has a blog with all of the details here, which PC and David Farrar have also blogged about.
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When governments elsewhere use taxpayers money to fund party political material, money unavailable to other parties, it is called corruption. It is not best practice in a modern liberal democracy. However, the Labour party is happy to go along with it. Quite simply, had the boot been on the other foot - and National had done this before winning an election, Labour would be baying for blood - and rightfully so.
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Integrity in New Zealand politics is what MMP was meant to bring. That's why Labour uses your money to sell its vote to you, but wouldn't let the other parties do the same. Furthermore, this is why Winston says he believes in one law for all, but then votes against it.
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The case basically says that Labour used taxpayers money for purposes for which it was not appropriated.
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The PM has sideswiped this for far too long. I hope that at least National and ACT will support this.
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I'm placing it on my blogroll - it will be worth watching. PC says all the details about the case will be in the first copy of the relaunched Free Radical, which you can subscribe to here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Racism in Parliament and Winston's betrayal


"The purpose of this Act is to amend the principal Act to remove the
Government’s exemption in respect to discrimination on grounds of race or
ethnicity in the provision of goods and services."

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Radical isn't it. Imagine it as being a Bill to abolish apartheid in South Africa, or in the 1960s in the USA. No.
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It was the Human Rights (One Law for All) Amendment Bill, a private members Bill introduced by Rodney Hide. I bet if you polled New Zealanders, you'd get a majority in favour of it.
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Now you expect the Maori Party, Greens and Labour to vote against it. All are long time advocates of state racism. As much as Labour has tried to refashion itself as being about need not race, few truly believe this.

National supported the Act Bill. Good.

United Future didn't - so Peter Dunne remains the conservative extension of the Labour Party and little more. Statements about race based legislation before the election were for nothing.
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However, most hypocritically, NZ First didn't support it. Remember one "reason" Winston is a Minister outside Cabinet, is so NZ First can actually criticise the government according to its policies and principles. Remember also that this Bill was not a matter of confidence and supply, and that it would have been defeated anyway with the Labour, Greens, Maori, United Future numbers.
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Let me quote this from Winston Peter's speech on 31 July 2005 last year "New Zealand First is the only choice for change when it comes to tackling race based funding." or when he said "At the next election voters will have a choice of uniting as one nation or continuing down the present path of racial separatism." at his speech to the party convention 31 October 2004 .
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Winston is so full of bullshit.

Dummies guide to the National Land Transport Programme


Various journalists HAVE published in the morning papers about how this region and that region are about to get certain roads built in the coming financial year because Land Transport NZ - the government's land transport funding body - has just released its National Land Transport Programme. Invariably they will get things rather wrong.
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So here it is:
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  1. In the next year, the government intends to net $1.81 billion from your road user charges, motor vehicle license/registration fees and the fuel tax dedicated to the National Land Transport Fund. It also intends pumping in another $538 million from the Crown account - this is equal to all the rest of the petrol tax that you pay that used to get spent on everything else. So as of 1 July, you can actually say, for the first time ever, that all of the money collected from road users is being spent on land transport. The total funding being spent is now 90% more than it was 4 years ago - while you may say this is good, the growth has clearly been inflationary in the construction sector as road project prices go through the roof.
  2. Land Transport NZ decides how this money is spent based on bids from Transit and local authorities. Transit and local authorities cannot make Land Transport NZ fund anything, and both get turned down from time to time, or get less than they ask for. So Transit actually funds nothing, virtually all of its money has to be approved by Land Transport NZ.
  3. The National Land Transport Programme is Land Transport NZ's INDICATIVE allocation of funding, by activity class, for the next year. Most projects listed in the Programme are either already approved in the past year, or MAY be approved in the coming year. Approvals are made on a case by case basis for projects over a certain. It is NOT approval for big state highway projects, it does NOT mean certain projects are definitely going ahead - but it does mean that they COULD be funded, if the final bid is up to scratch, costs haven't blown out and there aren't other pressing priorities (i.e. natural disaster sucking up emergency road funding).
  4. For the first time it now integrates funding for Police traffic enforcement and safety education campaigns, so that tradeoffs can be made between building roads or improving safety through education or enforcement of traffic rules.
  5. About $324 million is allocated to public transport, walking/cycling, rail/sea freight and travel demand management (i.e. not roads), around 16% of the total. The Greens will say it is not enough, but this is over three times the proportion that used to go into those activities when the Nats were in power. Half the reason it isn't more is because in some cases councils are bidding for crap projects, or they want a higher proportion of subsidies Remember also that most of that funding only cover half of the cost of the subsidy, the other half of the subsidy comes from councils, and there are costs paid for by users through fares. Road users fully pay the costs of state highways - the majority of public transport users are subsidised by those road users.
  6. Almost everything local authorities get funding for from this has to be part funded by them, which means your rates. Your rates may be paying from anything between 55% to as little as 13%.

Now compared to other countries where politicians decide ever project that gets funded, this system is a vast improvement - but with the Crown money being inserted, specifically to go to specific regions, with Ministers saying what that money is expected to fund, this is getting a bit blurred. The Greens will say that road building is pointless and the roads will be empty soon - noticed that happening have you? Labour will think this enormous spend up is fulfilling all everyone ever wanted.

So will the National Party or ACT criticise the politicisation of funding? Maybe they will criticise the end of benefit/cost ratios as the determining factor for funding projects (it is now only one factor). Maybe they will suggest it would be better if the highways at least were run by the private sector, as is starting to happen in the US, with a direct relationship between what road users pay and what they get in service, or maybe they'll just moan that certain porkbarrel roads they think are important aren't getting funded quickly enough. *snort*

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Get the National Land Transport Programme in full or for regions here.

Get Transit's State Highway Plan for the next year here.

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UPDATE 1: I am disappointed again at the shoddy journalism. For starters:

Rebecca Quilliam in Stuff said "For the first time Transit's funding includes $224 million for police road enforcement". Um no, Transit doesn't allocate the funding and hasn't for ten years now - sheesh learn about what you write - and it doesn't have anything to do with "police road enforcement". The NZ Herald makes exactly the same mistake.

and "Auckland's roads are to get 26.7 per cent – or a $558.7 million cut." Really? Given that this figure comes from a table that includes $146.9 million for passenger transport (and lesser amounts for other non road activities) it is more like $400 million - in fact had you taken 30 seconds to read up the table, you'd have SEEN that figure. The NZ Herald makes the same stupid mistake.

and "A significant amount of funding will be spent on projects including the Manukau Harbour Crossing " Actually no money for that has been approved, and what has been indicated that MAY be approved, is a tiddling $17.4 million on investigation and design - not construction.

and "At least $33.46 million has been put aside for construction of new state highways, which will include helping to build the Transmission Gully motorway. " She means for Wellington, and she means upgrades not NEW state highways, and no - virtually nothing about construction for Transmission Gully, but around $10 million MAY be approved for investigation. Not construction, unless you count the $400,000 for finishing the long approved tree planting along the route to contain runoff. Sorry Rebecca, nothing dramatic there.

In the Dominion Post, Adam Ray and Colin Patterson make similar mistakes saying:

"Work worth $80 million investigating Transmission Gully, a proposed new inland motorway to enter Wellington, will begin straightaway. " Um no. Investigation costs $10 million, the other $70 million is detailed design. The $10 million is likely to be approved this year, but has not yet been approved, it wont be happening straightaway. Transit at best is putting together a bid for the $10 million identified as likely to be funded.

So where did this all come from? Easy. Reporters (not fucking journalists - journalists do more than parrot what others say) have taken, for example, this statement:


"A particular focus is on high priority Auckland projects such as the SH20 Manukau Harbour Crossing which is part of the strategic Western Ring Route."

and said instead that "A significant amount will be spent on projects including the Manukau Harbour Crossing ".

None of them understand that this is an indicative programme and actual funding is decided on a case by case basis. Wellington's Inner City Bypass was in the programme for three years, before it actually got funding, so was the ALPURT B2 motorway bypass of Orewa. The Manukau Extension of SH20 had funding approved two years ago and has yet to have a sod turned on it. Why? Don't ask me - get one of the "journalists" to ask these questions. You rely on them so much else information, tell me now that you trust them.

World Cup - sad loss of Aussie



Tomahawk Kid Graham Clark has said a lot I wanted to say on this - the refereeing was bloody awful in the Australia-Italy game, and the penalty called for which cost Australia the game was outrageous. Graham suggests that there be a video referee, as in one day cricket, who could be called upon to rule when the referee on the ground isn't certain. Italy did not deserve to win, its performance was abysmal. Australia on the other hand has gone from strength to strength, and would have been a marvellous upset - but there were certain lapses of concentration at critical moments.
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Now we are into the quarter finals and there are some reasonable bets here. Hopefully Ukraine will manage to sneak a victory this Friday against Italy - lets face it, Ukrainians need something to cheer themselves up. While if I had to, I'd put money on Italy, its performance hasn't been great. Germany vs Argentina will hopefully go to the hosts, who deserve to go foreward - plus geographically who wants a blood spat between Brazil and Argentina. Brazil will smash France, as is natural, but on Saturday England will stop and watch it play Portugal. England have gotten this far through skin of their teeth, and by being in groups where, with the possible exception of Sweden, the team has not been evenly matched - but then again, has really only scraped through. I'd be betting on England to do the same again against Portugal. Portugal won its group convincingly, defeating Mexico (and the less important Angola and Iran thankfully - who wanted the mad holocaust denying President to come over to Germany) so will not be a pushover.
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On something a little different - the official Fifa World Cup site has something called Fan of the Match. This is awarded to the passion shown of fans there. I put photos of the highest and lowest rated ones at the top, I think I can guess how they are being rated.

What to do with North Korea?


Capitalism is so awful isn't it, far better to totally reject it and adopt an approach where the profit motive is eliminated, there is full employment, everything is owned "by the people" and everyone works for the "common good". Well this photo is the result - this the success of complete socialism - North Korean style. Malnourishment of children. Meanwhile, it is developing missiles. It is of mindblowing hypocrisy that the left condemns the US for poverty and militarism, when Americans do not starve, do not get thrown in gulags at the slightest hint of opposing the regime and are not prevented from leaving, but pays little attention to the utter horror of North Korea.
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While Iran remains the number one focus of concern with nuclear proliferation, North Korea remains the biggest puzzle. 56 years ago on Monday, North Korea launched its overwhelming attack on South Korea following the US withdrawal of troops from the South, and with the egging on of Stalin and Mao. It continues to deny that this is what happens, despite Soviet archive evidence confirming it. North Korea has admitted that it has nuclear weapons, whether or not this is a bluff is unclear, and will remain so until North Korea conducts a test. Hopefully that will not happen.
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North Korea is an enormous threat to South Korea, Japan and the US. It has a standing army of 1 million vs 650,000 in South Korea, and you can be sure that after the top echelons of the leadership and the secret police, the armed forces get fed and looked after. Sure it does not have the high tech weapons systems that the US possesses, but it does not really need them. It would take half an hour for North Korean troops to reach Seoul by road, and under ten minutes for missiles to hit it. It possesses large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and one of its biggest exports is arms. There is little doubt that North Korea has the potential to kill millions in South Korea in days, either as a first strike or in response to any military attack.
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That is why an attack on North Korean military facilities is out of the question. It would almost certainly start a second Korean War, and you can be sure that not only South Korea, but Japan and possibly Alaska or Hawaii would also be subjected to attack (although I would bet on US ABM capabilities over North Korean missiles anyday). The cost in lives in South Korea and Japan would be enormous, and hardly worth it. North Korea has sabre-rattled for decades, launched minor border skirmishes, attacked boats and engaged in terrorism (although that ended after the Cold War) , but has not launched another war and its number one motive is survival. Kim Jong Il is no fool - he knows that if he launched any attack on the south, he is finished if he launched a nuclear attack, the US, south Korea and a substantial coalition of the willing would finish off North Korea. China would not step in to save him.
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He is using nuclear weapons to do two things. Firstly, to deter an Iraq style attack by the US. While the odds of the US attacking first have always been very remote, nuclear capability rules it out. Remember this nuclear capability was being pursued well before this Bush administration, and reflected more the end of security guarantees from the USSR and China, and the evidence from the Gulf War of US military superiority over the 1960s era military of Iraq.
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Secondly, North Korea wants to be noticed. Its economy is virtually bankrupt, the majority of its GDP is sucked into the armed forces, which keep a significant portion of the population mobilised against the pretend foreign threat (keeps them from local issues) and much of the rest is sucked into propping up the elite (Kim Jong Il has been the world's largest individual buyer of Hennessy), and the resources poured into monuments and propaganda. It wants aid, it wants technology and it wants investment. If it did not pose a military threat, most of the world would quietly ignore it and wait for the regime to collapse.
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So what can be done? If you cannot attack North Korea, you can either maintain an icy Cold War against it, attempting to undermine it, or engage and try to reform the regime through incentives. The former means letting it gradually fall over, with the possible risk that in its dying days it lashes out with the military to bring down the south with it, the latter means using government aid to, inevitably, boost the wealth of the oppressors, rather than the oppressed.
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The first priority is to retain a tough defence and deterrence, making it clear that any North Korean first strike will mean the end of North Korea's regime. Following that needs to be espionage, to infiltrate the regime, assisting dissidents, dropping radios into the country on balloons so that the people can listen to south Korean radio and engage in a quiet process of undermining the regime. Thirdly, it is aid on our terms. Let non government agencies enter North Korea to deliver aid personally to those who need it so it is not diverted.
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Finally, dialogue. Dialogue that is not like the statement at the end of this post, but is about being realistic, behind closed doors, about the regime's long term future - this means opening up, trade zones and closing the gulags. Remember, virtually none of this dialogue will be with Kim Jong Il directly, but with others who could be a great asset if they believe the West has good will towards Korea and Koreans. The only future for North Korea is to change, to open up, and allow its brutalised, oppressed people to be freer, and to be re-educated in how to function in such a society. Give them property rights, give them choices and give them a chance to learn about their various areas of expertise/interest - instead of spending time each day learning turgid bullshit about Kim Jong Il and propaganda about the regime.
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A plan has to be developed to allow them to become free - the worst options are military attack or to wait until it collapses to respond. An attack will be unbelievably costly while it is so heavily armed and so capable of killing millions - a collapse will risk the mistakes of parts of the former USSR- anarchy dominated by the emergence of organised criminals (ex party/army) with the means to impose order.
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Oh and you think the regime cares? Well read this - it is most of a press release from the Korean Central News Agency, commenting on a high level defector's remarks about the human rights abuses in the country - the language is hilarious, and says a lot about how bizarre the world view in Pyongyang actually is. Imagine any other government using such terms to describe anyone, I have put the most outrageous in bold. Hwang Jang Yop was once President of Kim Il Sung University and Chair of the Supreme People's Assembly:
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"U.S. hard-line conservatives were reported to have arranged the visit of ugly-looking Hwang Jang Yop to the U.S. from October 27 to November 4 for such anti-DPRK burlesques as "hearing", "interviews" and a "lecture." They took him to different places to let him make malignant remarks such as "dictatorship abusing human rights" and solicit the U.S. not to offer any "security assurances" so that the political system in the DPRK may "collapse."
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As already known, Hwang, by nature, is human scum as he defected to the south in quest of profligacy and his own pleasure leaving behind his own family and relatives and unhesitatingly betraying his own motherland that had protected his own life. It is not hard to guess what such a runaway would say as he has inveterate bitterness towards the system in the DPRK. His jargon is the shrill cry on his deathbed.
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What matters is that the neo-conservatives in the U.S. earnestly waited for him and arranged all sorts of "interviews" almost everyday during his visit to hear that dirty and silly guy talk nonsense. Leading members of the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, senior officials of the State Department and leading officials concerned of the Department of Inter-Security and other neo-conservatives in the U.S. vied with one another to hear him just as bluebottles gathered around rotten meat.
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They seemed to have nothing to do. They arranged "hearings" one after another to listen to Hwang who can hardly be considered as a human being as he is unable to make an objective judgement of reality, bereft of faculty of independent thinking. This is really enough to make even a cat to laugh. It is deplorable that those who puff themselves up in the political circle in the U.S. behaved so. This proves that they are worse than Hwang, the human trash without an equal in the world.

Death of Aaron Spelling


Aaron Spelling died on Friday following a severe stroke he experienced on 18 June.
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He produced hundreds of TV series and episodes, including Starsky and Hutch, Charlie’s Angels, Fantasy Island, Hart to Hart, Dynasty, The Love Boat, Melrose Place and most recently, Charmed.
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Now none of these will ever be seen as brilliances of drama or comedy, but he was instrumental in creating a genre of storytelling with drama and comedy that was immensely successful and popular. That popularity was due to it being light entertainment – who can forget Mr Roarke and Tattoo on Fantasy Island (pictured), which I remember watching as a child, or the cheesy Love Boat.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Cindy "Stalin" Kiro’s approach to child abuse


There is another world that some people inhabit – a world where the state can solve everything, and everything bad is nobody’s fault, just the system doesn’t ensure that things “fall through the cracks”. It is the world of Childrens’ Commissioner Cindy Kiro, and if ever there was an argument for abolishing this role and keeping Dr Kiro far from any public policy role, this is it.
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She is rightly concerned about child abuse, but what stands out a mile is her solution and her view of the perpetrators in her official press release.
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For the solution, she has said:
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“I am calling for the creation of a plan for every child so that no one falls through the gaps. These plans would mean that educational, health and safety information would be shared and assessed in a consistent way.”
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Yes, rub your eyes. A plan for every child. The state will now truly be a parent, not only for those on welfare, but for every child. How do you plan a child’s education? How about health? Does this include diet? Safety? Do your kids ride bikes without helmets, climb trees, use electrical devices? Do you have smart kids who are highly responsible, or really stupid ones? Imagine that – a plan. You need a lot of bureaucrats to set up plans and monitor them, though who knows if there will be enforcement? It does mean that all sorts of aspects of parenting could be questioned – do you allow your children to watch adult rated TV? Do you discriminate under the Human Rights Act in front of your children? Do you smoke near them? Do you allow them to taste wine? Chilling isn’t it – a politically correct Cindy Kiro vision of the state planning a child’s life – all for the child’s good you understand. Not quite Brave New World – but do you want a bureaucrat establishing a plan for your child?
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Then she says: “A key benefit of the integrated framework is that all professionals will be required in their assessments to take account of the child’s life in the context of the families and communities in which they live.”
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So teachers marking kids’ school work will have to “take account of the child’s life”? “It’s ok, little Johnny comes from a poor semi-literate family, so we will scale up his English marks to a B even though he performed at a D”. What the hell does this really mean Dr Kiro?
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Finally- you know how violent abusive parents kick and beat their children up, and are cruel and deliberately malicious? Well ACTUALLY how stupid could you be. It isn’t THEIR fault they torture and kill their kids. See Dr Kiro says:
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“It’s time to stop the blaming and ask ourselves how these children escaped the safety net that was available to their parents.”

So not only DON’T blame the perpetrators – not THEIR fault they are evil, but how did the children escape the safety net AVAILABLE TO THEIR PARENTS? What the hell is that? “Hey kids how did you escape this safety net we abusive violent thoughtless parents have to rescue you”? Imagine if this was describing a man who abducts and rapes a child, and you said “don’t blame him – find out how the child escaped the safety net available to the rapist”. This is fundamentally corrupt of reason and morality.

Dr Kiro – the abusers are to blame, fully and completely. Most New Zealand parents are not like that, they are not to blame. The safety net is not available to perpertrators – these parents are vile, disgusting, lowlife and your failure to acknowledge this minimises this crime, and minimises the responsibility they have for what they do.
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She concludes “In future we need to put in place a plan for each child from the day that they are born so that children don’t fall through the gaps again.”
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No we don’t Dr Kiro – leave good parents alone, put abusive parents in prison and prevent them from ever having custody again - stop subsidising bad parents with money taken from good ones – and while you're at it, buy a ticket to Pyongyang – you’ll find your ideas of planning children’s lives working a treat. Please also state how many children you have saved from abuse as Commissioner for Children - I doubt if it is as high as 1.

Why law and the state can only do so much for children.

Cactus Kate has the case of the Kahui twins in one. What pieces of shit.
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A "closely knit family" who Mafia like are now keeping their mouths shut about who murdered these two. This happens time and time again, and it is only the kids who die that we get to hear about. How many get brain damaged, or get badly injured and just go through life without a chance?
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Tariana Turia is no better. As Lindsay Mitchell has noted Turia's comments:
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"She says the case points up the need for better understanding of families under pressure."
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What evil appeasing nonsense. This is possibly one of the most endemic problems for Maori - the abuse within families that goes unspoken, protected and shielded- the risk of being disowned and ostracised by families for speaking up and talking to the Police about Uncle Charlie the rapist or Aunt Sheila who kicks her kids. Close extended families can be both a blessing and a hell.
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I understand the Kahui's - they care as much about their kids as any child abuser - this family is not a family, it is a bunch of dysfunctional adults abusing children. The children should be taken away and there should be a sentence which bars anyone convicted of physical abuse of children from having custody of anyone under 16. Remove the children, adopt them out. I want to hear no bleating and cries of "breaking up the family" - the people who procreated these children have lost the right to be parents.
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A recent commentary on the BBC talking about proposals to introduced Megans law (which would publish names and addresses of convicted sex offenders) mentioned how ineffective it would be - because the vast majority of these cases happen in families, where there is permanent name suppression to protect the victims. In other words, you might know if Bob next door molested a child 20 years ago, but you wouldn't know about it if it had been his daughter or son. It also only covers sex offences - you wont know if Bob used to punch his 6yo boy about, or even battered his ex.wife. If you met him in a pub, you wouldn't know if Bob molested or kicked his sisters.
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Most child abuse isn't stranger danger - it is family danger (83% of sex offences are not committed by strangers to the victim) - and much of that is in families who don't even give a damn anyway. How can it happen once in a family where the other parent is watching out for the child, or where the child can turn to someone for help? Look at the Kahui family, who of them really gives a fuck?

50 years of US Interstate highways


While New Zealand embarks on its biggest road building binge since the 1960s, it is worth noting that it is 50 years ago this month since President Eisenhower signed the Federal Aid Highway Act which committed the US Federal Government to embark on building a US wide network of interstate highways - and I mean REAL highways - at least 4-lanes, with no intersections (just on and off ramps) and bypassing towns and cities where possible. The Federal government committed to paying 90% of the cost, with states covering the rest.
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Now the US has 75,440km of interstate highways (and many more thousands of kilometres of state highways and urban freeways).
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This enormous state spending did several things. On the good side, it spurred an enormous amount of economic growth, allowed the development of logistics and linked the US together in ways the railroad network never did. No doubt the building of large 4-lane highways with median strips and no intersections has saved tens of thousands of lives from the prevention of accidents - although it also encouraged the growth in motoring on a wide scale as well.
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However, and this should be of particular interest to environmentalists, it was also a subsidy for road transport - a subsidy that helped to precipitate the fast demise of profitable privately owned passenger rail systems (which the federal government bought out in the form of Amtrak in the 70s) and put freight railroads under enormous pressure.
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Yes, there was a gas tax which was dedicated to the federal highways fund, a tax that from 1983 was increasingly siphoned off for public transport and general revenue, but that only pays 56% of the cost of maintaining and building the network - which is now around US$80 billion a year. Before 1956, toll roads were far more common - and federal funding of highways saw the growth of toll roads come to a grinding halt.
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So, in essence, users weren't paying. Trucks especially weren't as the gas tax didn't come close to paying for the wear and tear big rigs would place on the system - those trucks competed with the privately owned railroads. The same private railroads that jumped when the federal government bought out their passenger services in 1974, and included a handful which were taken over by the federal government in 1978 with Conrail.
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In addition, unlike the privately owned railroads, which were required by shareholders to make a profit and pay dividends - the interstate did not make a profit from users paying to use it. So investment in capital upgrades of railroads shrunk dramatically.
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Now part of Eisenhower's reason for the interstates was defence - providing an easy means to move soldiers, equipment and arms in the event of war, and to evacuate major cities in the event of an attack. The Soviet Union treated its railway system in much the same way. Some highway overpasses were designed to be high enough for ballistic missiles to be transported beneath them.
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However, it is clear that - for the usefulness and economic return the interstates have delivered, they also represented one of the biggest postwar planned interventions in the US economy.
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Much of the network might also have been built by private enterprise, had it been allowed to toll, and it may have meant the federal government need not have intervened to save railroads being put of out business by trucking and bus companies paying half the cost of their networks. The Bush Administration's policy is to promote new highways as toll roads with private investment and encouraging the states to privatise sections of highway - which, in the form of long term leases, is now happened in Indiana and Chicago. May this trend spread!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BBC can't get over Thatcher being right


The left doesn't like criticism of the BBC. For they see it as the repositary of objectivity, balance and free speech - because it so often reflects, primarily, their view of the world. The BBC is like the Guardian - except that the Guardian isn't state subsidised, and there is no Telegraph or Times to counterbalance it (ITV News is more leftwing and vapid than the BBC, Channel 4 is closer to the Independent as far as newspapers go).
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However, the BBC's ability to act, on the one hand like a commercial broadcaster, paying exhorbitant salaries to personalities to stop them being lured by private broadcasters, and on the other re-write history.
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Simon Heffer in the Daily Telegraph explains how, in a recently produced drama by the BBC, Margaret Thatcher is depicted as "a bellicose drunk, demolishing whiskies and importuning other guests for refills". As Heffer has known Thatcher personally for many years, he testifies to having never seen her drunk or asking for drinks. He claims that there is an ongoing campaign to villify Thatcher, partly through lies (such as claiming her to be a drunkard), partly through only telling one side of the story.
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He notes the lack of any conservative or free market plays, dramas or comedies on the BBC:
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"Like many viewers and listeners, I have been beaten into surrender about the dramatic and comic output of our state broadcaster. We accept, with due docility, that Right-of-centre playwrights, scriptwriters and comedians (I suppose there are such people, starving in garrets somewhere) simply cannot survive the commissioning process. "
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While the BBC claims to criticise Blair as well, that also is from a socialist perspective. He "betrayed" the Labour cause (i.e. made it electable three times), he isn't criticised for growing the state. Blair is the new Thatcher, because he got re-elected by being more palatable than the Marxists the Labour Party used to put up, like Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock.
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Heffer does offer an explanation:
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"A long-time servant of the BBC explained to me, in a moment of stunning insight, why the Leftists in that organisation, and the Leftist contributors to it, are so bilious and angry even 16 years after Lady Thatcher left office: it is because they lost. They were wrong. They were humiliated. They have become bores with nothing else to say. They were not, of course, defeated just by Lady Thatcher: the coming down of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War defeated them, too."
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Thatcher's reforms saved the British economy, and Britain has reaped the rewards of those reforms for the last decade. She also championed the fight against socialist tyranny (although sadly not fascist tyranny of Pinochet). How many journalists would have thought that by the end of Thatcher's leadership, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia would be on the verge of independence - and by now, members of the European Union. How many would have wished it?
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However most of all, her legacy has held on by "New Labour" largely not undoing what she did. Blair won by being "Thatcher-lite" - and he continues this. Heffer concludes that the BBC's mates - the Labour Party haven't delivered what the BBC would have hoped:
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"Finally, why hasn't "their" party undone all the "damage" of Thatcherism? Why do trade union laws remain unrepealed, and industries privatised? Why has there been no uprooting of the property-owning democracy? It is because she was right, and they know she was right. They cannot, however, bear to admit it. All they can do instead is tell lies, call her names and spit with rage. Don't laugh at them. Pity them."

Worship of democracy

The late Bill Weddell said “Democracy is the counting of heads, not what’s in them”. However, the sustenance of this form of government is probably best defended by Winston Churchill “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried”.
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By and large he’s right. Democracies don’t tend to go to war with each other, although a democracy needs a bit more than a vote and competing candidates. After all, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Hercegovina all had that. There needs to be “enough” free speech, “enough” open media and “enough” individual freedom that government is not above the law. It has to be genuinely possible for the incumbents to lose, and for the opposition parties and candidates to get a fair amount of coverage. This is clearly not the case in Zimbabwe, and increasingly not the case in South Africa. Because democracy demands an independent judiciary and a certain degree of free speech to function effectively, defence of democracy does provide some defence to individual freedom. Its best defence is enabling people to “vote the bastards out”, removing those who oppress them. However, this only happens if the majority are sufficiently motivated – which is typically rare.
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The Bush administration pushes democracy abroad. That, in itself, is an enormous mistake. One need only look at the Palestinian Authority and the victory of Hamas to demonstrate that the majority do, sometimes, not actually want to live in peace with their fellow men. History is full of examples of democratically elected bullies – Hitler being the most noteworthy. The Nazis won 43.9% of the vote in their last election in 1933, with their coalition partner the DNVP winning 8% (the pro Stalin Communist Party got 12.3%) Without constitutionally protected individual rights, a democracy is the chance, as PC once put it, for three wolfs and a sheep to vote on what they are having for dinner. You see this in a lesser form, with people voting for more welfare, more subsidies, protection for their business (e.g. local content quotas) or to push around people they don’t particularly like. As philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon once said:
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“Democracy is nothing but the Tyranny of Majorities, the most abominable tyranny of all, for it is not based on the authority of a religion, not upon the nobility of a race, not on the merits of talents and of riches. It merely rests upon numbers and hides behind the name of the people”
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That is why minorities are always at risk in democracy, and the smallest minority is the individual.
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PC's Cue Card Libertarianism - Democracy

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Booze and snacks to be sold on Air NZ domestic flights


Peckish and needing a drink when you next hop on that 45 minute flight from Wellington to Christchurch? Feeling that Air NZ's cup of coffee/tea, mineral water and cookie aren't enough? Can't be arsed buying food at the airport or at your destination? Well Air NZ is about to give you another option...
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According to what appears to be a staff leak on an airline forum, Air NZ is poised to announce that it will shortly start retailing alcoholic beverages, fruit juice, soft drinks and snack foods like potato chips on its domestic flights operated by jet aircraft (most flights between Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin and Queenstown). Presumably, this follows the trend of low cost carriers in Europe, and Virgin Blue/Pacific Blue in Australasia and is expected to be profitable.
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I remember back in the days of Air NZ having a monopoly on the main trunk (which was actually one of the few deregulatory moves of the Muldoon government, abolishing limits on the number of airlines that could fly on domestic routes), you got some orange drink and a cracker with the legendary unopenable cheese packet. Then Ansett turned up, and it was hot meals on domestic flights. Then alcohol arrived, and it became free on weekday evening flights. The near collapse of Air NZ saw it refocus, and decide to grow the market with cheap fares and elimination of meals (although free coffee/water and cookie is more than you get on Virgin Blue or Easyjet). Now the circle has started swinging around again, assuming this leak is true.
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I bet Cabinet Ministers miss business class on those flights. There is a website for people fascinated with airline food, just pick your airline and see pictures of what people had placed in front of them.
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UPDATE: I am betting that the usual bunch of fun-free wowsers will come out decrying this as the end of civilisation, that drunk people will be a problem on flights (ignoring free booze on Air NZ international flights) and will Sue Kedgley say it is bad for your health because there are no fresh fruit available on the flights, and besides the weight adds to aircraft emissions? Please don't - I absolutely loathe the do-gooding naysaying fun police.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Scottish independence now!


While plenty of Scots will be cheering Sweden tonight in the World Cup game against England, it is about time they were set free. Scots don't like the English very much, it is a cultural tradition almost as engrained a bigotry as the Catholic/Protestant divide in Ireland (which also exists in Scotland). So the answer is simple. Scotland should be granted independence.
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It would be the best thing for the remainder of the United Kingdom, and Scotland - in the long run (although it might pay a price for some years).
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I have always laughed at Scottish nationalists – as they have largely been a bunch of deluded socialists. The Scottish National Party website is full of specious claims that an independent Scotland would be better off, because "look at how much Ireland has grown" (ignoring that this is due to a winning combo of low tax and EU subsidies for some years). Given my Scottish heritage, my derision of Scottish nationalism has been notable (although my parents' families were Labour and Tory respectively).
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However, as a resident of the UK, living in London, it has become abundantly clear that I would be better off with Scotland being independent, and the United Kingdom comprising England, Wales and Northern Ireland (and for reasons I am about to explain, the latter two need to be on watch as well). So I am supporting the Scottish National Party in its campaign to win all of the Scottish seats in the House of Commons - even though it is a loony leftwing party dedicated to higher taxes, unilateral nuclear disarmament and a strong supporter of the European Union.
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Why? Well first there is the argument well put in the Daily Telegraph. Scottish devolution has meant that the Scottish Parliament (the building for which cost £431 million), now has power over the following matters within Scotland:
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- Agriculture, fisheries and forestry (though Brussels is as important);
- Arts and sport
- Economic development (i.e. subsidies for business, tax breaks and regulation);
- Education;
- Police/fire services and the courts (which have always been separate).
- Environment and food standards;
- Health
- Local government
- Social policy
- Transport
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Westminster still determines broadcasting, energy, defence, employment, drug policy, foreign affairs, transport safety regulation (you know those Scots would want to cut corners on their brakes!), social security, monetary policy.
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So with the Scottish Parliament deciding the former, the Houses of Parliament at Westminster decide the former for England as well, and the latter for both regions. MPs in England do not decide on funding or policy for Scottish schools and hospitals, but MPs from Scotland do decide on such matters for English schools and hospitals. This is utterly ridiculous. It is known as the West Lothian Question. The Scottish Affairs committee of the House of Commons agrees. It offered four solutions without a preference:
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- Only English MPs vote on English laws (which seems a sensible first step);
- English devolution (which essentially means a UK federation, not entirely ridiculous);
- Reduction in Scottish MPs (while some key matters are still decided at Westminster this seems unfair); or
- Dissolution of the United Kingdom.
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While ensuring English MPs only vote on English laws would be the logical step, it would have some interesting side effects in the current environment. For starters, as some solid Blair supporters are Scottish MPs, it may reduce or eliminate Blair’s ability to continue with his health and education reforms, which would be unfortunate. However, it would also kill off Gordon Brown’s hopes of being Prime Minister. What PM of the UK could be stopped from voting on some matters in the House of Commons? What PM could chair Cabinet deciding on English laws and funding for English schools and hospitals, without being able to vote on it? Well – what Chancellor of the Exchequer can prepare a budget, that to a substantial extent is not relevant to his constituents?
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So – Scotland should be independent. It would also enable the socialism of so many Scots to come to the fore, and be implemented. You see at the moment, Scottish socialism is subsidised by England. According to the Times 54.9% of Scotland’s total GDP comes from government sector. This compares to 33.4% in London – the capital – and capital cities traditionally have higher proportions of state sector GDP than the rest of the economy. This comparison is all the more stark when you see that the state sector is responsible for 51.9% of GDP in Hungary, 42.6% in the Czech Republic, 41.2% in Poland and 36.3% in Slovakia – all post-socialist economies. In China, the state sector comprises 38% of GDP! Wales and Northern Ireland are worse than Scotland, but one at a time, and Northern Ireland is a bit of a "special case".
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In short, Scotland is being propped up by the south of England (northeast England is worse at 61.5% GDP from the state!) and it should be paying for this itself. Scotland has maintained “free” university education, the company that operates rail passenger services in Scotland – Scotrail – gets the biggest subsidy, £225 million a year – of any rail operator in the UK. 16.7% of working age Scots are on welfare (which is controlled from Westminster). A relatively high proportion of the Scottish population are pensioners, which is lucky - because the health stats of Scots are shocking. As Michael Portillo (a supporter of independence) points out in the Times, in the Calton District of Glasgow, the average male life expectancy is only 53.9 years. This has everything to do with a culture of smoking, drinking to excess and eating everything deep fried in saturated fat. Scotland has introduced free personal care for the elderly and free kindergartens, and watches its public debt rise- no doubt in the expectation that a Labour government dependent on Scotland for a healthy part of its majority, or Tories keen to get their hands on such seats, wont make Scots face the reality of the cost of their socialist policies.
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So Scots should be allowed to vote for a socialist government, increase taxes and continue the flight of capital, intelligence and entrepreneurial flair that has seen Scots that emigrate around the world succeed. It may also be stroppy on fisheries in the EU, which would be welcome. Once they have grown tired of it, they may turn their back and revitalise Scotland as a small independent country with lower tax, and encourage the enterpreneurial to return.
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So I am, ironically, supporting the SNP (not directly mind you), because I reject all of its arguments for independence. It believes Scotland subsidises England. I look forward to the truth hitting Scots with the sort of sense one famous Scot once imparted – Adam Smith.
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Michael Portillo sums it up below:
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"In contrast to Scotland, Slovakia has enjoyed a growth rate over recent years averaging more than 5%. It has standardised corporate and individual tax at a flat rate of 19%...
today it seems that the thinking of Adam Smith is better respected and applied in Bratislava than in Edinburgh or his native Kirkcaldy. Perhaps Scotland could return to greatness if it severed the apron strings that bind it to England. Given its independence it would need to slash the size of its state and compete for foreign investment. Leadership would surely pass from the trade unionists and former public sector workers who fill the posts now, to those who could display the necessary dynamism. Socialism could not survive there any more than it has in eastern Europe."

Winston launches safe travel campaign

Your beloved Minister of Foreign Affairs - Winston Peters - has launched a safe travel campaign for when NZers travel overseas. This is because some fools don’t get travel insurance, go to dangerous areas and don’t like the risk, and expect the government to fix their problems.
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Well you DID vote for nanny state after all. I don’t know how I’ve survived leaving New Zealand the dozens of times I have done so.
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However, it IS slightly funny thinking how applicable this is to Winston. I once sat beside Winston on a plane, it was in business class, he was going from Wellington to Christchurch (I was connecting on international flight on to Europe) – so here is Winston’s REAL guide to safe overseas travel:
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1. Ensure local embassy/high commission of country you are visiting knows that the New Zealand Minister of Foreign Affairs is arriving, and full honours are required. This includes accommodation at palace, castle, White House, Blue House, chateau, mansion of the relevant King, Queen, President, Prince, Prime Minister. Don’t want to arrive in a country without somewhere to stay.
2. Check Michael (Cullen) has placed enough money in relevant overseas bank account to pay expenses, shopping while away. Can’t be skint!
3. Make sure only fly safest airlines in safest part of the plane – the only safe airlines are Singapore Airlines, and Emirates, as they are from very low terror risk countries, have new planes and carry less people on the flights (and are the only ones still flying to NZ with a decent first class cabin). Don't ask Helen for her plane, it isn't her plane remember? You've asked before and you can't have it.
4. Make sure enough accompanying officials travel with you, or bodyguards, to shield you from the groupies wanting to ask questions at airports. Officials can also block out seats near you on the plane.
5. Take condoms. There will always be groupies that help to ease the stress of travel. Bill Clinton made the most of this. French cabinet Ministers need this in order to retain any semblance of credibility.
6. Ensure embassy/high commission abroad has limo for safe pickup from airport. Can’t trust local public transport, taxis in such dangerous cities as Tehran, Beijing, London or Canberra. Ensure limo is also available for local trips – high likelihood of being mugged otherwise.
7. Take enough suits and shirts plus one spare for every night of travel. It is dangerous to look beneath your station.
8. Ensure accompanying officials get duty free liquor order very clear. Dangerous for them to have bought the wrong booze and you'll go blind if they buy it at Kiev Airport.
9. Take portfolio of papers to ensure credibility while travelling. Important to sit on plane or in palace looking like you are doing work, when you are actually watching a movie or listening to ipod. Can’t afford to risk media taking photos of Minister not working.
10. Don’t play croquet.
11. Always take interpreters. Foreigners don’t speak properly so it is important to have someone with you who understands it. It’s not their fault NZ is first and it could be dangerous if you don’t understand them.

ARC socialism in action


So the ARC wants to seize control of Auckland’s water off of Watercare Services Ltd. Well, if you ever needed any evidence of the ARC’s slithering slope to socialist Auckland, there is it. Not content with whacking up rates to subsidise expensive train services that are putting commercially viable bus routes out of business, not content with controlling land use, and some lunatic faith that people in the suburbs ought to live in high density housing near railway stations – rather than the affordable family houses they want – and putting up the price of housing as a result. ARC now wants to take Auckland’s water supply out of the hands of an efficient local authority owned company.
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Rodney Hide is opposing this quite rightly, and so should you. Part of the problem is that the Labour/Alliance/Green backed Local Government Act 2002 gave local authorities the power of general competence. This means ARC can now embark on whatever endeavour it wishes, as long as it consults “the community”. Since you, and most ratepayers haven’t the time to commit responding to ARC’s consultation, it inevitably gets hijacked by lunatic interest groups out to get more money off of everyone else, and the legions of unemployable ex. bureaucrats, engineers and other nutters. The other part is that YOU lot voted in a bunch of socialists.
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Watercare services should be privatised. It’s shares could be distributed among all Auckland ratepayers, and then it would be truly publicly owned.
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So what can you do? Start making submissions. Tell ARC you don't want it to grow, you don't want it to take control of Watercare Services. Instead you'd like the ARC to see how it could do less!
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This page is the ARC consultation website.
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ARC's socialism through transport also exists through its agency ARTA. ARTA wants $420 million of your money to spend on public transport, cycling and walking facilities. By no stretch of the imagination will this realise ARTA's goals of less congestion, but the mammoth spend up on new roads by the government will help. It never worked overseas, it wont work here.
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So if you don't want the ARC through ARTA to pour hundreds of millions of dollars of your money into loss making public transport, then click here and make a submission.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

BBC - biggest blowers of cash

The BBC, fresh from signing a new contract with talkshow and radio presenter Jonathan Ross for reportedly 18 million pounds for three years ( note this was because Ross is SO popular, there was a "risk" he would defect to commercial TV networks - so he would hardly be lost to the British TV viewing public), now it is revealed in the Sunday Times that the BBC has sent three times the number of people than ITV to cover the World Cup soccer. Three times!! Now the audience for the games isn't "higher" with the BBC - but hey the BBC just wants more money year after year - by force through the TV licence (which is an exhorbitant 131.50 pounds) because it is SO important to public broadcasting.
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Bollocks.
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The BBC is the dominant UK broadcaster because it acts like commercial broadcasters. When it starts wasting licence fee extortion on competing with commercial broadcasters (who get money by broadcasting what viewers want), and pay TV (likewise!) for salaries of stars - people who will always be on TV and radio in the UK because of their popularity, it is no public broadcaster. Can you imagine other state broadcasters, like ABC Australia, CBC Canada and PBS in the US fighting to pay celebrity salaries? Of course not. Can you imagine them providing treble the staff to do what is essentially a commercially viable broadcasting job? No.
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The BBC is out of control. I once suggested on a BBC talk show that with digital TV, licence fee payments could be voluntary. People could have the BBC on subscription, and the insulted response was "how ridiculous, we couldn't do public broadcasting". Yes you could - Jonathan Ross, the World Cup, Chris Moyles on Radio 1, Radio 1 Xtra and local radio has nothing to do with filling a "gap in the market", but about eliminating it and not being accountable for it.
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The BBC needs putting on a leash. The licence fee should be voluntary and tied to converting all digital BBC channels to a pay only service. It should sell Radio 1 and 1Xtra (both are essentially duplicates of commercial networks), and sell Radio 2 and all of the regional breakout stations. I'd probably subscribe to the BBC, I like some of what it broadcasts, but it is erratic. Sometimes it is innovative and creative, sometimes it produces the same sort of mass commercial programming indistinguisable from ITV, Channel 4 or 5 channels.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Bouquet for Greens on medicinal cannabis

Metiria Turei's Misuse of Drugs (Medicinal Cannabis) Amendment Private Members’ Bill has been drawn from the ballot. It...
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"would allow registered medical practitioners to prescribe cannabis to those with specific serious medical conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, glaucoma and those suffering from nausea associated with cancer chemotherapy. Those who are deemed suitable for medicinal cannabis would have to be registered and would be issued with an identity card. At present it is possible for the Health Minister to approve medicinal cannabis use for some patients, but the process is extremely onerous. This Bill will take that responsibility out of the hands of politicians and place it with those best qualified to make those decisions - doctors. "
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You can keep the identity card, but then it is probably to stop the Police hassling someone using it unde prescription. You may as well keep a copy of your prescription to prove it.
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I hope this Bill gets to Select Committee, and gets the support of at least ACT and the Maori Party (United Future and NZ First are too conservative to allow this). It would be nice to see Labour and National supporting it - it hardly damages the war on drugs, and would be an out for those who do use cannabis to relieve pain. After all, what the hell do any politicians have the right to tell you or your doctor what shouldn't be prescribed, when you and your doctor are happy that it works?
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I'm not optimistic though. Labour is scared this will be seen as being weak on family values, and National is too gutless to be open minded on this - I hope I'm wrong.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Robson's xenophobic rant


Remember Matt Robson? Supporter of Cuba, Jim Anderton's former colleague who lost his seat in Parliament as part of the decline of Jim Anderton's Progressive Party. Well he's in Scoop claiming foreign owned media set the public agenda in New Zealand. What bollocks.
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He goes back to the late 1980s claiming "At the time, Labour was under pressure from a resurgent National promising big tax cuts and a big spend-up to boot. The foreign-owned media, as always, gave National a free ride by providing no analysis into how National could possibly deliver both tax cuts for the rich and a big spend-up on everything from transport to defence, police to National Super."
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Hold on Matt - the economy was stagnant, unemployment was high, and GST had been increased to cover Labour's second term big social spending to avoid the deficit going out of control. That had something to do with Labour losing. The foreign owned media did NOT include television, which was TVNZ and TV3, TV3 being 85% NZ owned at this point and with a tiny audience - the government owned TVNZ, and Radio NZ which was the dominant radio broadcaster, owning two national commercial radio networks, plus National Radio. So apparently, foreign owned newspapers sway the electorate more than electronic media hmmmm.
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Funnily enough the didn't give analysis into how MMP wouldn't deliver the answers people want and didn't report on how MMP was a largely leftwing project driven by people aligned to the Alliance - although it would have been in the "foreign media''s" interests to do so by your theory.
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He's saying that now "And just like then, we have foreign-owned media outlets day after day proclaiming in feature articles, editorials and front-page new stories that the "surplus" should be used for large tax cuts that would mainly benefit those on higher incomes without children." While state TV and radio do the opposite - get over it Matt, you might actually find around 40% of New Zealanders voted for tax cuts - because they WANT them. Unlike in Cuba where people can't vote.
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Let's get it clear - the leftwing corporate media conspiracy is nonsense because:
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- The most influential media of all - television- is dominated by state owned broadcaster TVNZ, followed by Canwest owned TV3/C4 (TV3 news is rarely less leftwing than TVNZ) and then Sky (which has virtually no local news programmes);
- Radio NZ is state owned, and has about 20% of the radio market, another 5% comes from Maori broadcasters and the rest on commercial music and talkback stations. These are owned by a mixture of foreign and local shareholders, and are driven by seeking audiences - rather hard to push an agenda the audience doesn't want to hear;
- Newspaper editors are driven by two things - circulation and advertising. Circulation requires newspapers to sell stories people want to read, and advertising flows on from getting an audience. Papers that don't reflect what people want don't succeed, and several newspapers have failed and started in history as a result;
- Anyone is free to establish a TV station, radio station, newspaper or website to counter views they don't like. It is called freedom, it allows competitiveness of ideas and libertarians find it a lot harder to get media attention than hardened leftists;
- Magazines and the internet are important alternative media outlets, and there is an enormous range of choice with both.
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If the corporate media conspiracy existed, then ACT would have done very very well indeed - ACT would always have got good press, and the Don Brash Brethren connection would have been swept under the carpet. People on both sides of the political spectrum think the media is biased against them - I think the media is largely statist - because rarely do editors or reporters advocate a position of the government NOT intervening in something. Also, why does it have to be foreign? What's wrong with foreigners? Why is the left so damned xenophobic?

Green's racist towards America


No, not about Iraq, or global warming - it's Sue Kedgley on TVNZ.
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Racist bitch!
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In response to the announcement about the government backed consortia launching free to air digital television, moanin Minnie Sue “I hate those fucking Americans and their clothes, and hair styles and..” Kedgeley has come out with a xenophobic tirade on TVNZ saying:
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"I'm worried that with 18 free-to-air channels we're just going to see more and more American crappy programmes on our television”
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What if she said Maori, Jewish, Indian, French, Samoan or Arab? A bloody uproar - but Americans are fair game - shame if you ARE American and feel insulted by this bottle blonde bitch. Are there crappy American programmes? Of course. Are there crappy New Zealand programmes? Oh hell yes – Melody Rules is now the stereotype for it, and there are plenty more. There are crappy Australian, British, Swiss, South African and Maori programmes. Besides the gutter language she used, what’s wrong with the USA Kedgley? There are EXCELLENT programmes made in the USA as well - but I guess Sue doesn't look at the 75 channels available in most homes over there, Americans make crappy programmes clearly because they have crappy taste - nice language Sue! Yes of course there are trendy lefty chardonnay socialists who agree - let's bash America rah rah rah!
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The Greens put out a press release with better language calling for more of your money to be spent compulsorily on subsidising the local TV production industry, actors and directors. Hopefully none have anything to do with “crappy America”. With huge capacity for new channels, the supply of channel space will be enormous, meaning the cost of new production should come down – and people who want to produce local content will have an outlet. Subsidising local TV content is about as dumb as subsidising local newspapers or books – people will watch local TV programmes if they like them – more often than not, they aren’t very good. When they are, people will pay for them.
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Then Kedgley witters on “This is why TVNZ needs to take this opportunity to differentiate itself from all these new channels by having a genuinely ad-free public service channel” Why doesn’t she set one up, call for donations and see how she goes? There will be channel space – or is it too easy to force everyone else to pay for it?
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She is concerned about the cost of set top boxes, and if people can’t afford them (hey Sue, 40% of households can afford Sky and they aren’t the top 40% by income that’s for sure) then “the Government should provide assistance to New Zealanders who cannot afford to buy the new equipment”. Why? The government doesn’t help people buy radios, or newspapers, why is TV so fucking sacred? (I’m furious now). Why can’t children play instead of watch TV, why can’t adults talk, play games and enjoy life instead of getting some taxvictim funded fucking TV box? Get your filthy racist hands out of people’s bank accounts Sue.
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She finishes off with more xenophobic nonsense “I am pleased that New Zealand is retaining the option of New Zealand based terrestrial infrastructure and not relying exclusively on satellite transmission owned by an overseas company. We wouldn’t want to see our entire television network relying on an foreign-owned satellite”. Oh Optus - those Australians – so dodgy – they’ll just wake up one morning and switch off the satellite to say “fuck those Kiwis they'll have no telly because the All Black’s beat us last night, screw the millions in compo we'll have to pay for breach of contract”. Foreign owned – damned different looking bastards with horns growing out of their heads who don’t care about us or our kulcha or the kids.
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The Greens and Winston Peters - so much in common at times.

NZ to get 3rd digital TV platform


New Zealand has had digital TV for around seven and a half years, so the government’s announcement of what it is doing to bring digital TV to the public is somewhat laughable. It needn’t have done anything besides sell the radio spectrum necessary for digital terrestrial TV to be an option. However, Steve Maharey’s well publicised announcement shows that this isn’t about broadcasters doing something they think viewers are willing to pay for – it is something government thinks is good for you.
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You see, Sky TV introduced digital TV at the end of 1998, and it has been a stunning success. In the past year, Telstra Clear converted its cable TV network in Wellington, Christchurch and Kapiti to digital. Combining them both, all in all, just over 40% of New Zealand households now have digital TV - the difference is, they pay for it.
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Why do they pay for it? Because it is digital? Because of picture quality? Do they bollocks! The only reason most choose digital is because of the range of channels. When Sky launched its digital satellite service it was because it could increase the number of channels it broadcast from 5 on UHF analogue to over a hundred. Digital allows far more efficient use of radio spectrum. Telstra Clear has gone to digital partly for the same reason, it can fit far more channels using less capacity on the cable. Digital interactivity is nice and can generate some revenue with pay per view events, but it is really peripheral compared to choice. People, by and large, don’t give a damn about slightly better pictures or sound – look at the iPod revolution. That is about convenience and choice, not quality of sound, just like cassettes were.
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So the terrestrial free to air broadcasters have caught up. A consortium of TVNZ, Canwest, Maori TV, Trackside and Radio New Zealand are launching it next year – but there is a catch. It’s not commercially driven – it is not because you want it and are willing to pay for it – it is because THEY want it and it is being directly, and indirectly subsidised. Directly because the government is putting $25 million into this new TV platform – whereas Sky TV actually made the government money by paying for the spectrum it uses. Indirectly, because TVNZ will pay less dividends and you can be sure Maori TV and Radio NZ are paying for their “broadcaster’s contribution” from taxpayer funding, since neither make a profit before subsidies. Trackside and Canwest do, but are no doubt thrilled to be riding on the back of the state in delivering a digital TV platform. Notably absent is Prime TV, which is likely to dedicate itself to Sky’s satellite platform over time. Note also that while Sky had to pay to use its spectrum, these broadcasters will get their spectrum for free – great that!
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According to the government, a failure to move to free-to-air digital would put the future viability of public broadcasting television, and other free-to-air services, at risk. What nonsense - public broadcasting television isn't viable anyway - it is subsidised, and why should the government care if private broadcasters don't do what they need to be viable? As long as spectrum is available then Canwest and others can get together and figure out what to do.
A cost benefit study concluded that without a full transition to free-to-air digital TV (as a viable alternative to Pay TV digital), the net cost to the country could be as high as $156 million - I'll be looking at THAT in the next week.
Without a transition to digital, the free-to-air broadcasters’ audience share could also fall from 80 to 50 per cent, or even lower, if digital pay TV options grow at an accelerated rate. This would mean fewer options available on free-to-air. So free to air broadcasters could lose audience, so why not let THEM invest in digital to compete - why skew the field?
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Now I agree that a shift to digital TV is inevitable. It is well apace in the UK, with a majority of households now watching digital TV of one kind or another (including a freeview platform similar to what is proposed in New Zealand). I also agree that it could generate savings for broadcasters and a major increase in choice – but this is something that should be driven from demand – like the internet, mobile phones and Sky TV – not by the government anticipating it.
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It will mean that all TV sets currently on sale and in use in New Zealand will NOT be able to receive TV signals once analogue TV is switched off in 6-10 years – without either a freeview box, or a Sky or Telstra Clear box. So you’ll need to buy a set top box that will cost something between $60 and $220 depending on how sophisticated a unit you have (I bought a £70 one here in the UK which is good quality). So why would you want this?
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In the UK it increased the mainstream channels I could watch from 5 to 12, plus 2 news channels, 2 music channels, 3 childrens' channels and a host of damned silly specialist shopping, quiz and other channels. Plus for $24 a month I could pay to subscribe to another 10 channels - it is a pay TV platform competing with Sky and cable. So in the UK, it is worthwhile - it is so successful that now more people have digital than analogue TV. The picture is of the set top box that I have - nothing flash.
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Unless the NZ broadcasters can offer a compelling set of channels for viewers that they WANT to watch, freeview will be a bit of a flop in NZ – meanwhile by then, maybe 45% of New Zealand households wont care, since they already have digital TV – and not a dollar of taxpayers’ money went into it! 18 new channels are promised - they better be what people want (sport, gossip, music, comedy and some T&A late at night). Oh by the way, 10 main centres will be covered - 10! So Auckland, Waikato, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Manawatu, Southland, Hawke's Bay and Taranaki? OR Nelson, OR Rotorua? So that means a satellite dish for the rest of you.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Power cuts

Not PC has blogged extensively about this, but it is very simple.
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Transpower lacks capital - the government wont provide it - so the private sector should.
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49% of Transpower should be privatised - sold to a single buyer or consortium. This would inject new capital into the company, see a revitalised board (with privately chosen businesspeople not politically chosen ones) and wipe some more public debt (reducing interest payments and giving more room for tax cuts).
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The remaining 51% should be distributed as shares to all citizens equally. This would mean Transpower would be predominantly publicly owned and controlled. The public would receive dividends, and would have a stake in the national grid - and could appoint directors by annual general meeting. Those members of the public so concerned about Transpower could then increase their shareholding and those who are not, could sell it. It would demonstrate whether the public WANT to own it and the private capital would create a company that truly wants to make a profit, provide good reliable service and grow.

Friday, June 09, 2006

World Cup 2006

No escaping the soccer world cup in London, with England in the running there are St. George’s Cross flags flapping on cars, and unfortunate songs, one using the Dad’s Army theme tune with different words. It is rather pathetic that Britain still throws the Nazi and Hitler stereotypes around Germany – there are probably as many racist lowlife here as in Germany, and most Germans alive today weren’t alive during the war and feel some “guilt” for the actions of their ancestors. Yes yes very funny to humiliate the Germans. Meanwhile, enthusiasm for England isn’t much shared by Scotland, Wales or Ireland – but then that bitter childishness will take a lot to erode.
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Anyway, today it is Germany vs. Costa Rica and Poland vs. Ecuador. I reckon it will be the Europeans that will take both those, but would be nice for Costa Rica if it won against Germany. Tomorrow, England vs. Paraguay, which should be a cinch for England, Argentina vs. Cote D’Ivoire will be a cinch for Argentina, though I’d love Cote D’Ivoire to win, and Trinidad and Tobago are probably a closer match for Sweden.
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Brazil is getting excited, because this is the one thing in the world it is good at – crime goes down while Brazil watches the World Cup. Meanwhile, many countries will simply stop working when a game is being playe.

Keith Locke is right


You wont see me say that often - but it is true. The man who was once a hardened communist, and still has a lot of Marxism in his veins, has put out a press release calling for review of the sedition laws. He believes more in freedom of speech than Don Brash, Helen Clark, Peter Dunne or Rodney Hide, or indeed Marian Hobbs, Tim Barnett, Phil Goff, Pita Sharples or around another 115 or so MPs.
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I condemn it when it is far from intellectually robust on economics, or indeed science - but the Green Party is still the party in Parliament that most consistently defends fundamental civil liberties. The Keith Locke press release makes the point clear – as I have mentioned in my earlier post, now updated. The law not only needs review, it needs to be scrapped.
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Keith said (as mentioned below) "New Zealand has an honourable tradition of civil disobedience against injustice, most notably during the Springbok tour of 1981. Thankfully the sedition laws weren’t used at that time, but the police now seemed prepared to prosecute anyone advocating such resistance. Next thing we might see farmers facing charges for encouraging others not to get their dogs micro-chipped. There is a big difference between inciting the immediate commission a specific criminal act, already covered by Sections 66 and 311 of the Crimes Act, and generalized calls for civil disobedience, which the sedition laws target."
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Now I wouldn't have agreed with the Springbok tour protestors, though I was young when it was happening, but it is not the point. None of it is - whether you are left, right, libertarian, Christian fundamentalist, ecologist, economic liberal - this matters.
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National and ACT supporters, particularly those who like to pour scorn all over the Libertarianz, may argue that this “isn’t important”, somehow that publishing a pamphlet calling for illegal action against government policies shouldn’t be allowed. Well then, should it have been a crime to encourage TV owners to evade or avoid paying the TV licence fee, to encourage people to not fill in a census form, to encourage people to walk across the Auckland Harbour Bridge illegally, to encourage a strike that isn’t legal, to call for the government to resign? If you are not going to condemn the law on sedition, then defend it. Don and Rodney, condemn or defend - don't sit on the fence!
As I have said before, David Farrar, as always, has the guts to put out his opinion on this, as a Nat.
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There are a growing number of blog posts in reaction to this:
Libertarianz Deputy Leader Julian Pistorius
Nat/ACT supporters:

Thursday, June 08, 2006

European Commission proposes cap on farm subsidies

According to the Daily Telegraph, the British government is opposing a move to cap subsidies for farms because Britain has a disproportionate number of big efficient farms, and this penalises them and discourages the amalgamation of farms. Well it’s true, but it is no reason to not cap subsidies.
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The plan is to cap subsidies at a rate of around £207,000 a year, so the likes of the Queen and Prince Albert II of Monaco would be receiving less from subsidies than they do at present for their farms. The Queen gets around £399,000 in subsidies for Sandringham Estate.
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The French support this, because most of their farms are small inefficient outfits run by annoying little parasitical socialists. 1880 farms will be hit by this throughout Europe, only 30 in France, 330 in Britain and 1430 in Germany.
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It’s a start – the cap on subsidies should be £0.

Outrage of sedition - where are the other parties?

Now I don’t agree with Tim Selwyn, I am glad he was prosecuted for vandalism. However, his prosecution for sedition is an outrage. Not PC and No Right Turn have both covered this verdict in some detail, showing that some on the liberal end of the SOCIAL spectrum (if not economic) understand freedom. David Farrar to his credit has also opposed sedition laws, but… and a big but it is... there has simply been silence from the major political parties. Find other issues where those people will agree, and agree with Geoffrey Palmer.
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The Labour Party, once the proud home of the socially liberal, is now the home of the petty bullies. The born to rule, “I’m a victim of my success as a popular and competent Prime Minister” arrogance. How many of YOU lot would also be convicted of sedition had the government of the day brought it upon you when you were in some protest march in the 60s, 70s or even 80s? Wankers.
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The National Party – supposed believers in freedom, much prefer to keep quiet. ACT – the liberal party, also keeping quiet. No point defending an “uppity Maori who convicted vandalism” because of principle? After all, majority of the public probably think “good job”. Much as the majority in Alabama thought “good job” when a black woman was arrested for sitting in the whites only section of the bus, much as the majority of Germans sat back and let Hitler destroy democracy in Germany after he was elected. Sanctimonious fence sitters. I again searched the National website for the word sedition and got this.
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The Green Party, often claims to be the defender of civil liberties, has said nothing either (until today). It would rather wank on excitedly about more subsidised buses in Hamilton. Frogblog also lacks anything on it. UPDATE - Green press release out, see below.
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NZ First is a party of authoritarians so no surprises there, and United Future once claimed to be liberal, but is anything but that.
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I’ve also seen nothing from the Maori Party, but then it has always had slow websites that are rarely up to date (last press release on there is 16 May).
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There are times when politicians have a responsibility – a responsibility to stand up for freedoms for people that most of us would not agree with, to stare through the prejudice and the popularity polls and say – Tim Selwyn should be the last person ever to face a charge of sedition – the law should be scrapped. So will Rodney Hide take a break from dancing and do this? Or is ACT as useless in defending fundamental freedoms as some libertarians have always accused it of?
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Prove me wrong - prove to me that ACT has just been slow, and isn't refusing to defend Tim Selwyn's right to circulate that leaflet because he'd be one of the last to vote for them, and because their voters would be the last to support his views. Fundamentally - neither matter.
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UPDATE 1- Green's have produced a press release on this, calling for a review of the law. About time, Keith has woken up. He said "New Zealand has an honourable tradition of civil disobedience against injustice, most notably during the Springbok tour of 1981. Thankfully the sedition laws weren’t used at that time, but the police now seemed prepared to prosecute anyone advocating such resistance. “Next thing we might see farmers facing charges for encouraging others not to get their dogs micro-chipped. “There is a big difference between inciting the immediate commission a specific criminal act, already covered by Sections 66 and 311 of the Crimes Act, and generalized calls for civil disobedience, which the sedition laws target." Spot on Keith, good for you - you can hold your head high. Labour, National and ACT, you all still an utter disgrace as parties in a liberal democracy.