Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Compulsory pay TV and how to end it

I have a standing order demanding I pay £131.50 (NZ$400) for a pay TV service that I didn’t ask for, and don’t really like. I am about to tell the organisation concerned this fact.
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Like many European countries, the UK does not have free to air television. Every year, the BBC through its subsidiary “TV Licencing” strongarms £131.50 out of every British household for the privilege of using a colour TV set. Excluding the elderly, for political reasons, this means that the UK has compulsory pay TV.
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The UK TV licence, unlike the abolished NaZis on Air TV licence in NZ, does not go to an independent body to allocate funds based upon proposals put forward by broadcasters. Oh no. It all goes to the BBC. Why? Because, apparently, without the BBC getting this funding, all hell would break lose. The world would end, and British society would decay with the other 19 advertising supported ACTUAL free to air channels (3 analogue the rest on digital freeview) clearly doing such a bad job.
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The BBC is only a “public” broadcaster in that it is state owned, plays a few minority oriented programmes and carries no advertising. Besides that it is an enormous expensive populist organisation. It pays high rating Radio 1 breakfast host Chris Moyles £630,000 a year – presumably to avoid him being poached by commercial radio. Now given he is very popular, given the music played on Radio 1 is essentially Top 40 contemporary hits (a highly commercially viable format), you’d have to wonder why people are forced to pay for it? Terry Wogan on Radio 2 gets £800,000 a year, and is also very popular and is on a format (adult contemporary) that is highly commercially viable. Jonathan Ross, who presents a weekly TV and a weekly radio show is to be paid an estimated £18 million to be exclusive with the BBC for the next four years. The BBC also spend millions to share the coverage for the soccer World Cup – the final was simulcast on ITV and BBC1 – why didn’t the BBC leave it alone, as it costs a fortune to compete with commercial broadcasters who themselves were very willing to show it? The reason is – the BBC is driven by ratings, and has little constraint on funding.
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So is that public broadcasting? Spending vast amounts of forcibly acquired money to compete with commercial broadcasting on their terms? Well the BBC couldn’t give a flying of course, because every year it asks the government to raise the licence fee by an exhorbitant amount, and the government agrees to raise it, by a little less. Apparently the licence fee keeps the BBC independent – ha! Independent from its craven ecological philosophy that makes Friends of the Earth always welcome? Independent such as the statement from a BBC London interviewer that “stockbrokers don’t actually produce anything”.
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There are conflicting views about the public opinion of the licence fee. According to Wikipedia “a poll by the BBC's current affairs programme 'Panorama' showed that 31% were in favour of the existing licence fee system, 36% said the BBC should be paid for by a subscription, and 31% wanted advertising to pay for the programmes.” The BBC thinks the public is willing to pay £31 more a year – unfortunately it wont test this, because nothing about the licence fee is about “the willing”.
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A majority want to either not pay (advertising is fine to them), or to choose to be able to pay. The BBC prefers forcing people to pay – this fascist approach is regardless of whether or not you ever watch or listen to the BBC. There are plenty of options not to.
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Fascist? Really? Well you see, you are forced to have a “licence” to operate an appliance that you own which does not in the slightest way interfere with other people (excluding operating it very loud, but then you don’t need a licence for your stereo or voice!). On top of that, the organisation (Capita) responsible for collecting the licence fee can send agents round to check up on whether or not you have a licence or need one. Then if the agent (who gets commission to catch you) has reasonable cause to suspect you operate a TV set he can apply for a search warrant to check to see if you have a TV – a SEARCH warrant.
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Yes the BBC is fascist. It is the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation.
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The BBC supports extending this fascism using the Orwellian doublespeak of its surveys. The public isn’t willing to pay the licence fee – it is forced to.
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British TV owners should boycott the fee and write to the Secretary of State for Culture and say no to being forced to pay for the BBC. The BBC should become a pay TV organisation – that would be true public broadcasting. An easy transition is the shift from analogue to digital. People with digital TVs or digital set top boxes (including all subscribers to existing pay TV services) would be exempt from the licence fee, but would also have to pay a subscription to receive the seven BBC TV channels. Those with analogue TVs and no digital equipment would still pay the licence fee, but this would incentivise them to shift to digital.
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Of course this will mean the BBC gets less revenue, and will need to divest itself of commercially viable operations or introduce advertising. Local radio should be the first to go, and then the most popular network radio, such as Radio 1, Radio 2 and Fivelive. However, many would save money by not paying for what they don’t want. People on low incomes could watch commercial television without being forced to pay for the BBC, and the BBC would need to be accountable for how much it spends on.
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However, far too many in the UK are listless useless inert nobodies, who have the “mustn’t grumble” attitude, who rather than fighting for something out of principle, will roll on all fours and pull open their bumcheeks. Oh and don’t expect the BBC to broadcast in primetime a show where this issue is debated openly and evenly – you’d need a truly independent broadcaster for that to happen.
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and if you want to ask the TV Licencing fascists why they force people to pay for something they didn't ask for, may never use and don't like? Go here. I already have.
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The TV licence was ended in NZ, largely due to a campaign started by Lindsay Perigo, Deborah Coddington and the Libertarianz – although it was replaced with taxpayer funding and the public didn’t mind that. It is about time that the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation was told it had to convince people to pay for it, not force them – given that it doesn’t understand the concept of voluntary choice, it will be a hard battle.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Do what we say not what we do - Greens on trains

As the final trip of the Overlander is scheduled on Saturday, Stuff has reported on how often Green MPs ever used the train (although it is unclear if it was asked whether they used other trains). The various responses are:
Sue Kedgley (who notoriously takes "publicity" trips on trains) admitted to using it three times in "recent years" to go to Ohakune.
Sue Bradford - no "it takes too long" (but she "loves trains". You might wonder if she ever uses the Auckland trains)
Nandor - no "doesn't have enough time" (but he used to take the Northerner, the overnight Wellington-Auckland service which, of course, doesn't run anymore because of lack of patronage)
Metirea Turei - no, "last caught it in the late 1990s, but now lives in the South Island" (where, there are two profitable passenger train services, and the Southerner died in 2002)
Russel Norman - A month ago, "but had not used it much" because it is "too slow".
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So they don't catch trains, but want to force you to pay for other people to catch them, or for you to catch them. Now let's not forget that the Overlander is no slower today than it, or its predecessors have ever been. The train also has more catering (including alcohol, meals, snacks available for purchase) than ever before - before 1968 there was NO catering on the equivalent train, and until 1988 it used to stop for 30 minutes at Taihape for lunch. So there is no excuse that service has declined.
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There is only one conclusion. Green MPs, like almost everyone, see little use for a 12 hour train trip between Wellington, Palmerston North, Hamilton and Auckland. So when the Greens say get the train or bus, don't drive or fly - they don't mean themselves. They mean you, and they'll force you to pay for it regardless, and castigate you for driving. Sue Kedgley caught the Bay Express on one of its last trips, for "publicity", very "Green", and she has done the same for the Overlander - wasting money, fuel and time travelling unnecessarily.

Blair's final conference speech

To the relief of the Labour left, and the Tory Party, Tony Blair has made his final speech to a Labour Party conference. He has done so highlighting exactly what the Blair government stands for. After months of heckling about when he is leaving, he hasn't announced the date, but he has thanked the Labour Party for him being leader - but should we thank him? What’s the scorecard?
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At his worst is his:

- Pride in massive taxpayer spending in the NHS and schools (unfortunately there isn’t a great deal to show for it);
- Pride in abolishing the minimum wage (while homeless unemployed people still clutter major city streets);
- Pride in introducing new layers of government, particularly London regional government and devolution (and presumably the massive growth in public sector spending these socialist bodies have engaged in);
- Pride in there being “virtually no long term unemployed”, ignoring that the northeast has a GDP of which 57% is generated (redistributed from the private sector) by the state – unemployment through socialist economics;
- Pride in banning handguns, and the soon to be introduced ban on smoking on some private property (called public places);
- Pride in having introduced new layers of welfare by saying “before 1997, there were no tax credits not for working families not for any families; child benefit was frozen; maternity pay half what it is; maternity leave likewise and paternity leave didn't exist at all. And no minimum wage, no full time rights for part time workers, in fact nothing”;
- Supporting energy policy driven by massive state intervention “We will increase the amount of energy from renewable sources fivefold; ensure every major business in the country has a responsibility for greenhouse gas reduction; treble investment in clean technology, including clean coal; and make sure every new home is at least 40% more energy efficient.” ;
- He justifies ID cards and DNA databases because of the results “That is why Identity Cards using biometric technology are not a breach of our basic rights, they are an essential part of responding to the reality of modern migration and protecting us against identity fraud. I remember when I introduced the DNA database. On it go all those who are arrested. We were told it was a monstrous breach of liberty. But it is now matching 3,000 offences a month including last year several hundred murders, and thousands of rapes and other violent offences.”. Apparently the state having data on you is protecting you. Apparently being arrested gives the state the right to hold a database on you. Hmmmm he loses points for that.
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Let’s face it, Blair is no friend of civil liberties – the ends justify the means, and he has been at the forefront of a significant growth in the state sector in the UK. However, following a forlorn Tory government, that revoltingly stabbed Margaret Thatcher in the back several years before, there have been some good points:
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He gave the Bank of England independence – you know, the sort the Reserve Bank in NZ has had for many years now. He slammed the mad socialism of previous Labour governments “Even in 1974, the Labour Government spent 2 years renationalising shipbuilding and the public spent 2 years wondering why.” He gets better talking about health and education being consumer driven not bureaucratically driven “My advice: at the next election, the issue will not only be who is trusted to invest in our public services, vital though that is. It will be who comes first. And our answer has to be. The patient; the parent.” Helengrad is about renationalising, and about health and education being driven by bureaucracy. Blair is well ahead of Helen Clark on this one.
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However, he is best on foreign policy. Perhaps his best statements are these:
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“the new anxiety is the global struggle against terrorism without mercy or limit.This is a struggle that will last a generation and more. But this I believe passionately: we will not win until we shake ourselves free of the wretched capitulation to the propaganda of the enemy, that somehow we are the ones responsible.This terrorism isn't our fault. We didn't cause it.It's not the consequence of foreign policy.It's an attack on our way of life.It's global.It has an ideology.”
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Hear hear. This is not about Israel/Palestine - it is not about Iraq, they are attacking our way of life – that is it. 9/11 happened before any invasion of Afghanistan or Iraq. If there was no Israel, and no allied presence in the Middle East, they would still wish to eradicate our way of life. It is clear - the terrorists are not "our fault".
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He continues:
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It is not British soldiers who are sending car bombs into Baghdad or Kabul to slaughter the innocent. They are there along with troops of 30 other nations with, in each case, a full UN mandate at the specific request of the first ever democratically elected Governments of those countries in order to protect them against the very ideology also seeking the deaths of British people in planes across the Atlantic.
If we retreat now, hand Iraq over to Al Qaida and sectarian death squads and Afghanistan back to Al Qaida and the Taleban, we won't be safer; we will be committing a craven act of surrender that will put our future security in the deepest peril.
Of course it's tough. Not a day goes by or an hour in the day when I don't reflect on our troops with admiration and thanks - the finest, the best, the bravest, any nation could hope for. They are not fighting in vain. But for this nation's future. But this is not a conventional war. It can't be won by force alone. It's not a clash of civilisations. It's about civilisation, about the ideas that shape it.”
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This is about civilisation full stop. What Islamists promote is not civilisation - it is a racist, bigoted, sexist, authoritarian irrational dark age.
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Now I’m no friend of the British Labour Party. I tend to see it as a breeding ground for a hodge podge of do-gooding interfering busybodies who think they know what is best, who talk about social justice, combined with a hardcore of died in the wool Marxists who should have been brought up in the USSR. The Labour Party in the UK has little it should be proud of, being a party of big government. However, the Tories have recently been riding high in the polls – based on what? However, the Tories have recently been riding high in the polls – based on what? Blair has a pretty good idea:

His foreign policy. Pander to anti-Americanism by stepping back from America . Pander to the Eurosceptics through isolation in Europe. Sacrificing British influence for Party expediency is not a policy worthy of a Prime Minister.

He wants tax cuts and more spending, with the same money.

And his policy for the old lady terrorised by the young thug is that she should put her arm round him and give him a nice, big hug.

Built to last? They haven't even laid the foundation stone. If we can't take this lot apart in the next few years we shouldn't be in the business of politics at all.The Tories haven't thought it through. They think it's all about image
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Indeed - Chameleon Cameron has been coined by some - they want to give tax cuts and increase spending, and are largely involved in image manipulation. Blair, of course, knows how important image is. Let’s face it, half of the British public wouldn’t know how to improve government if they tried – they choose image, and Cameron is the younger man, and Blair is yesterday's man, and the predominantly leftwing electronic media (BBC, ITV/Channel 4 news) is out for his blood.
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I’ve said before that I’ll miss Blair. I will, if only because Gordon Brown is worse and David Cameron has watered down the Tories so much they don’t deserve my support. Blair has presided over Nanny State government growing more and more in the UK, he has also presided over tax increases and increased state spending at all layers of government. He has done little to confront the EU leviathan, a beast that sucks up productivity, innovation and freedom from 25 countries in Europe, and sucks up money to dish out to inefficient, environmentally unfriendly producers of food, undermining producers elsewhere around the world and world trade more generally. The EU is a revolting institution that does little besides sustain massive corporate welfare and be regulatory Big Brother – it is socialism’s revenge for the end of the Cold War. Blair has been weak in confronting this.
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At best, Blair has rolled back little of what Thatcher did, he shifted the Labour party from being on the far left to being in the centre – more than NZ Labour. Also, he started devolving school control to schools themselves, and allowing private providers of health care to compete with the NHS for NHS contracts – the latter is less important, the former is very important. Giving schools more control and more independence is a welcome step forward in moving education away from bureaucrats and teacher unions, to what parents want.
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However, Blair’s greatest achievement has been clarity on the war on terror. At this time in history, it has been critical – and one for which he has personally carried much flak. He is hated extensively by many on the left, Saddam’s sycophant George Galloway, Islamists and others who believe in appeasement, despise Blair – it has taken courage to allow so much of his party to hate him, and to continue with policies that undoubtedly are opposed by much of the British public.
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Nevertheless, he has less than a year as Prime Minister. Whoever Labour chooses as successor is hardly likely to impress me – after all it IS the Labour Party. Britain is a country full of people who love interfering with other people’s lives, this is why it is full of gossip magazines and tabloids that delve into personal matters of the famous. Blair was popular because after 18 years of Tory austerity, he threw other people’s money at so many who wanted it, and responded to those who wanted to ban or compel. The worshippers of mediocrity who comprise most of Labour’s voting public got a PM that exceeded themselves – and when he stood up for values, they hated him for supporting the USA – because the USA isn’t a place that worships mediocrity. In a couple of weeks, the Tories will show their colours - if only they knew what they stood for - if only the great unwashed gave a damn!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

UN speeches #1 - the crazy


There was plenty of publicity for Venezuelan dictator, Hugo Chavez, and his UN General Assembly speech with its outburst about President Bush, and the smell of sulphur.
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The wankclass of the western left (you know, they never live in council housing, drive hybrid cars, recycle and hate George Bush and Tony Blair so much) love Chavez and his oil money. London Mayor Ken Livingstone loves him too – he loves him so much that after inviting him to London, Red Ken is negotiating an agreement with Chavez for cheap diesel to fuel London buses. Apparently in return, Venezuela will get advice on transport policy, environmental policy, tourism, CCTV security monitoring and biometric fingerprinting (London is a leader on these things, not that you would notice).
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Now given Chavez is quite keen on running the Venezuelan media and closing down opportunities for his opponents to campaign, it looks like Red Ken wants to help an old-fashioned leftwing dictator in the making. However, Chavez keeps showing his true colours with statements like this from the Sunday Telegraph:
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“The descendants of those who crucified Christ have taken over ownership of the riches of the world, a minority that has taken over the gold of the world, the silver, the minerals, the water, the good lands, petrol… and they have concentrated the riches in a small number of hands."
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Oh really?
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Chavez has also said the US might have planned the 9/11 attacks. He said the twin towers could have been dynamited. Hmmmm yes. However, the anti-American left listen to him, which is why idiot linguist Noam Chomsky's book (which Chavez mentioned in his speech) "Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance" is now number one on Amazon.com. Chomsky's pinup status remains -but this is not the place to pull him apart.

No to state funding of political parties

The lead editorial in the Sunday Times today made the case against state funding of political parties beautifully:
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It is a lazy answer to the parties’ inability to raise their own money through motivating their supporters. No other organisation can fall back on taxpayers’ money simply because it finds itself unpopular and short of cash. It should be no different for political parties. Taxpayers bear quite enough burdens without making them pay for parties which many of them despise.”
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Indeed!

New definition of commercially viable

Hi, I have this great business idea. I think it can make a lot of money, it is commercially viable.
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There’s only one catch, I need your money, in fact I need money from all New Zealanders. $5 million in fact. I’m not going to ask for that money, I’ve found someone prepared to listen to me – he might help me out. You see he can force it out of you all – he can get his friends round to your house to sell your property if you wont pay – or he can make your bank give him the money, and then give it to me. He’s my buddy and he reckons it will be ok – he has done it before to a lot of you – I respect him and his family.
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You see I reckon I can run a train between Wellington and Auckland and make a profit, get tourists riding it, paying a high fare – and I can’t be bothered borrowing from a bank or finding more investors, when my friend can help me out. He’s going to decide tomorrow with his friends whether to force you to help me.
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None of the other ways to get between Wellington and Auckland are subsidised, but I am sure my idea is commercially viable. This idea of mine. It really is. That is why I need to make other commercially viable businesses pay for my idea – it’s such a good idea it can't miss. Not that I'll give the money back to you all after it makes money - it's not a loan - it is "economic assistance". So glad lots voted for my mate and his mates last year - otherwise I might have to find the money from people who want to give it to me, and negotiate with the current train operator - I don't know why business should be such hard work!
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UPDATE 1- My mate's not my mate anymore, he actually made a rational decision. He is quoted by Stuff as having said in Parliament "I very much doubt that running an extremely large diesel engine with three carriages that are usually less than half full is more economic than running a bus or two with significantly smaller engines over that distance". Sometimes there are flashes of inspiration!

Friday, September 22, 2006

H2 - the power behind Clark



Heather Simpson has perhaps one of the lowest profiles in New Zealand politics but paradoxically is one of the most powerful. Given her sporadic appearance in the media, and her mentioning on a couple of blogs given the pledge card scandal, I thought it might be worthwhile giving her a brief profile, especially as her name in Wikipedia only brings up a young Scottish TV newsreader.
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She is unofficially referred to as being "H2" by senior public servants from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, and down. H2 is the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, a role in which she has been enormously effective, due to the trust and respect she shares with Clark. She is a political appointee because she has the trust of Helen Clark – no small endeavour – she has been beside Clark through much of her career as MP, Minister and PM. As a result, they have been friends for many years, and Simpson is an academic, and taught economics at Otago University. She is the Prime Minister’s leading advisor on policy and politics, and was instrumental in assisting Helen Clark in ousting Mike Moore as leader after the 1993 election, when Labour lost by one seat. H2 is no slouch, and everyone knows it - she works hard, asks difficult questions and knows when she is being lied to - she is a formidable representative of Clark. You want H2 on your side, and you do not want to cross her.
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There is little doubt that H2 is the most important unelected individual in the Beehive. Her role in the first term of the government was pivotal – shortly after the first Labour Cabinet was selected and portfolios appointed, Helen Clark insisted that Cabinet papers go through H2 before being submitted. This was because so many Ministers had no experience, and most did not trust their officials.
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After the 1999 election, officials were seen to be part of the “Ancien RĂ©gime” of Treasury dominating policy, of free market policies. Treasury, the then Ministry of Commerce (now Ministry of Economic Development, which was far more than a name change), Ministry of Transport, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Department of Internal Affairs and other core departments were simply not trusted to provide advice consistent with Labour/Alliance policy.
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The message came down from the Prime Minister’s office that all Cabinet paper would need clearance from that office – which meant H2. With the notable exception of Dr Michael Cullen, and a handful of the others, and the then Alliance MPs (remember Jim Anderton, Laila Harre and Sandra Lee were Cabinet Ministers), Ministers were expected to not lodge papers for Cabinet Committee UNLESS they had been cleared by H2 first. A Minister needed the respect of H2 to bypass her, few had or have that. H2 sits on Cabinet meetings as an equal, she is not on the sidelines.
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The Alliance Ministers willingly bought into not trusting the bureaucracy, they were ideologically opposed to the 1980s reforms after all. Jim Anderton, having been made Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Economic Development, was handed on a plate the Ministry of Commerce. The Ministry of Commerce, until 2000, was responsible essentially for industry policy and policy on non-transport utilities. It was the catch all for all economic policy outside Treasury and transport. To get a feel for how alien its culture would be to the Labour government, you should remember that it was advice from the Ministry of Commerce that recommended that all tariffs on imported motor vehicles be abolished – which made it no longer viable to assemble motor vehicles in the country. It was also the Ministry of Commerce that had recently opened up the postal market to full competition. The Ministry of Commerce was used to phasing out import controls, working closely with Foreign Affairs on removing trade barriers in bilateral and multilateral trade agreements, and in defending a relatively free market approach to utility regulation. Remember also that the Ministry of Commerce opposed Max Bradford’s radical restructuring of the electricity sector in 1998, and also did not support the establishment of a telecommunications regulator.
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So when Jim Anderton got the Ministry of Commerce, he had a different vision – it would get the (slightly disturbing to staff at the time) rather third world name “Ministry of Economic Development”, and would be Anderton’s vehicle for dishing out subsidies, and the vehicle for other Ministers to engage inquiries and start interfering and regulating in utility markets once more. The Ministry of Economic Development has grown dramatically as a result, and I’ll leave it up to you as to whether the economy has responded in kind due to what MED does. Jim was happy, he gradually gained confidence in MED advisors, and he shift from the Alliance to his own little party says a lot – MED can get a modicum of credit for having taught Jim Anderton some principles of economics, but Clark and Cullen can be credited for having kept some of the wackier Alliance policies under control. However, Kiwibank remains his biggest legacy.
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Things went so far that the use of language in Cabinet papers came under scrutiny by some Ministers, who didn’t like “Business Roundtable New-Right Treasury speak” to justify policy options. Words such as efficiency were surrendered in favour “value for money” and “sustainability” was thrown about with abandon. Some Cabinet papers were thrown back for using words like “accountability” and “transparency”, which were not popular in certain circles. This went beyond what H2 was pushing, as she was more concerned about the substance of policy rather than style, but the overall flavour was clear – bureaucrats were not trusted to be Labour Party bureaucrats.
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H2’s job was (and is) considerable. Much policy had to be pushed through quickly, including repealing the Employment Contracts Act, renationalising ACC and reintroducing District Health Boards. Having been out of power for 9 years (or perhaps in some minds 24 years), Ministers needed to be trained, as did officials, to not engage on key policy when it had changed. H2 was not interested in the negative consequences of Labour policy when she knew it already and a decision had been made – officials were trusted to help with implementation. Of course some departments found it easier than others. Te Puni Kokiri, the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and Ministry for Cultural Affairs found life a lot easier, partly because many of those working in those departments were more closely aligned, ideologically, to Labour.
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It got to the point where major policy that may have a Minister fronting it, had actually been developed by H2. She was key in determining legislative priorities, fiscal priorities and government strategies. With the exception of mundane day to day government activities, H2 was in charge of Cabinet sans Helen. One notable example is amendments to the Telecommunications Bill after select committee hearings, incorporating changes that would force mobile phone operators to allow access to their networks once a competitor had built a network with 5% coverage - this was an H2 initiative - a last minute Order Paper to amend legislation moving through Parliament. Of course, it still needed Parliamentary approval, so democracy was not thwarted - but this shows she was on top of what was happening - regardless of the dubious merits of the policy.
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By 2000/2001, some Ministers were starting to recruit their own “H2s” – political advisors that would screen out briefings and Cabinet papers for Ministers before they read them. These people would be the new face of the Ministerial office for officials, departmental Chief Executives would get directions from Ministerial political advisors, who would make requests of them, tell them off when necessary and filter advice for Ministers. Part of this reflected the workload of Ministers – part of it reflected the need for Ministers to get trusted brains around topics that were complicated. Political advisors became the new unofficial layer of bureaucratic/governmental management between departments and Ministers.
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However, none matched H2. Following the 2002 election, while the role of political advisors did not relax, there were more instances of Ministers submitting papers for Cabinet Committee. The Wellington bureaucracy had started to change, it had learnt what not to say and what not to do – a key point was that Dr Cullen was trusting Treasury (he had to, given Budgets), and Treasury had learnt to gain the respect of Dr Cullen, Clark and H2.
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Treasury is a core department, and has officials involved in every area of government policy, partly to ensure that any financial consequences are commented on (and Treasury can recommend effectively on the best ways to ensure spending is of good quality or not), but also to provide some serious analytical grunt to key policy issues. Treasury tends to hire some of the best officials in government, it hires people with strong analytical nouse and a willingness to ask questions and question the status quo. The quality of policy staff at other departments is variable, from the very good to the utterly abysmal – and Treasury is left picking up the tab. Ministers have learnt this, and have become increasingly willing to accept Treasury, through Dr Cullen, having a role in filtering policy. Treasury, in return, has learnt not to fight policy that has been declared as “happening” by Ministers. It points out the risks and moves on.
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H2’s role in directing Ministers and officials has been considerable. Her word in meetings is taken to be as authoritative as the Prime Minister unless she says otherwise, and she doesn’t take fools lightly. If H2 listens to you, you know you may have influence – but if you fail to impress, you’re unlikely to get a second chance. H2 is across all areas of policy, she has to be, and that is no small task. She keeps an eye on Ministerial performance, knows what Ministers and political advisors she can trust for being intellectually robust, and those she can’t. She has been instrumental in negotiations with other parties on legislation, coalition agreements and policy – from the Greens to NZ First to United Future. The results are clear, little of the Clark administration has been pushed around by minor parties. When you consider that perhaps the Families Commission and Kiwibank are the biggest concessions Labour has granted its partners, this is no small feat. National conceded far more with NZ First when it was in government.
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One term for H2 around Wellington has been “the Associate Prime Minister”. It is clear why. She has rewritten Cabinet papers signed by Ministers because they do not reflect the views of the PM, and has been responsible for ensuring Cabinet minutes accurately reflect the outcome of a Cabinet committee meeting. She effectively doubles the working capacity of Helen Clark, who herself is no slouch for the time or effort she puts into her job. She was key in Clark’s four election campaigns, three of which were won. Setting aside for one moment the performance of the government, the corruption allegations and my disapproval of most government policy, and more recently Labour tactics – H2 deserves to be acknowledged as being a shrewd operator. In a government where most Labour MPs are a yard short of a metre intellectually, it is bloody hard work siphoning through Cabinet papers and keeping together, politically what has been until recently, a well oiled machine.
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As the Clark administration is approaching its end, Helen and all Labour MPs since 1996 ought to give full credit to Heather Simpson. She took Labour from almost looking like a third party between 1993 and 1996 (when so many New Zealanders hysterically backed the Alliance and NZ First), to making mincemeat of the National Party in 2002. She shifted Labour from being a broad church party of liberal and conservatives socialist and free market, to being an MMP centre left socialist-lite administration with its finger on the pulse of enough of the electorate to keep winning. She shedded Labour’s 1980s free market past and won back its core constituency, and negotiated confidence and supply agreements from parties on the centre right, keeping it in the mainstream, and sidelining Labour’s competition on the left. She has helped command a Labour government that has engaged in a quiet revolution in social policy, boosting social spending, restructuring the public sector and expanding the role of local government. New Zealand has been getting reinvented in centre-left Labour eyes, far more subtly, and progressively than revolution in the other direction in the 1980s. She almost single-handedly taught the Wellington bureaucracy to act for Labour policy, not against it, and effectively started a system of political advisors – one which I think will not disappear under National. It will have to, as National will have every reason to not trust many department when it finally gets into power. Most of all, she reinvented Helen Clark from being one of the most hated figures, as Minister of Health in the late 1980s, to being, despite it all, the overwhelmingly dominant figure in New Zealand politics – who won three elections. Reinventing Helen Clark, reinventing Labour, reinventing government and reinventing the public sector – that is Heather Simpson.
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It has been rare for any part of the news media to report on "Minister" Simpson. Excluding the likes of Ian Wishart, who may be more concerned about Simpson's sexuality than anything else, the true fundamental role that Heather Simpson plays in the NZ democracy has not been publicly mentioned. It may be questionable whether it is appropriate that an unelected official rewrites a Cabinet paper before it goes to Cabinet, although unelected officials draft virtually all Cabinet papers anyway. It may be questionable that Ministers get their own authority vetoed by Heather Simpson if she disagrees with them. However, it is not questionable that she has been as influential as Clark and Cullen in how New Zealand has been governed since 1999. Heather Simpson is a savvy political operator - she may wonder how Labour got to be from being virtually unbeatable, to being widely hated. If she is advising Clark, Hodgson et al, it doesn't show.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nanny says you're too fat


You've all been bad - you don't know how to look after yourselves. Those bad bad fast food companies nearly force you to eat burgers, chips, pizzas and all sorts of desserts that do so much harm to you. You're lazy and Nanny is so concerned, because you're too stupid to figure it out for yourself. You apparently don't know that eating lots of high fat and high sugar food, and sitting around watching TV makes you obese. tsk tsk. Fortunately, Nanny through Helen Clark, Pete Hodgson and others knows better and she is taking a bit of your money to tell you off.
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It's called an epidemic - although an epidemic is the definition of a disease which is spread from person to person. Obesity is not a disease - it cannot be caught - it is, in most cases, a matter of lifestyle. You cannot wakeup one morning and find you caught it, neither can you take a pill and be cured of it. It involves a combination of mind and body, but hey... calling it an epidemic helps transfer responsibility to Nanny.
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Apparently there is going to be a lot of promotion, including government funded websites promoting healthy eating (because it is such rocket science - what idiot thinks eating KFC every night is good for them?).
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There is going to be something called a "screen free" promotion to encourage people to not be in front of TV and computers. Yes - the same government that takes your taxes to subsidise TV programmes and owns two of the main free to air TV networks - the same government that has virtually fully funded Maori television - the same government that is going to use your taxes to subsidise the introduction of terrestrial digital TV - wants to spend more of your money to encourage people to NOT watch TV? Yes that is right. Presumably you watch the wrong sorts of TV, stupid idiots - Nanny knows you're incapable of making these choices without her helping you out.
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There is going to be "health impact assessments" for government policies, which should be entertaining for bureaucrats to consider. Increasing welfare benefits might be argued as encouraging obesity for example.
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Clark, fresh from calling Don Brash corrosive and cancerous says "With the right resources young people, their families and their communities can act together to make healthier choices". Resources! As Bob Jones once said, resources is code for money. I tell you what resource people need - their fucking brains.
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I remember at school being taught the food pyramid, yeah there wasn't the understanding about GI and the effects of carbs on weight, but it was broadly right. Eat mostly fruit, veges and grains. eat some fish, meat, dairy products, eat few fast foods, desserts, cakes, biscuits and soft drinks. This was twenty years ago!
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Don't tell me about health costs, because that is what a public health system creates. It is meant to give everyone a similar level of service, and you shouldn't be punishing people for being stupid - after all, the health system happily patches up people injured from killing others on the road , it patches up criminals and it patches up people taking enormous risks. If you don't like the cost, then shift to an insurance model where people pay for their lifestyle risks - suddenly they might behave differently (some wont, but they really shouldn't be breeding anyway - there is a growing pool of global idiots breeding idiots that 21st century life protects from killing themselves through being stupid).
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In Britain, the Nanny Statists have been out and loud, and fast food establishments responded - and found out that including salads on their menus was a failure. Nobody went to Burger King for a salad, so plenty of them were being thrown out at the end of the day. People wanted big meaty cheesey baconey fatty burgers that would clog their arteries - they KNEW it wasn't that healthy - but they DON'T GIVE A DAMN!
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and I am pleased. I am pleased because one of the most sickening phenomena nowadays are the pursed lipped mean spirited do-gooders who want to run everyone else's lives. They don't want you to smoke, drink, drive fast, eat fried food, be promiscuous, watch too much TV and other things that "aren't good for you". More recently they pull the environmental guilt trip - and they LOVE telling you off.
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Nanny Clark loves telling you off too. Robyn Toomath of Fight the Obesity Epidemic (what a joyless existence that must be - don't have cake dont have chocolate don't have chips finger pointing like a head prefect) says there must be "legislation" and supports curbs on advertising of foods she doesn't like. This is the same organisation that supports the view that building new roads makes people fat - because apparently you should be walking or biking the several kms uphill between Petone and Johnsonville instead of driving on the proposed new road. "FOE's initial focus is to improve children's nutrition through legislation, regulation, taxation and education" the site says.
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Ve vill make zee kids healthy by making it against zee law to feed zem things zat are bad for zem. Ve vill TAX zee bad foods und ve vill hide zee bad foods from zem und zat is only a start"
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  • How about phasing out state welfare so that poor families aren't getting subsidised to be obese? How about shifting healthcare to an insurance model so initially the parents are incentivised to eat more healthily (and then kids)?
  • How about FOE spending its OWN money on advertising to promote healthy eating - you know, like manufacturers of healthy foods already do?
  • How about it being accepted this is the parents' responsibility and there is a massive social stigma against obesity, especially during teens - and this can do far more to encourage exercise and healthy eating that nannying kids?
  • How about stop wrapping kids in cotton wool, so they don't go out and play without supervision, without safety nazis trying to protect them from climbing trees and exploring their neighbourhood?
  • How about promoting a culture of esteem, self confidence, individual responsibility and the wonder of the human mind and body, so that young people don't turn to food for comfort in a society that worships vapid heros, attention seeking and obnoxiousness?
  • How about considering how little young people will listen to Helen Clark, when they hear her calling her opponent corrosive and cancerous, and what that does to the political zeitgeist?

California should look to itself on pollution


SO the State of California is wasting taxpayers’ money trying to sue car manufacturers (the most successful ones, not all of them) because it says “their” cars cause pollution that the state then has to clean up.
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What utter rubbish.
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For starters, the cars are not owned by the manufacturers, they are owned by the owners. You can buy a car and put it on display or drive it endlessly – the person responsible for the emissions from the car is the owner. However, those are little people and hitting little people isn’t popular with envy ridden socialists – far better to go for the companies offering little people the choice whether or not to buy their products.
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Secondly, what the hell is California doing to “clean up” the pollution anyway? What cost does it impose on the state? At worst, the costs of pollution are born by road users, pedestrians and those living near busy roads because of the health effects. So who is responsible for that? Well the road owner – the road owner has let emissions from his land cross to that of neighbouring properties.
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So who is really responsible? Well the State of California. It is responsible for the roads that the vehicles operate on, the roads that it funds and manages as a corrupt trough of pork. The State of California under invests in road maintenance, leaving rough surfaces that increase friction, increase fuel burn and increase pollution. The State of California drives spending on roads according to political priorities, so some roads that should be built don’t get built (leaving people in congestion), and others that shouldn’t be built, are built (meaning people are driving on roads they haven’t paid for). The State of California does not run its roads on user pays principles, so as a result, like a Soviet bread shop, there is chronic queuing at busy times, with only two privately built toll lane routes offering motorists an uncongested alternative.
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So the State of California ought to look at itself – it ought to take all of its highways and sell them off to a private concern, which would have the power to toll motorists and vary charges according to how busy or quiet the road was. The State should take other roads off of local councils, and remove politics from those decisions as well – those roads can be commercialised and privatised. It will be surprised about how much pollution and congestion will reduce.
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Will Rogers once said the way to end traffic congestion is to have the government built cars and the private sector build roads – all that is needed is for the latter!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Evil bitch - Helen Clark

Stuff reports:
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"Personal attacks form no part of Labour's strategy. That's where Trevor was out of line," she said. "But I can't state too strongly that Labour regards Dr Brash as a corrosive and cancerous person within the New Zealand political system."
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Freedom is slavery, war is peace, personal attacks form no part of Labour’s strategy and by the way Don Brash is corrosive and cancerous.
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Evil lying, two-faced bitch.
Whaleoil has its latest video on Youtube which puts together her hypocrisy beautifully. Including her TV statements, and the interview on radio where she called Brash cancerous.
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That’s not a personal attack either according to Clarkspeak. Under Clarkspeak, everything is the opposite of what is actually is. Speeding motorcades are safe and lawful, Using public funds illegally to fund an election is legal. Abolishing laws that have a racial dimension is racist.
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How is calling Don Brash corrosive and cancerous NOT a personal attack? As David Farrar asked, "isn't it unhealthy for Clark to hate someone that much". It is more than that, Clark hates the National Party almost with a tribal loathing. Lindsay Mitchell rightly calls it "nasty" and "almost suicidal". I doubt Heather Simpson would have advised use of such language.
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Cancerous? How dare she fucking use the word? I know about cancer. My best friend once had it, I have a close relative who currently has it. As No Right Turn said, “You can hardly complain about "extreme rhetoric" when you go around using language like that.”
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She says Don Brash uses "extreme right wing rhetoric" to attack his opponents? Oh really? What does “extreme right wing” mean Helen? Is National now the “national front”? or is it like the Libertarianz? Ian Wishart has more in common with you that you may think. Of course Helen, you just engage in name calling.
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So you are a fucking evil bitch. You don’t bother with policy now, you get your venomous rhetoric out like the hate filled old fashioned socialist you really are. Loathing Don Brash, who under two governments you were Minister in, kept inflation down and was a respected public servant who did his job with the professionalism and neutrality that was expected of him.
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The one credit I gave Helen Clark is that she would boot out Ministers who failed to perform (a struggle when it was her mates like Lianne Dalziel) , taking control of policy from Ministers who hadn’t a clue, and at least was willing to stand up for what she believed in – something the likes of Shipley, Bolger and English were too lily livered to do. Now she appoints Winston Peters as Minister of Foreign Affairs outside Cabinet - such standards.
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She now faces a Leader of the Opposition who has some policies (one she said was racist and his poll rating went up because it was the exact opposite of racism), and she is being cornered. Cornered for everything from the use of public funds to spend on a campaign manifesto (pledge card), to a Ministerial decision being overturned by the High Court, to a Minister of Immigration granting favours to people who gave him favours.
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The moral highground does not reside with Labour, which has gone feral and tribal, and is fighting dirty. Tony Milne’s infamous comment a month ago is the same attitude, when it gets down to it, there are enough in Labour willing to jump in the gutter and throw shit. Their greatest disappointment is that National is not joining it, despite all of the attempts at bringing the Exclusive Brethren into it, that is old news - and at worst all that happened there was Brash wasn't open about a private organisation supporting National's campaign - like the union movement supports Labour - whoop dee do.
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You have be a pretty committed arselicker of the Clark regime to not be disgusted by her comments, and on the lunatic fringe of the conspiracy set to think that Ian Wishart, Don Brash, the Exclusive Brethren and Libertarianz sit in the same room trying to dig dirt on the Labour Party, and Peter Davis. Or else you’re taking some pretty bad drugs.
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Oh and don't forget Peter Dunne and Winston Peters, Insolent Prick is on the ball on Peter Dunne, who has proved his worthlessness as a figure with backbone, and Winston is enjoying the baubles of office. Those two men keep Helen Clark in power thanks to those of you who voted for NZ First and United Future.

The global conspiracy

I come back from a trip in Scotland and find this:
  • The Darnton vs. Clark court case is accused by Helen Clark of being funded by the National Party through Libertarianz (complete utter nonsense);
  • Don Brash is accused of having had an affair by Trevor Mallard and goes to patch up his marriage as a result - Clark denies Labour is into dishing dirt and after the public doesn't smile at Mallard's antics, she quickly tells him off;
  • Ian "twilight zone" Wishart digs dirt on Helen Clark's husband, accusing him of being (wait for it) gay - you know those evil despicable family destroying, children eating, perverts who want to corrupt you and your children, with bestiality, drugs and unbridled hedonism (yep that's Peter Davis all right);
  • Clark claims this is all part of the rightwing conspiracy led by National (rubbish).

and now I read that Pete Hodgson, a rather intelligent man, is getting all upset about the global exclusive Brethren conspiracy to fund and campaign to support conservative oriented political parties (after all the trade union movement around the world would never get involved in politics on the left, spending members' money on campaigns).

One word for it - DESPERATION.

Seriously Helen, Pete etc, you have become quite unhinged. Bernard Darnton and Libertarianz are not funded by the National Party - I know that for a fact.

Whether or not Don Brash had an affair or Peter Davis is gay is irrelevant to me - either way. It is their personal lives, it affects their respective marriages and families, and whatever is true or not in those respects is not a political matter. It is true that there are far more secrets and allegations around Parliament, several I know of, and they cut on both sides. MPs know about this - they know the closet gay MPs, the MPs who are having affairs - and that is simply because it is a fact of life.

Ian Wishart's Investigate is a third rate substitute for the Sun. At least the Sun doesn't pretend to be anything other than scandal and tits - Ian Wishart wouldn't offend his readership by showing tits.

There is no right wing conspiracy operating worldwide. Libertarianz for starters is critical of ACT and National on many fronts, and has no time for any of the Christian conservative agenda. There is no more a right wing conspiracy than a left wing one - the Greens, Labour and the Maori Party have as much as common as National, ACT and Libertarianz.

Helen - the public believes that since Labour broke the law, and used taxpayer funds to buy electoral advertising (as did some other parties), that it is wrong. Wrong. You know wrong? Immoral, unjust, inequitable.

The problem is Helen, you're arrogant. You think you have the right to be PM for as long as you want, you believe you are a victim of your success as a popular and competent PM - and the public doesn't like this self serving attitude. You have bought votes with other people's money through electoral advertising and through subsidies, pay increases and other handouts to those you think are deserving. There are a lot of people who pay those taxes to sustain you and your minions, and those whose votes you have bought who are fed up with it all. A lot support National - and I know you hate the National Party with every bone in your body - because you think National is sexist, racist and homophobic. Many in National are more liberal than some in Labour - the Labour Maori division is no bastion of liberalism.

So a few words of advice Helen - stop being so desperate - the public smells it, you're no longer in control and no longer believable. You have two years left at best, as long as Peter Dunne and Winston Peter continue to line their pockets as Ministers supporting your regime - which smells every single day that you and your Ministers lie, muckrack and find conspiracies.

The clock is ticking.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Socialist PM lies in Hungary

Lying to win an election. Sounds familiar? Well it happened in Hungary earlier this year - Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, Leader of the Socialist Party has been caught. He lied to the public about the state of the economy before the general election in April. A recording has emerged from a closed meeting in May – a translation of what he said is:
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“There is not much choice. There is not, because we screwed up. Not a little, a lot. No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have. Evidently, we lied throughout the last year-and-a-half, two years. It was totally clear that what we are saying is not true. You cannot quote any significant government measure we can be proud of, other than at the end we managed to bring the government back from the brink. Nothing. If we have to give account to the country about what we did for four years, then what do we say”
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If only Helen Clark could admit the same - though she is proud of taxing, spending and regulating NZ - and she wont admit to lying - she hates the National Party so much that she is now hysterically raving on about some great right wing conspiracy which seems to be the National Party steering Ian Wishart, Libertarianz, lawyers, accountants and the exclusive Brethren.
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The Hungarian PM has admitted he lied, but wont resign. Many Hungarians have been protesting in Budapest. Like many politicians in the former Eastern Bloc, Ferenc Gyurcsany was a communist, having joined the Organisation of Young Communists in 1984 and working his way through the ranks before joining the successor party. So he would have been used to lying.
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His Socialist Party narrowly won the election – sounds familiar? - it had just under 1.2% more votes than the opposition Fidesz/Christian Democratic People’s Party.
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The budget deficit, you see, is 10.1% of GDP -which is enormous, with over 50% of the state budget on welfare. The Socialists campaigned on taxcuts (all very well), but refuse to cut spending, so campaigned on bankrupting the country in effect, without saying so. Inflation is at 6% and economic growth grinding down to 2% next year, compared to the far healthier Czech Republic, expected to grow at 5.5% next year. The Socialists have been borrowing and spending money to boost incomes - in other words, it is a little bit like NZ in the early 80s.
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So it will be interesting to see what happens. He has said he will crackdown on further violent protests – as some ruckus was caused on Monday night. This is understandable, and the local elections in 2 weeks will likely see the ruling Socialists losing significantly.
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Whether Hungarians tolerate this is unclear, but they will face some tough changes in coming years to revive their dying economy - which means spending cuts to get the size of the state under control, and reduce inflation.
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You'd think Hungarians might have learnt to not let politicians run their lives, especially ex.communist ones!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Islam and terror

I've returned from Scotland, with a pile to do at work and my home ADSL modem has packed up, and my girlfriend's laptop has as well, so I am restricted to dialup at home on my laptop.
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I will write later about Scotland, Britain and many other things on my mind (such as the UK's mindless obsession with being control freaks, how friendlier the Scots are), but for now I wanted to post a link to an ARI Op-Ed about Islam and terrorism, given I was on holiday for 9/11.
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The real reason behind the terrorist threat that besets the USA, UK, the Netherlands, France, Spain, Italy, Australia, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Egypt et al, is the promotion of Islam and a refusal by the West to openly and proudly assert the values of the Enlightenment of reason, freedom and individual rights.
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As Edwin A. Locke and Alex Epstein state:
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if we are to identify the fundamental cause of the terrorists' actions, we mustunderstand at least two fundamental premises of the religion they kill for.
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First, Islam, like all religions, rejects reason as a means of gaining knowledge and guiding action; it holds that all important truths aregrasped by faith in supernatural beings and sacred texts. The Koran explicitly states that knowledge comes from revelation, not thinking.(Christianity in pure form entails a similar rejection of reason, but it has been heavily diluted and secularized since the Renaissance.) Islam advocates the subordination of every sphere of life to religiousdogma, including the legal system, politics, economics, and family life; the word "Islam" means literally: submission. The individual is not supposed to think independently but to selflessly subordinate himself to the dictates of his religion and its theocratic representatives.
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We have seen this before in the West--it was called the Dark Ages.
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Second, as with any religion that seeks converts, a derivative tenet of Islam is that it should be imposed by force (you cannot convince someone of the non-rational).
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That is it - they continue in stating that many Muslims reject fanaticism and are law-abiding and peaceful people but this is because "they have accepted some Westernvalues, including respect for reason, a belief in individual rights,and the need for a separation between church and state. It is only to the extent that they depart from their religion--and from a society that imposes it--that they achieve prosperity, freedom, and peace."
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Literal Islam, like literal Christianity (that is taking what is in the Koran and the Bible as being "truth" and "morality") is evil - it results in government and people that engage in evil practices. Take the battle in Pakistan to reform the rape laws that currently require FOUR witnesses to observe a rape before a women can even charge a man of rape, otherwise she faces a charge of adultery - for which SHE will be punished - so a woman gets punished for being a rape victim by the state! You have to wonder how feminist the feminist leftist moral equivocators in the West really are?