Thursday, November 30, 2006

Brash's resignation


I am saddened but not surprised that Don Brash has resigned from Parliament. It will be all the better for him personally. He wont join ACT sadly, or Libertarianz even ;-)
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His legacy is viewed in mixed ways across the political spectrum. To those on the left he was an anathema, and many there have been spitting out the venom they accuse him of starting – when much of what he did was to challenge their comfortable little world. A world view that means that challenges are responded to by name calling, insults and their own bigotry – the bigotry against people who are personally successful, wealthy or foreign. The left talks about the rich the same way as southern segregationists use the word "nigger", it plays the envy card on demand. Most of all, the left were horrified that Brash's views on not giving Maori privilege through government measures, are held by a lot of New Zealanders, and National nearly won as a result. Labour's provincial heartland voted National in droves - Labour was only saved by the big cities and a concerted campaign to scaremonger voters in low income parts of Auckland.
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To the conservative right Brash was a godsend, though one they initially were wary of. However, he was groomed to say the right things at the right time to shore up that vote. A vote that, while probably topping little more than 8-9% all up (take the 5% max that the Christian Coalition could have cobbled together, and those who are too conservative to vote anything BUT National) was motivated to turn out and vote. Unfortunately, they were his undoing.
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To the libertarian right he was a godsend too, but in a different way. You see, Brash is, pretty much, one of us on many issues. On economics he believed in minimal intervention, in private property rights and in government getting out of the way. On social policy he was more concerned about delivering quality and choice in health and education, but unlike Libertarianz he believed in retaining a welfare state as a last resort. He was keen to promote a culture which was the antithesis of the New Zealand tall poppy syndrome, one which celebrated success. I heard Don Brash speak at a SOLO conference in Auckland and had some wine with him afterwards. At the conference he engaged in a formal debate about whether or not a government central bank was necessary, he believed it was and that there was competition in currencies between countries, so little need for it within countries. He responded to countervailing arguments intelligently and with good humour.
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He was was more libertarian than many in ACT. He was socially liberal, with little interest in censorship or the state interfering in people’s private lives. He didn’t believe in legalising drugs, but could understand the arguments in favour of reform. However, most of all, Don Brash could understand philosophy and the application of philosophy to public policy. He could debate intellectually about both. He is a gentleman, and at that time was simply a relatively newly elected MP. The group of us talking to him joked about him becoming leader, which of course he fudged – little were we to know.
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I have written before about Brash’s achievements. The positives are substantial. He broke the mould of the unspoken politically correct view on Maori. The view that essentially, they ARE oppressed, they need special government help and the law should treat them differently. He questioned that, something that when others mentioned it, they were shot down in flames by those proclaiming “racist”, in their Maoist like intolerance for reasoned debate. Whatever Key and English do to provide succour to the Maori Party, this issue is now out in the open.
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Brash put tax cuts clearly on the political agenda, he justified them credibly. Credibly because not only the surpluses that Dr Cullen spends, but also because of bureaucratic waste. People believe both that the government is wasteful and that it doesn’t need to tax so much to pay for publicly funded services that most people want (health and education). Tax cuts are no longer just the “give money to the rich”, they are “give me back my money”. It wasn’t the government’s money to spend in the first place.
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Also important are Brash’s confrontation of the RMA, one of the most anti-private property fascistic pieces of legislation in recent history. The legislation that allows all and sundry to delay what others do with their property, when it has little effect on them. He also confronted the welfare state, the notion that it was acceptable to have intergenerational welfare dependency, and to persist with the notion that it is caring to just keep giving people welfare.
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Those messages, along with Brash being himself. Being socially liberal, voting consistently for civil unions and prostitution law reform, COULD have won the election. Brash is liberal on social issues, he is not the conservative that some National strategists had him play up to, or that many on the left believed he was. Unfortunately the National Party could not stomach an intelligent economic and socially liberal leader. This is where things went wrong.
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Brash’s success in boosting support for National with his principled approaches to Maori issues (despite pointless statement on pure blooded Maori that meant nothing), taxation and welfare were seen by both ACT supporters, and the conservative Christian right as providing a platform, not entirely dissimilar from what worked for Bush in 2004. The idea that Brash could rally the largely ignored conservative right to vote National. Those voters had largely been burnt from politics firstly in 1996 when the Christian Coalition failed (thank God!) to get 5% of the vote, secondly by United Future giving Labour confidence and supply, and thirdly by Graham Capill’s revolting hypocrisy.
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Brash’s made three big mistakes:
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The first was to deny the Exclusive Brethren. The left has made much of this non-issue, a weird religious sect campaigning against a Labour-Green coalition and supportive of a National led government. That is no big deal, but Labour milked religious bigotry in a manner it would not even THINK of if it were Muslims or Maori spiritualists, to make it look suspicious. Brash should have said, as PC has once said, is the same as Reagan once said “"When people join my campaign, they are supporting me; I am not necessarily supporting them."
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This would have neutralised it. Unfortunately Brash, a political novice, was pressured by National’s spin doctors and strategists to lie – a typical political response, deny and lie and hope it goes away. It works for Labour, usually, but not the Nats.
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The second was to talk about “mainstream” New Zealanders and about families, and stumble when talking about race. He did this in order to get publicity and also motivate the conservative base to vote for a man who otherwise, is a liberal atheist. On families, he should have said little more than families are important and a family is any group of people who live together with mutual interdependence and love, and if pushed resist defining it further. He should have steered miles away from talking about the mainstream, alienating gay/lesbian/bisexual people, and Maori. He could have talked about government existing for all New Zealanders, giving no preferences but also no discrimination towards any minority, with the individual being the smallest and most ignored minority. Idiot Savant ripped into him on this, and made some very good points, whoever advised him to talk of this was a fool, and Brash was mistaken for doing this. It hurt National in the main cities.
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Finally, he simply did not act as himself. He was being protected, no doubt seduced by the promise that those who play the filthy game of politics knew better than he how to attract votes. In fact, it was his honesty, his gentle respectful manner, his combination of intellectual rigour and liberalism that attracted much support when it showed. When he was trying to be a politician, he got hounded for it - he's not convincing when he doesn't really believe in what he is saying.
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The left attacked him for being racist, until it realised that a large number of New Zealanders were also concerned with the prevailing bureaucratic view that you daren’t criticise any special government programmes/laws for Maori. The left attacked him as being only for the rich, until the National policy did not remove the top tax rate introduced by Labour, and large numbers of New Zealanders saw they would benefit from modest tax cuts (and knew that Labour’s surpluses were hardly sign of a government unable to fund the core services they wanted the state to provide). It was epitomised by Helen Clark calling Brash cancerous and corrosive, while Labour bemoaned the depths to which NZ politics had dropped – ignoring that Labour was supplying at least half of the ballast, and in enormous denial about forcing the NZ public to fund its pledge card.
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Of course Winston Peters, who actively played the race card in several elections regarding immigrants, is now Minister of Foreign Affairs. I’ll let the leftwing blogosphere reflect how principled and moral Helen Clark and the Labour Party really is given it chose Winston and NZ First, when it could have chosen the Greens or the Maori Party. It will simply blank that out though as being irrelevant - which it wouldn't be if National was in power - the hypocrisy of tribal politics.
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Aucklander at Large rightfully points out the personal toll politics imposes on people. It is high, and it is a game for the merciless, I hope Don Brash enjoys a break from it - and takes the opportunity to comment on the sidelines when and where he believes he can make a contribution.

Helen Clark speaks on ANZUS and nuclear ships


My mistake, I didn't notice who said it, it was hard to tell.
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Stuff reports “National Party leader John Key says there will be no nuclear powered ships entering New Zealand's harbours as long as he leads the party and he accepts the ANZUS treaty is dead.”
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Well of course Bolger started this, when he didn’t need to. Now John Key is clearly trying to cozy up to the Greens.
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Come on John, give me one evidence based reason why nuclear powered ships should not enter New Zealand harbours? I can’t wait. You’d rather surrender to the scaremongering cabal of unscientific leftwing nuclearphobes, the same ones who will go to France, Japan and other countries and consume nuclear power without a second thought. The same ones that hardly uttered a criticism of non-Western nuclear powers, while constantly blaming the USA, UK and France for nuclear weapons – because, you see, they were morally equivalent to the USSR and communist China.
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ANZUS? Well yes it is dead, he says he is just acknowledging it. Well that isn't necessary John, unless you clearly don’t want to align yourself with the war on terror. No, far easier to take the cowards’ approach. Be “independent”, don’t look like you are aligned to the US, because so many in the media, universities and the like are anti-USA, anti-capitalist, whilst saying nothing about the likes of Matt Robson going to Cuba to felch lyrically about how great that one-party authoritarian state is. When you catch the tube several times a week John, you understand what the war on terror means - it means every day I am a potential target, along with a million others, including thousands of New Zealanders. However, far easier to surrender the argument and pander to the "it's the American's fault Islamists murder innocent civilians" view.
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So there we have it – John Key, surrenders to unscientific nuclearphobes and
ambivalent on the war on terror. He want to be more bi-partisan on foreign policy. Why stop there? Why not economic policy, education policy, Maori policy? Indeed enough of confrontation and division - "let's think about not what divides us, but unites us" (as David Lange once said). By the way John, how many votes do you think this issue cost National? Seriously?
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I’ll wait to see whether David Cameron or John Key is worse… the jury is still out, Cameron is well ahead, but Key is having a sprint. Think I'm wrong? Well don't take it from me, no other than Jordan Carter sees the replacement of Brash with Key as a victory for the left philosophically and politically. He calls it "a strategic victory for Labour and for social democratic politics".
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Sadly, I believe he is right. However, when National moves into Labour's ground it traditionally wins - witness 1949, 1960 and 1975. 1990 it won partly due to disenchantment with Labour, but it also attracted back most of the pro-market vote Labour won from the New Zealand Party in 1987. However, whatever party implements centre-left policies shouldn't matter to Jordan. His philosophy is where National is heading, and he shouldn't care if his tribe wins or not, as long as the status quo - that Labour supports - is largely unchanged.

David Benson Pope and kinky BDSM

1. Everytime someone mentions it, I feel ill. I find him a repulsive little man, but...
2. it is absolutely irrelevant whether he or any other MP is:
a) an ascetic;
b) wanks furiously to memorable earlier life experiences;
c) gay, bisexual, lesbian, heterosexual;
d) likes being spanked or spanking or whipping or bondage or retifism or klismaphilia or urolagnia or coprophilia (if you don't know don't ask and certainly don't look it up on your work PC);
e) buys used underwear or socks off the internet from university students;
f) has occasional conventional sex with a life partner;
g) gets buggered by a strap on worn by a prostitute.
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I don't give a damn. Wishart's muckraking is not about policy, not about the law, but about being a judgmental little prick about what consenting adults do in their own time. Ian Wishart's motives I believe are twofold:
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1. Sex sells. There is a prurient interest in "phwoar what did the pervy MP do". However Investigate isn't the Sun.
2. Catering for the finger pointing Christian conservatives. The type that would be outraged to know the MPs who are gay but in the closet, or who would punish their kids if they caught them masturbating.
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In short, the people who have their own perversions, of voyeurism and in being fascinated in what other adults do (and either wanting to secretly join in, or to burn them at the stake).
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These people are far more disconcerting than most of the pervs who have found this post through googling some of the words listed above.
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There are reasons to attack Benson-Pope - my simple one is that he is a prick, based on personal experience.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Telecom - the left has won

Telecom has always been a favourite target for the left. It is the privatisation they loathed, even though Michael Cullen and Helen Clark voted for it in Parliament and in Cabinet. The privatisation used to try to buy the 1990 election with some short term social spending, instead of using it to cut debt. The privatisation that saw Telecom's market value soar - many forgetting this would hardly have happened had it remained fully state owned.
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I’ve blogged before about local loop unbundling, it is part of the tale of eviscerating Telecom’s private property rights. It is a process that began when this government started regulating telecommunications far more directly than in the past.
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Without going into much detail, at Telecom’s privatisation it agreed that it would provide interconnection to its competitors and abide by the Commerce Act. In that sense, unlike most private companies, the property rights of Telecom were limited by voluntary agreement. The government sold Telecom on that understanding, and it was a reasonable one. It meant that all new telecommunications network providers could interconnect with Telecom, so that Telecom’s customers could call the customers of competitors and vice versa, and it acknowledged that, for the time being, almost all local line customers would be using Telecom’s network. Ultimately Telecom had a court battle with the then Clear Communications about this to test this – and they came to a mutually agreeable position, and for some years Telecom negotiated interconnection agreements with competitors at prices and terms which – if the competitor was dissatisfied – could be challenged at the Commerce Commission.
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Because Telecom’s new owners agreed to this at privatisation, I have no problem with this. During this regime many new entrants emerged in the national and international tolls market. BellSouth and later Vodafone built a duplicate cellphone network, Saturn later TelstraSaturn then TelstraClear built duplicate local networks in Wellington and Christchurch. There was competition from new infrastructure and competition from reselling leased lines from Telecom.
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However, since then Labour has moved to introduce a telecommunications regulator, to regulate more directly the prices Telecom must offer its competitors and to require Telecom to resell certain wholesale products at regulated prices to its competitors. This has been the beginning of the erosion. After mandatory resale was talk of local loop unbundling, so instead of simply being able to onsell Telecom’s services, competitors would be allowed to attach equipment and onsell directly the use of the infrastructure rather than just the wholesale service. Now the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee is proposing the dismemberment of Telecom’s business into three arms. With the exception of ACT, this has unanimous support in Parliament.
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Glad you voted National now?
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David Farrar (who is out of his mind), is an enthusiastic supporter of this erosion of Telecom’s property rights quotes the select committee report saying:
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“The majority also noted that when Telecom shares were initially offered for sale the Government reserved the right introduce further regulation if effective competition did not emerge."
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I’ve not noticed the government ever surrendering its right to pass laws on anything it wants. The state is sovereign, as Helen Clark once declared proudly. Regulation is a long step away from requiring Telecom to split in three. Of course effective competition has emerged. You might ask why Telecom is not dominant in the mobile phone market, it is because a competitor built its own network and competed fair and square. The competitors moaning about Telecom are second-handers. They don’t want to make money selling something they produced, own and created through their own effort, they want to make money selling something Telecom owns, at a price that is dictated by the state.
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Telecom’s response has been to essentially say it wont get in the way of this. One way of looking at it is that Telecom has been told to take its medicine, and if it doesn’t it will be forced – so Telecom bends over drops its pants and hands the government the lube to make it less painful, instead of either running away or fighting.
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All along I have made two points. Those who want better access to Telecom’s property should either:

1. Take Telecom to the Commerce Commission and then the High Court under the Commerce Act. Telecom’s original private owners agreed to be regulated by this, the law has been substantially tightened. Make an objective case about anti-competitive behaviour under this law. I don’t agree with this law, but instead of convincing politicians, how about convincing a judicial body? It will see through the bullshit which almost no politicians could see through. Takes too long? Well, when you want the state to order about a private company then you should make your case. Other industries take cases under the Commerce Act, you're not special!
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2. Buy out Telecom. If it is soo damned important to “New Zealand” then get together with all those who care to buy out a majority shareholding in Telecom, and change it. Put your money where your mouth is and acquire Telecom’s property rights, then devalue them for your own company if you wish (you’ll probably need to buy out the whole lot otherwise you’d be breaking the law doing that, so aim for 90% of the firm to allow for compulsory acquisition of the remainder). If it is in the national interest and you are lobbying so comprehensively for it, then buy up all the shares that are of value to you. Then either change Telecom or enjoy the monopoly profits that you’d be a fool to ignore.
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No it wont happen, you see it is far too easy to lobby politicians (of whom all but two in Parliament do not believe in private property rights). Next time someone will lobby them to take something you created - then who will you cry to?
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By the way, the claim that "there are many precedents for this kind of regulatory action" is remarkable. The only one I know of is electricity, which was a Max Bradford special, against official advice and which largely enabled the SOEs to buy up the electricity retailers, while electricity lines companies were left alone. That's another story.
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On a side note, Gman noted by Not PC has proposed Kiwiblog be unbundled. Its dominant position is clearly an issue, though Public Address may need to be dealt to as well. There may be no legal barriers to entry, but hell imagine trying to get their market share given their incumbency advantages :-)

So you think you pay for government?

Stuff reports that Peter Dunne has said that 12% of taxpayers now pay the 39% income tax rate that cuts in at $60,000 per annum. The 1999 pledge card (don’t ask if you paid for that one) said that income tax would increase for 5% of taxpayers. So Labour thinks the top 12% are rich. According to Dunne the threshold should be over $90,000 to retain relativity with the position it was in 2000.
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However that isn’t the scandal. That 12% now pay the majority of income tax (51%). How democratic is it then for 82% to be able to dictate what the majority of income tax should be spent on? Why is it fair to talk about all taxpayers as being equal, when 12% carry the majority of the burden of government (I doubt they pay a small proportion of GST, resident’s withholding tax or rates too!).
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You might also ask yourself what would happen if half of that 12% decided to leave, and what would be left of the surplus, and the health, education and welfare systems that show how much “love” there is in society? I wonder how Labour would account for that?
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Democracy, as usual, simply means that the majority vote for the minority to pay for what they want. This apparently is a scandal when there are ethnic minorities, they need special representative – but who looks after the interests of the minority who pay the majority of tax in a democracy?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Idea for Rodney Hide

Invite Don Brash to join ACT, to stand in 2008 as East Coast Bays candidate against McCully, and to be finance spokesman and deputy leader.

It will be your best ever chance to revitalise ACT, now that the Nats are on the slow train to their comfort zone of platitudes and status quo politics. While the Nats fight for the centre, ACT can take back those who believe in less government - it does believe in that (doesn't it?)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Disgusted by politics

Recent events have reminded me of the utter sickening bad taste that I should get from politics - that bad taste I forget runs through the heart of politics - it is the poison of people whose single minded obsession is control, and who seek it through lies, through force and who are blind to the failings of their own tribe.
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I can remember feeling a bit of this on a couple of occasions. Jim Bolger's political lynching of Ruth Richardson following the 1993 election. David Lange's sacrificing of Roger Douglas after Cabinet agreed on a flat tax. The British Tories political lynching of Margaret Thatcher.
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However now I am bitter. I am bitter at the depraved depths of Labour and Helen Clark in particular to engage in personal attacks on Don Brash. However I am also bitter at the charlatan whore masters of McCully and co. for advising Brash to be less than himself for the election, and for the National caucus to have sold him down the proverbial river, having milked him for a 86% increase in the vote. Politics is a tough game, but it also is a game largely fought by people who are - lets face it - lowlifes.
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The filthy personal politics of New Zealand is something not seen since the days of the Colin Moyle affair. Even some of the most rancerous relationships did not drop this low. It has been played by some on both sides. Those on the religious conservative right would target Helen Clark's marriage and sexuality, cretins like Ian Wishart are now attacking David Benson Pope who, while being a prick, has every right to engage in (or not engage in) whatever consensual kinky adult sex he wishes. I simply don't care. I don't care if Helen Clark's marriage is passionate and kinky, or ascetic and convenient. However, while some in National play that game, Brash did not. At worst he made ill advised statements about "mainstream New Zealanders" - these backfired - showing what little use the spin whores are.
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Don Brash did not attack Helen Clark personally. Helen Clark called Don Brash cancerous, and painted him as racist. The left has painted Brash as leading some sort of elite club which wanted to oil New Zealand industry with the blood of poor Maori kids, as if there was an agenda to privatise, dismantle welfare and state health and education - leaving poor families homeless without access to schools, hospitals or jobs. This is complete nonsense, and the spin doctors on the left know it - but frightening the poor, particularly those with low levels of education or poor command of English is the stock in trade of the left. Telling them that Don Brash is a rich white man out to cut their benefits, make them pay for school and the doctor, and cut their wages - helps keep them dependent on Labour doesn't it? These same people painted Brash as Monty Burns from the Simpsons - both the Greens and Jordan Carter did. The Greens like to paint themselves as peaceful and playing the ball not the man - what nonsense. The left is nasty when cornered, as nasty as the likes of Wishart and those on the right who they accuse.
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The despicable lie that Brash was racist, anti-Maori and wanted to destroy Maori, is part of the currency of hate and name calling that is part of the hard left. Political correctness was the term coined by Mao Tse Tung to criticise those using the wrong language and wrong views - Brash called for the state to be colourblind. You know, like the civil rights movement in the USA, like the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa (remember Brash protested against the Springbok tour). Anyone calling Brash racist is either stupid or downright despicable. It is an easy way to shut down an argument - insult the person with the different view, don't even debate it. Hone Harawira doesn't know better, the left does. It knows Brash comes from an honourable classical liberal position - it may be true that some in National went along with it because it saw votes in scratching the Maori bashing views of some people - but Brash was not a part of that. Remember Labour started reviewing some of its programmes to remove such an element? Forgot that didn't you? Oh yes, it isn't happening anymore since Labour won the election.
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However despicable the Labour party and its sycophantic bauble grabbing toadies, Winston Peters and Peter Dunne, are, it is difficult to beat the refusal to confront Labour's misspending of taxpayer's funds for the election campaign. Labour changes the law to legalise it, but refuses to change the law to legalise National's mistake. The tribal hatred expressed by the Labour party and its supporters, and their own deluded, almost Orwellian belief in the honour of their cause is bizarre and quite revolting. You might like Labour, but to believe it has a monopoly on good intentions and is inspirational shows a low intellectual and emotional threshold for inspiration. I am sure the next spider that climbs up the water spout will be just as inspiring. Seriously- mainstream politics is a revolting sport of tribes made up of mostly intellectual pygmies with the independent thought of sheep, with a handful of very smart very focused power hungry control freaks who know only too well what they want. If that inspires you then join the mafia, it is more honest about how it treats people's lives and property. Remember Labour trusted Brash to run monetary policy for two and half years, and before then two years (appointing the man and yes Clark and Cullen were in that Cabinet). His intellectual credentials are difficult to beat.
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However, I already knew the Labour party was full of people who think they know what is best for everyone, the ones who think they know best how to spend other people's money, how best to provide your kids' education, supply the healthcare you need and how to regulate your business, your body and your life. Labour is a party, fundamentally, of social engineering and change.
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It is National that I am particularly disgusted with. Yes I know it is best if the Nats regroup and focus on Labour, but I doubt than only a few National MPs must be thinking how filthy politics has become that Brash has been chewed and spat out. Brash was different from them. He understood ideas, principles and the application of principles to policy. He was the most principled leader National had had for twenty years (Jim McLay was the last and short lived as leader). I debated policy with Brash personally a couple of times, unlike other politicians he has a formidable brain and thoughtful - he didn't spin, he does believe in individual freedom and he does believe in the dignity of the human individual. It is not race, sex or sexuality coloured - he is a liberal - something that Labour loathed and lied about, and which some of his advisors wanted hidden (to get out the Christian vote).
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National nearly won the election, primarily on two messages:
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1. Race based laws and government funding are wrong;
2. Government wastes too much of your money, you deserve some back.
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Brash created and sold these messages. Bill English in 2002 campaigned on the basis of..... what? Exactly. Nothing.
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Brash resigned because the people whose jobs are largely because of him would not stand up for him - they are too stupid, gutless or lazy to argue that Nicky Hager's book is muckraking of little substance and that Hager is essentially a sycophant of the Greens/Alliance. Unfortunately, Brash's biggest mistakes were in not following his instincts. He could've been upfront about the Exclusive Brethren, shutting down the loudest non-issue since the election. He could've refused to talk about marriage, mainstream New Zealanders or any other pandering to the conservative instincts of some in the party - and brought more of urban Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch with him. Unfortunately, he was tainted by the National Party and the gutless unprincipled disloyal caucus who have now promoted the only possible alternative leader, and a man who nearly destroyed National.
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Bill English in 2002 didn't talk about tax cuts, or ending race based funding. He sold Labour Lite and cost National the 2002 election and to some extent the 2005 election too. Had he not decimated National's vote in 2002, it would've had more MPs, more funding, more experience to contest 2005. English is one of the 1990s so called "Brat Pack", who are about as radical as an untucked shirt.
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So English will be finance spokesman - Brash wont be, he is tainted goods -good enough to get the bastards nearly twice the seats of last time - but no. Brash vs. Cullen on the budget would be a debate worth seeing, but Cullen will make mincemeat of English - and frankly if he does, I will look forward to it. Cullen is smarter and wittier, and it will serve the Nats right. English will sell out everything he can to win Labour voters - that, after all, is the National Party way.
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So that is politics. The National Party has shrugged off its most successful leader since 1990 (when Labour handed it a victory, and it lied comprehensively to get elected), for a leader who stands for little and a deputy leader who was its most unsuccessful leader in its entire political history. It is turning its back on colourblind law and funding, it is turning its back on tax cuts and less government, and more "clever smarter" ways of spending your money and telling you what to do and what not to do. It chose this over a robust defence of Brash, when if they truly believed that Hager's book shows them to be immoral, they should all resign. Resign or stand behind Brash - disloyal unprincipled pricks.
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So what now? Well if you believe in individual freedom, less government and the end to race based laws you might be looking at ACT and the Libertarianz. Libertarianz did, after all, take Helen Clark to court (the Nats didn't).
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Or you might just decide it is time to spend a few months living your life, enjoying yourself and ignoring the 119 bastards in Wellington who want to make New Zealand a better place by doing more "for you" and spending "your money" for the community. Why just 119? Well I'm giving Brash a break, and even think Rodney Hide has it in him to be different. I'm not inspired by politics at all.
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Speaking of which. Don? Resign. Get out of it all. Leave them alone. You've done your party proud. If they can't give you anything worthy of your intellect and honour, then leave politics behind, hold your head high and write another piece for The Free Radical. Not PC will welcome it! It might even get rid of the bad taste in my mouth.

Business class lie flat seats

Any airline worth a front end passenger nowadays should have fully lie flat (that is horizontal not sloped) seats in business class for long haul flights. Sadly few do. The website Flat Seats has more information for the travelling connoisseur, with information about the long haul business and first class seating of virtually all airlines. Some airlines have angled or sloping lie flat seats, you lie flat but slide to the ground, others are still back in the 1990s with recliner seats which is acceptable for flights of four to five hours max, but not if you are expected to sleep properly.
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So, what's the situation for flying in and out of New Zealand? I have looked at the airlines that serve New Zealand (and Australia for flying to Europe, since you can often fly across the ditch and get a good deal), to see who has what sort of seats in business class (not first class, I'm not that rich yet!). Airlines not listed either have no business class or only fly on short routes to and from NZ.
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FULLY LIE FLAT SEATS

Air New Zealand (747s and 777s only)
British Airways (connecting from Sydney)
Virgin Atlantic (connecting from Sydney)

ANGLED LIE FLAT SEATS

Cathay Pacific (installing fully lie flat in 2008)
China Southern
EVA Air
Gulf Air
JAL
Malaysian Airlines
Qantas (747s and Airbus A330s)
Qatar Airways
Royal Brunei
Singapore Airlines (fully lie flat on 777-300ERs only)
Thai Airways

CRADLE RECLINER SEATS

Aerolineas Argentinas
Air New Zealand (767s and Airbus A320)
Air Pacific
Air Tahiti Nui
Emirates
Garuda Indonesia
Korean Air
LAN Chile (angled lie flat being fitted)
United

John Key - excite me

Here you go John Key, give me a speech which includes at least some of the following themes:
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1. National’s principles. A belief that people know best how to run their lives, their property, their families and that government should err on the side of not intervening, not regulating and not taxing.
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2. Private property rights. That the right to own, alter, sell and give away your own property is fundamental to New Zealand society and the creation of wealth. People must be able to own the fruits of their minds and do with them as they please, as long as they do not trespass on the property of others. That the best way to protect the environment is the application of private property rights. The role of the state is to intervene when these rights are breached, and the RMA needs to be amended or replaced to recognise this.
^
3. Personal freedom. All New Zealanders have the right to live their lives in peace as they see fit, regardless of race, religion or no religion, culture, politics or sexuality. This right is only limited by respecting the right of others to do the same in peace. The state should not dictate what adults do with their bodies, regulate their personal relationships or interfere with families, until people start abusing others physically or sexually.
^
4. One law for all. How it is not racist to say that the state should be colour-blind. Why laws or government funding should say that people should not get treated differently because of racial backgrounds, or that religious groups or individuals (or non religious ones) should not be given preferences. Assert it is a thoroughly liberal notion that the state should be colourblind, and that this does not mean that some people are mainstream and others are not, this does not mean that if you are Maori you do not exist as being Maori, but that the state treats you no less than if you are Caucasian, Samoan, Indian, Chinese or Arab. How there shouldn't be separate Maori seats, but how all MPs should be listening to their Maori constituents.
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5. Less government is better. Assert that there is too much regulation and too much bureaucracy and that New Zealanders are paying for too much government. Say that a National government will undertake a thorough review of government departments and programmes and ask them to justify what they are all spending taxpayers' money on, and why certain laws exist. Say that National will reduce the state’s ownership of businesses it owns, either by sales or distribution of shares to the public.
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6. More choice in education. Schools should operate more independently, and funding should follow the student, with parents making the decisions about what is best for their child.
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7. There should be less tax. Explain how taxes are not the government’s money, it is the money of the people who own it. How the government should take less, and do less and leave people to act on their own.
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8. Dependency on the state is not a virtue. Explain how welfare needs to be reformed to remove incentives to remain on benefits, how the Working for Families package should be replaced with tax cuts and why government should not aspire to be the country’s biggest landlord.
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9. Law and order is a vital role of government. People should expect the police and criminal justice system to respond to real crimes. This should be the number one goal of government – to get better performance out of the criminal justice system, and for government to not be above the law.
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So there are some clues. By the way, if you say any of the following, I wont be interested anymore:
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1. "Government needs to be smarter". Trotting out phrases about doing things in smarter ways, thinking innovatively, finding new solutions, blech. Government is dumb, which is why it doesn’t do most things very well.
2. "Government needs to listen". Forget consultation, the only people who respond to consultation are lobbyists and the lazy “got nothing better to do” left. Just damned well do it, if Lange and Douglas listened our GDP would be less today and we'd still be arguing.
3. "The environment is critical". No it is not, it is better now than it has been in recent history. People are critical.
4. "Government needs to engage with families". No it doesn’t, leave families alone. Most function well without you sticking your beak in.
5. "Government needs to help the innovators, creators and employment producers by providing funding…." No to corporate welfare! It needs to help them by lowering taxes and getting out of their way.
6. "More money for health and education". Money down a black hole John, you need to start weaning people off of the state – but you’ll just waste more no doubt.
7. "Corporate social responsibility". Say that phrase and you deserve your head smacked in. Businesses are responsible to those who own them. They have no more social responsibility that trade unions, or private individuals.
8. "Inclusiveness". Means nothing.
9. "Climate change is the biggest challenge in our time". No it is not, at worst it is a change that we will have to adapt to, at best it is a scare.
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What’s the bet that he’ll say most of what is in the second list and little of what is in the first?
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and make Brash Finance spokesman. He will have credibility in that role beyond what English could (yes English was once Finance Minister, but only because Bill Birch was Treasurer - in that position created so Winston could have some baubles. Birch ran the portfolio).
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If you don't he may as well resign because you don't deserve the man, it is him alone that put one-third of the caucus there.

What Brash would have done...

I am glad that for the last 15 months I have been watching political events in NZ from afar. The 2005 election was a nail biter that still gave me a smile, because I witnessed provincial New Zealand turn its back on the moral relativists of political correct Labour – the ones who think they can make the country a better place spending your money, rather than you can, the ones who call you racist for wanting a colour blind government, the ones who think the answer to any problem is the government. It also gave me a smile because Don Brash’s vision for New Zealand was one that, at least in part, I endorsed.

So what would have happened had National beaten Labour? Well for starters it couldn’t have acted willy nilly – United Future and NZ First would have kept it restrained somewhat. As Peters and Dunne both know they can get more out of the power starved Nats than they can out of Clark, it would have been more of a coalition than the current government.

Despite the tribal propaganda spun by Labour, the Greens and the Maori Party, among others, Don Brash’s vision was neither a conservative one, nor ACT recast, but it did represent two changes in direction that I thoroughly support:

- Less government (exemplified mainly through modest tax cuts, but also a return to scepticism about government spending and intervention);
- End to race based law and funding.

Have no doubt about it, Brash was not going to implement ACT or Libertarianz style policies writ large. Yes you’d get the tax cuts, but the left’s fears of massive cuts to social spending would not have been realised. Yes, the unions in the education and health sectors couldn’t snap their fingers and get the pay rises they would like, but there would still be public health and education, and social welfare. None of that would be cut, you just would see less growth in it. You’d see less subsidies to businesses. In short, the willingness of government to spend more and more of your money would be lessened. You would see privatisation on the agenda again, but probably no more than it is with every other liberal democratic government today – only Labour under Clark is into renationalisation when “necessary”. Some bureaucracies might have been closed, like the far from neutral Ministry of Women’s Affairs.

Regulation would be reformed, I am sure local government would get some shackles put around it so it doesn’t pursue mad expensive schemes like an underground Auckland rail station. The RMA would be reformed, probably giving property rights some status to reduce the ability of the RMA to hinder what people do with their own property.

Maori specific funding would have been phased out in favour of funding by purpose rather than recipient, and there would be a start to removing Treaty of Waitangi clauses from some legislation. You could expect to see greater scrutiny over projects like Maori Television.


The left like to paint it as another era of Rogernomics or Ruth Richardson, but this is far from the case. If it were about some radical revolution you’d see:

- Flat tax (no, just some lifting of thresholds);
- Selling off all SOEs (no just some consideration of it for some, like selling down stake in Air NZ, which Labour wanted to do with Qantas);
- Commercialising health and education or privatising (no sign, some private provision is hardly a radical step forward);
- User pays in health and education (it wont be less, but unlikely to see much more);
- Radical cuts in welfare (probably be tightening of welfare eligibility and toughening of enforcement, but no end to the safety net);
- Big increases in defence spending (strike wing and blue water navies both too expensive, but likely to be some increase);
- Repeal of anti-nuclear legislation (might be some improvement in relations with the US militarily, but that would be too much to hope for)

There is no conservative religious agenda. Civil unions and prostitution law reform would be safe. There wouldn’t be religious teaching in schools, or any other fantasyland policies for evangelicals to get excited about. At best they might hope for education vouchers so private schools are funded similar to state schools – hardly an enormous step forward for a conservative agenda. Nevertheless, it is part of the currency of the left to paint the right as racist, sexist, homophobic and generally gleefully enjoying people becoming poor.

Brash was anything but that, a Brash led government would not have been libertarian or ACT oriented, but it would have applied economic rationalism, it would have demanded accountability and performance from the public sector, it would have closed down some bureaucracies and erred on the side of non-intervention.

That in itself would be a small step forward. It might also have helped inculcate a party with principle, discipline and understanding that being pro-business and less government means NOT outdoing Labour by saying you’ll spend more or subsidise more or regulate more.

Sadly I’m not convinced John Key knows better and I know Bill English doesn’t. With the odd exception, the National Party has been conservative - meaning it has done nothing. Labour establishes the welfare state, National expands it. Labour establishes universal pensions, National expands it. Labour subsidises businesses, National subsidises them more. Except for 1990-1993 (and to a limited extent 1993-1999), the Nats have been arguing on Labour's terms. Brash offered political debate on wider terms than that - the left hated him and have brought him down, with the help of the "born to rule" portion of the National Party. The ones who love the idea that government can get involved in "anything". They'd be in Labour if it was closer to the centre.

So that's it - the last National chance to have a government of some principle. Look for the following in National in coming months:

1. Fudging about tax cuts.
2. End of talk of abolishing the Maori seats and removing Treaty references from law.
3. Commitment to act on climate change.

This is because the Nats will want to be seen as kind, and they want to seduce the Maori Party and the Greens.

I hope I am wrong.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Nicky Hager - the poor leftwing rich boy

You wont hear the NZ media say much about Nicky Hager being a wealthy socialist. Pointing out the wealth of political activists tends to be more fingerpointing towards those on the right than the left, and the hardcore leftwing credentials of so called “journalists” like Hager are neglected to maintain an air of impartiality. There is none – Nicky Hager is no more impartial on the New Zealand political scene than Brian Tamaki or Roger Kerr, but the media would always remind you of their backgrounds. Hager, living a life of leisure from inherited wealth has an explicit agenda, and it is a deception in itself for him not to be upfront about it. The agenda was clear with Corngate, he wanted the Greens to capture a far higher proportion of the leftwing vote from Labour, so that a Green-Labour coalition would see the Green’s socialist agenda commanding far greater influence than it does. Now his agenda, with Brash having nearly led National to victory, is to discredit Brash and the National Party – he wants Labour to be re-elected in 2008.
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Hager’s book has a foreword by Marilyn Waring, a woman more than happy with National under Muldoon, except for Muldoon and the conservative social/foreign policy agenda. Quite frankly it is clear that Marilyn Waring is a complete oddity, being a socially liberal socialist who was a National MP – a bit like Trevor de Cleene the socially conservative economic liberal who was a Labour MP.
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Hager’s book is timed brilliantly following a difficult time for Labour. A time when in order to save its reputation it passed legislation to retrospectively legalise its own illegal actions – which Hager totally ignores – a time when Labour committed to paying back to the state the money it took for its campaign against the law and against advice from the Electoral Commission. Hager cares little for this, for it is clear which side he is on, and is the side of Labour closer to the Greens, certainly no side of National.
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His disingenuous statement in the preface that “a millionaire belonging to the social group that enjoys most privilege, in his first major speech as leader, subtly attacking many of the poorest people in New Zealand” ignoring that Brash was identifying a major issue for much of the New Zealand public. This was tiredness at funding based on who your ancestors were, and a state funding system that often saw a small number of Maori obtain substantial wealth through state patronage.
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Hager says it is easy to spin and manipulate, and how the media and electoral law are weak in responding to this. He admits he could have also written a book about Labour, funny how he hasn’t - he could have written two in parallel or one that covers both, but then his bias would be difficult to hide and the effect of the book would be neutral, and Hager is anything but neutral.
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The truth about Hager does come out in his book though. His concern about individuals and companies making donations to political parties and influencing their policies doesn’t seem to matter when it comes to unions or iwi. He seems to think that laissez-faire economic policies are not about principle or what is effective, but about granting privilege – whereas ignoring that free-market policies are about abolishing privilege – the privileges granted incumbents, monopolies or subsidised industries against consumers, competitors and taxpayers. Hager doesn’t understand economics.

Furthermore, Hager’s interpretation of the 1980s/1990s reforms speaks volumes about his agenda. Apparently foreign companies bought up most major New Zealand businesses. Apparently that is a bad thing because somehow Hager himself could influence a New Zealand privately owned business better than one with those horn in the head and snake tongued foreigners – the xenophobia against foreign businesses is a common leftwing bogey, shared in fact by the fascist far right. He doesn’t like university fees, presumably he likes middle class students and the sons and daughters of lawyers, accountants and doctors to get educations paid for by everyone else compulsorily.

He makes various claims about the public health system and poverty, presumably Hager’s concern about poverty is because he’s never had any. His nonsense about scuttling hopes for an egalitarian society is curious, since there is little evidence he does much materially for this.

In short, he is a vapid little socialist muck raker. His allegations about the SIS involvement in the Maori Party have been dismissed. The Corngate scandal was about nothing whatsoever – at worst it was the application of science to a principle that was impractical to follow, and one that did not risk life or property. It was Hager caught up in the genetic engineering scare – remember that? Notice how genetic engineering scares a lot less people now?

Without reading Hager’s book I believe his allegations will run to:

- National Party MPs/officials having communications with the US Republican Party and getting tips on campaigning, with moral support (remarkable! So people with common philosophical positions in politics discuss tactics – wow!);
- National Party MPs/officials having communications with religious/conservative groups that would either provide funding or support campaigning to get National elected (the Brethren link). Again what a scandal that voluntary civil organisations in a free society would choose to work with a political party that they believe would advance their goals;
- National Party MPs/officials discussing policies such as tax cuts, closing some government departments, education and welfare reforms that would see more choice and a reduction in the size of government. Outrageous that National would want to promote policies consistent with its constitution;
- Generous donations to the National party directly and through third party organisations by wealthy people. Hager clearly doesn’t like his own kind not supporting the socialist parties he warms to.
- National Party’s affiliations and supporters wanting to promote policies to make the rich richer and poor poorer and oil the wheels of capitalism with the blood of welfare recipients. You see Hager, like some on the left, see and portray their opponents as selfish and evil, who enjoy seeing poverty, who enjoy seeing people failing in their lives – you know, like those on the left who cheer whenever anyone wealthy faces significant loss of some kind.

Nothing in Hager’s book will excite anyone who isn’t already on the far left of politics, the types who think wealthy people, religious people and foreign companies are all evil and selfish when they support free market policies – but who would embrace them if they helped fund the Labour Party to implement statist socialist policies. National under Brash has promoted a clear agenda of modestly less government, of a classical liberal approach towards race relations (treating everyone the same), of less government intervention in the economy, being tougher on welfare and more choice in health and education. Or you could believe Nicky Hager and it is about leaving the poor to starve, making workplaces less safe to save money, letting health and education collapse and institute some sort of Christian neo-conservative social agenda.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

So Brash has resigned?

I got an email from a friend while working late.
If it is true, then Labour will be thrilled.
There may be hope in John Key, but Brash's resignation is due to a man who is not naturally a politician (convincing liar) making blunders that the sharks on the left don't tolerate.
Now we will see if the Nats slip into Tory Cameron mode, and become the pablum of politics.
If true, Labour will deserve to keep winning elections because the National Party finds it so hard to win elections - it has always waited on Labour losing them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A simple question

If leftwing moral relativists “understand” Islamist terrorists in Iraq, Israel, Madrid, London, New York and Istanbul, killing civilians of all backgrounds, because of anger at Israeli policies regarding the Palestinians, are not far-right xenophobes similarly to be “understood” if they vandalise and beat up Muslims, because of anger at Islamist terror?
When is violence in expressing a political opinion ever justified (I do NOT mean self defence)

and no, I do not have any time for far-right xenophobes.

Liberty - well, no

The group Liberty here in the UK is not far different from the next to non-existent Council for Civil Liberties in New Zealand, which once used to be trotted out by the leftwing (i.e. virtually all) of the broadcast media when it was outraged by some measure that appeared to restrict someone’s freedom. Liberty’s latest campaign demonstrates how little it actually understands about individual liberty, as it fights to force pub owners in the village of Ruddington in Nottinghamshire to admit a patron who they have banned. The eight pubs in the area have banned Graeme Chessum from entering their premises for two years.

Chessum went to the Country Cottage Hotel to complain about the noise, and lost his temper, so the bar owner decided to ban him in order to protect the staff. Liberty believes it breaches human rights regulation, which if it does, is frankly absurd and shows how lost Britain is in terms of property rights.

Pub owners should have the right to ban whoever they want from their premises on any grounds, short of the Police obtaining a search warrant or a bailiff collecting a debt. Private individuals have no right of entry onto private property. There may be an implied invitation, but this can be refused. Liberty should be supporting the pub owners and their private property rights, not an individual who has threatened the staff of one of the pubs.

Chimps prefer their mate's grans

The Times reports that male chimps would rather have female chimps the age of their great grandmother than one their own age. Young ones tend to mate with the weakest and most unwanted males. This is considered to be because chimp females do not go through menopause (so there is no biological problem with them breeding at all ages) and because chimps are naturally promiscuous, so the male breeds and moves on.
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Other wondrous features of the animal sex world (watch the search engine hits go up with that phrase) include:

- The male African golden web orb spider has two penises, both of which break off during sex;
- Male goats are excited by displays of lesbianism (presumably between goats, not Slovak women;
- Ladybirds copulate for up to nine hours at a time (which must surely be months in their lifespan equivalent).

Monday, November 20, 2006

The KGB is back

There is little doubt that following the glory days of the Gorbachev/Yeltsin era of freedom, Russia has been slip sliding towards what can best be described as corporatist fascism. It is freer than the days of the USSR, but political opposition in Russia is low key and nascent, and there is good reason. If you start asking serious questions your life is in danger.
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Alexander Litvinenko, a critic of the Putin regime, is in a London hospital after an apparent deliberate poisoning over the weekend, involving Thallium. Thallium compounds are used in rat poison and only tiny amounts are needed to kill. It is unclear whether the poison was ingested or pass through Litvinenko’s skin, but the message is clear – someone was out to kill him and it is not hard to figure out why.
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Litvinenko moved to Britain six years ago and recently gained citizenship. He went to meet a journalist who claimed to have information about the death of another Russian journalist – Anna Stepanovna Politkovskaya, who was found shot in the head four times on 7 October. Politkovskaya has been writing an article on the use of torture by authorities in Chechnya, a specialist subject of hers.
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The Novaya Gazeta is the paper she worked for, and it is now owned 49% by Mikhail Gorbachev, who is known to be concerned for civil liberties in Russia.
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The attempted killing of Litvinenko harks back to the bad old days of KGB contract killings in third countries. This was not a monopoly of the KGB, the secret services of other Soviet block regimes also engaged in this activity, North Korea still does. I need not remind intelligent readers of the famous Bulgarian umbrella trick.
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Putin is clearly running a kleptocracy that is subject to little challenge or discipline. He can continue to do so as long as Russia reaps the rewards of high energy commodity prices, and Putin surrounds himself with people who make a killing out of something that they did next to nothing to create. Russians like a strong man who is sober, and Putin has been unafraid to assert himself in the world. However, it is clear that with the strong man comes few opportunities to challenge his power and authority. The assassination of Politkovskaya and attempted assassination of Litvinenko are only the tip of the iceberg. The tragedy will be for Russia to slip further down the path of fascism.

Stupid anti-Bush moral equivalency

Now I’m no friend of George W Bush. I carry no truck for his Christian conservatism, but the USA is not becoming a theocracy or even close. I don’t support the use of torture by any government. I believe there have been some ridiculous reductions in civil liberties in the USA, but regardless of that it is still fundamentally no less free than most other western liberal democracies. Bush’s record domestically in my book is that, while there are some positives in tax cuts, he has increased spending willy nilly and proven himself as much of an interventionist in some areas (education) as his predecessors. He is not a great President.
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On the international arena I support his attacks on Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the succour for Al Qaeda and itself was ruled by a brutal stoneage regime that was highly oppressive, and treated all citizens, particularly women and girls, in virtually Old Testament biblical fashion. While Afghanistan could be have been undertaken better, Bush was a liberator and should be applauded by all liberals for that.
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I supported the action against Iraq. It was justified for two reasons. Firstly, under international law Iraq had broken umpteen UN Security Council resolutions regarding inspections of its weapons facilities. This gave sufficient evidence, particularly given its previous nuclear and chemical weapons programmes (and use of the latter), that it was developing such weapons and would use them. The assurances of a dictatorship that there are no such weapons are as worthless as the piece of paper Chamberlain brought back from Munich. A nuclear armed Iraq would have changed the Middle East balance of power, encouraged Iran to do the same and threatened Israel. Iraq had been warned time and time again that action would follow words, so action was justified, after 11 years of breaches. Secondly, the Saddam regime was odious. It was murderous, barbaric and on its own back, was imperialistic. It started the war with Iran, regardless of US support at the time. Don’t forget the current US administration is not the Reagan administration operating in the Cold War. It also had attacked Kuwait and Israel, hardly a peace loving regime. It executed thousands of citizens every year for opposing the regime or for getting in the way of the Hussein mafia that ran the place. There was no moral justification for the Hussein regime to claim it had the protection of international law, as it was not interested in peace with other states and it treated its citizens as subjects.
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The overthrow of the Hussein regime is something to be celebrated, the commission of the occupation and institution of a democratic government has been a disaster. I could go on about how it could have been done better, and of course, the casualties since the coalition of the willing occupied Iraq. Few notice that the main source of deaths comes from Islamist insurgents, but apparently these are the fault of the USA, which should leave Iraq alone to be overrun by them.
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Beyond Iraq, Bush called North Korea, Iraq and Iran part of an axis of evil. He was wrong to consider them in a way that appeared that the three countries operated in concert, as they do not. However he is dead right. The Iranian theocracy is evil, it completely denies freedom of religion and freedom from religion, it denies liberal democracy and free speech, it engages in imprisonment, torture and execution of political prisoners, as well as executing teenagers for crimes such as having consensual sex with adult men. It is a sponsor for terrorism in Israel and the occupied territories, as well as Lebanon and Iraq. Have no mistake, an Iranian style regime would deny many fundamental freedoms and be a dark deathly oppressive life. North Korea is worse. Kim Jong Il runs and essentially owns a slave state. A state with internal passes, with citizens classified according to loyalty to the regime, and where entire families are punished for crimes against the state, including children. Torture and execution are a matter of course, and there is no freedom of speech of any kind. Absolute control of the media and speech Orwellian style is life in North Korea. It is the closest to hell on earth.
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So this is why I get absolutely incensed when otherwise reasonably intelligent people like Idiot Savant engage in the most stupid and despicable moral equivalency when criticising George W Bush.
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I agree that there should not be restrictions on freedom of speech if Bush visits New Zealand or restrictions on protest, as long as these do not threaten the President. I also believe any state visits should minimise restrictions on freedom of movement, consistent with maintaining adequate security. However to say Bush is “a man who by rights should be in a cell next to Saddam Hussein” is absurd. Bush’s greatest crime has been the use of torture and creeping restrictions on civil liberties. I would welcome the newly elected congress engaging in an inquiry about the use of torture and its use being terminated. However, Bush is not Saddam, Kim Jong Il or Ahmadinejad, not even close. He understands, more than most on the left, what the war against Islamist terror is about. It is not a clash of civilisations, because Islamist philosophy is not civilised - it is a war against people who want society to be a misogynistic stoneage theocracy. Bush is not the greatest defender against this threat, but his use of torture, while a graven and immoral mistake - does not justify him being seen as the likes of Hitler, Milosevic or Saddam.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Mourning Milton Friedman


For all of his critics, Friedman was one of the most successful advocates of economic liberty in the world. The application of monetarism to minimise inflation has been a dramatic success. That change has seen inflation disappear as a major concern in the western world – those government no longer effectively print money to pay deficits, they no longer destroy state debt by engaging in the brutal theft of people’s savings through inflation. People under the age of 30 will not remember a time in New Zealand when inflation was consistently above 10%, motivating many New Zealanders to invest in property to protect their savings from the ravages of governments of both National and Labour who would effectively borrow and print their way out of short term problems.
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He was a man for more than monetarism, he generally was a Hayekian, believing in individual choice over state control, and believing that people who were free would be more likely to better themselves, than those subject to regulation and state provided monopolies. He advocated floating exchange rates, the use of education vouchers so that parents could choose private schools instead of simply public schools and supported replacing state welfare with a negative income tax system.
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However, he should not just be remembered for his economics. He was also a social libertarian, he opposed the military draft and supported decriminalisation of narcotics and prostitutions. He believed in freedom in the personal and economic sphere, and as such was a libertarian, although not as strictly libertarian as myself.
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Friedman’s views got an ear most notably in the Reagan and Thatcher administrations, but also Bob Hawke’s administration in Australia, and in New Zealand with Roger Douglas and the fourth Labour government.
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His critics may focus on his priority of inflation over unemployment, ignoring that inflation unlike unemployment, offers little to no chance for escape. Today in those countries that have implemented monetarism, inflation is both relatively low and so is unemployment.
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For all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the time, the Clark government has embraced monetarism with a slightly increased inflation target, Jim Anderton, once a strident critic, is part of a government that maintains it. Having been part of a party that opposed it intensely, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown gave the Bank of England independence in meeting its inflation target.
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That is Friedman’s legacy. His advocacy of low inflation has saved hundreds of millions of people from having their savings eroded by government profligacy. We take it for granted now, and there may be a case for a different approach (free banking) in the future – but he is to thanked and it is an indictment on public education that this man is not seen as the hero he should be. Now if only he could now tell John Maynard Keynes how wrong he really was!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Sport - the opiate of the masses for politicians

As the debate ensues about where Auckland's new compulsorily funded stadium is meant to go, it proves there is nothing like talking about sport to inoculate the public about your past faux pas.
Time passes quickly.
It is 15 November and have they paid it back?
No.
Thieving bastards.
When one of them asks you where you think the stadium should go, ask when the Labour Party will pay back the money it illegally spent on its election campaign.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Adults can still all choose to drink

Kudos to both Clark and Brash for voting against changing the drinking age. Not PC’s latest post summarises some of the good reasons why this has happened. It demonstrates that some in Parliament agree that when there is a problem, the answer is not to pass a law against it. Shame the Greens aren't the slightest bit consistent on this.
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When you’re an adult you’re an adult – you accept the freedoms and the responsibility. If its your kids getting alcohol underage then first decide if it is a reason to panic (moderate drinking is hardly a problem), and then why they are doing it.
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Drinking alcohol is not, in itself, a bad thing.
Getting drunk, occasionally, is not, in itself, a bad thing.
Acting destructively towards others and their property when drunk is - but it would be regardless of your intoxication.
Being addicted to alcohol is bad, but it is no reason to restrict access for others.
A culture that treats alcohol as a means to dull the brain, rather than to enjoy the taste of the drink and to relax and be sociable - is also a problem, but it is not the fault of alcohol.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Republicans and Democrats ... if only

Regardless of the result tonight, this should be the future of the Republican party. Check here for endorsed liberty oriented candidates. Check here for the ratings of existing congress members on a scale from authoritarian to libertarian – you’ll see none of the Democrats rank beyond centrist, but many Republicans do.
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This is the heart of what the Republican Party should be about – not evangelical Christianity. The Democratic Party’s equivalent is nothing quite the same, but it would be nice if politics in the US was about debating THAT difference, rather than anti-capitalists vs. Christian evangelism.
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Tonight, the victories of the Democrats will be no victories for individual liberty. A US liberal is typically only liberal on some personal freedoms (usually ignoring drugs and censorship - remember the Clinton administration started proposing internet censorship), but most liberal with other people's money.

Clark and Bolger - political whores




Chris Trotter’s curious comment in his latest column that Helen Clark and Jim Bolger are more similar than either is to Don Brash is not far from the truth. After all, both Clark and Bolger are political whores par excellence. If we look at both their political careers they have actively been a part of some of the most authoritarian and liberalising governments in recent history.
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Helen Clark was Minister of Health in the late 1980s – when hospitals were being closed because of the archaic duplication of facilities across the country, and the health system was starting to face up to a structure reminiscent of the worst local authorities. Mental health was the poor cousin, as nobody got elected to hospital boards promising to increase funding for it. Clark was part of the beginning of the Rogernomics revolution on health care that meant that hospital boards couldn’t keep asking for more money without accountability for what was being bought. Clark was also in Cabinet when Telecom, PostBank and Air New Zealand were privatised, and also when it agreed to implement a flat tax. No doubt she held personal reservations about much of this, but in agreeing to be in Cabinet and a Minister, she wasn’t just a backbencher loyally supporting her party – she was in a position of power, part of the Rogernomics revolution and was widely loathed as small hospitals saw their range of services reduced. She succeeded Mike Moore as leader in 1993 with what has been described as a “Maoist” type of coup, and then worked hard to win the 1996 election.
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Jim Bolger was Minister of Labour in the latter days of the Muldoon government. To his credit he supported voluntary unionism (repealed by Labour, reinstated in the Employment Contracts Act and not repealed by Labour), but he was also in Cabinet while Think Big was being progressed, wage/price freezes, interest rate regulations and continued growth in subsidies. Bolger supported one of the most leftwing interventionist governments in recent history, he was a part of it. After his election as PM in 1990 he led a government that continued Rogernomics, with further privatisations (NZ Rail, BNZ, Radio NZ commercial networks), reductions in state spending, structural reform of the health sector, reductions in welfare. The liberalising policies also saw Bolger fall out with Winston Peters, and start the process of electoral reform with referenda on change options and ultimately MMP itself.
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The 1996 election showed the country what Bolger and Clark are all about. With National roughly maintaining its share of the vote at 33%, Labour’s vote collapsed to 28%, as the “talkback idiot” factor saw NZ First and the Alliance pull in as strong third and fourth parties. National needed NZ First to govern, ACT and United would not be enough. Labour needed NZ First to govern too, as the Alliance was not enough. So after the election, Winston looked like the cat who got the cream, and Bolger and Clark – both whom loathed Winston and his pandering to anti-Asian racism, started strutting their stuff in meetings with him like common K-Road whores.
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Ultimately it was Bolger who Winston screwed, one reason being that while he could have screwed Clark, he also needed Anderton there watching, and that was less than appealing.
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Indeed, Clark and Bolger have a lot in common – they were both desperate for power at any cost. Bolger could have walked away from it all and said – no – the National Party supports immigration and does not pander to populist nationalist politics (or some monosyllabic grunt that the talkback demeritocracy understands). So could have Clark. No.
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Of course, as we all know, Bolger’s marriage with Winston didn’t last and the Nats paid the price in 1999, with Clark storming in with Anderton (and the Greens) to govern.
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In 2005 it was different. National not only could not govern with a ragtag mob of United Future, NZ First, ACT and the Maori Party, but Don Brash had campaigned on NOT entering into government with Winston Peters. He was never tested as to whether he actually would have. Clark, by contrast, could have governed without Winston Peters, and had a choice of support from the Greens and/or the Maori Party instead, but she actively sought out Winston Peters – the man who continues to get support for either playing the “foreigners are dangerous” card or being Maori, and formed a confidence and supply agreement with him.
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This all makes a mockery of the sort of drivel that says that National wants power at any price – Labour is at least as bad and has been willing to sell out immigrant New Zealanders by giving Winston his baubles of power and appointing him Minister of Foreign Affairs, even when it didn't need to.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam's sentence


Idiot Savant at No Right Turn is at least being consistent opposing Saddam getting the death penalty. On top of that he says “Unlike the Nazis, Milosovic, or the genocideres of Rwanda, Saddam did not receive a fair trial according to basic international standards”. I simply do not care – it is beyond any doubt that Saddam was responsible for waging war and engaging in mass murder. He is not a private citizen and does not deserve the treatment of one. I do not want him imprisoned - largely because so many dictators in the past have been imprisoned and over time find their way into other countries or living a sheltered existence, as new governments are too weak to take them on. Pol Pot, Idi Amin and Bokassa among others should all have been put to death.
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I cannot conceive how any human being with an ounce of decency can give a second of consideration as to what happens to that monster. It is not a precedent for hanging murder suspects high - it is of a different scale. The leader of a totalitarian state is a slavemaster who commands life or death upon his subjects - this is supremely despicable beyond words, and well beyond that of an errant citizen who commits murder in an otherwise free society.
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Robert Fisk decries it because Iraq was a US ally in the 1980s. Well it was also a Soviet ally too, but you wont see Fisk damning Russia because the Soviet government is “gone”. The fact that the current US administration is three removed from the one at the time of Saddam’s crimes is irrelevant. Fisk points out that the US turned a blind eye when Saddam used chemical weapons in Anfal and in the war against Iran. Saddam’s war against Iran was supported by the US, UK, France, West Germany and the USSR – in other words, it had widespread support by the international community, against the Islamist regime in Iran. The west chose Iraq as a lesser threat – a point that may yet prove to have been true. Fisk ignores that most of Iraq’s weapons were acquired from the USSR, other Warsaw Pact countries and China in the 1980s – he wouldn’t dare damn them would he? You see Fisk likes applying moral equivalency to the USA over Saddam Hussein and anyone who thinks that this is justified needs their heads read - only a fool would say that the two administrations are morally equivalent.

Greens propose insane bills on climate change

I don’t recall what MP said that the thing about the Greens was that it was odd that a party that was so concerned about the planet spent so little time on it, but its latest flurry of draft Bills to “combat climate change” are perfect examples of this. Besides the legislation fetish (pass a law to stop it happening or make it compulsory - demonstrating the Green penchance for authoritarianism), you don't have to guess what they MUST have been smoking when they wrote this.

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Snake oil? Yes, unfortunately they don't know how stupid they really are.

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There is one requiring the government to buy little cars (I couldn’t really give a toss about that frankly, except they have allowed the cops to have cars they can use to chase suspects - and well the government can regulate itself if it wants). There is one requiring electricity companies to eliminate fixed charges (so you can subsidise the cost of keeping accounts open for people who only use electricity occasionally at their bach, even though they want the lines to be available 24/7/365). They also want the Cullen fund to start investing in ways to minimise greenhouse gas emissions – which, given the Green grasp of fundamental economics, is simply scary. The Greens have to win an award for most wanting to set money on fire.

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However, it is the transport ones that, unsurprisingly, come out as being incredibly loopy.

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So, without getting into the debates about whether man made climate change is happening or not, let’s purely look at the merits of the Green’s proposed bills to tackle transport related greenhouse gas emissions.

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First, there is one to require all airlines to cap their current emissions (so don’t expect more flights) and then reduce them to 1990 levels. Now ignoring the fact this will breach the Convention on International Civil Aviation, this would mean a major hit to tourism and domestic air travel. Yes, airlines have been buying more fuel efficient aircraft, but aviation has been growing as well. So it would be back to $1200 return flights to Australia, infrequent provincial domestic flights and flying would, once again, be the preserve of the more wealthy. There would be jobs lots in tourism and export industries that use air cargo, but hey why should the Greens care? Ironically, Air NZ would be hit most hard, after all, its foreign competitors wouldn’t face these restrictions elsewhere and could probably take the hit after cutting their own number of flights. Of course, this wont affect climate change one iota – because one year of Chinese aviation growth would outstrip any “gains” from this proposal.

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Another Green proposal is a bill to require that two thirds of your road taxes be spent on transport modes other than roads (they don't need a bill to do this, the last one they supported means the Minister could direct this if she was so inclined). So this means massive subsidies to public transport, walking and cycling, rail, coastal shipping and travel demand management. Of course, to do this would mean not only ceasing all new road construction (that means new signage at intersections as well as motorways – ALL road improvements would have to end), but a 17% cut in road maintenance spending. So welcome those potholes, for the buses and bikes too – but hey, roads are bad aren’t they, rails are good? (much like four legs good two legs bad). Oh and if you wondered about delivering freight around town, it goes by rail, or by bus – think about it.

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However my favourite for sheer lunacy is the bill requiring the entire rail system to be electrified or using bio diesel by 2012. The Greens have even listed the lines they want electrified by then – being such transport experts, they must have got it right (hmm Christchurch-Greymouth means coal export trains – which form 90% of the trains on this line – will change locomotives twice in each direction as the coal goes from elsewhere on the West Coast to Lyttelton, but hey don’t argue with central planners). Of course this means almost all current locomotives get scrapped (no point retrofitting any, since almost all are more than halfway through their economic lives) 275 of them, at an average cost of (lets be generous assuming shunters are cheap) $2 million each. So there you have it, $500 million for locomotives alone (you’ll easily need $50 million in spares as well).

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However, the actual Think Big electrification (it is many times greater than the scheme Muldoon imposed) is amazing in itself. We are talking billions of dollars, because it isn’t just about stringing up wires and poles (and thousands of them), but also lowering tunnels, replacing the signals along the lines (electrification interferes with signals), safety protection at bridges (because high voltage lines mean electricity can “jump” a metre or so) and complete replacement of any copper wire telecommunication lines near the track. Given the electrification of the centre of the main trunk cost $350 million in 1986 dollars, which today be $600 million (excluding locomotives) – we are probably talking about another $3 billion. Given the current value of the entire NZ railway business is $600 million – I doubt this would increase its value fivefold!!

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Of course all this electrification may actually be no cheaper to run, but if it is – it will be a subsidy to the main rail freight using industries – dairy, coal and forestry (and export containerised freight). I wonder what the greenhouse gas profile of those industries is?

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So what would this be for? It is apparently to eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions of the rail industry. What would the cost of those emissions be if New Zealand bought them under an international carbon trading scheme at an estimated high end price? The government's own study, which the Greens quote at their convenience says $5 million in 2002. $5 million!!! $3.5 billion to save $5 million a year!! You could earn $175 million off $3.5 billion on a bank deposit. Ahhh I see the Greens protest, saying that they want more freight to shift from road to rail saving more. OK, so lets say ALL road freight (other than local delivery vehicles) went by rail – patently absurd since railway lines don’t go everywhere and railways are usually inefficient at moving freight less than 150km – then the total cost of the carbon credits that are saved is $53 million a year. Still light years away from being a good use of your money – even if you had given permission for the Greens to spend it.

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So there you have it – even if you do believe that man made climate change needs to be combated, ask yourself if you are prepared to pay the price of:

- Shrinking the NZ tourist industry;

- Shrinking the NZ export sector dependent on air cargo;

- Significantly increasing the price of air travel for NZers;

- Rougher and more pot-holed roads as maintenance is deferred year after year;

- No road improvements of any kinds, from motorways to minor safety improvements;

- $3.5 billion in rail spending to get a gain that is probably at best $10 million a year.

No doubt they’ll say I’m mad and ignoring the Armageddon like catastrophe of climate change – in which case – I’ll remind them that they are mad – and that to slowly bankrupt an economy, because of ideological blinkering puts the Greens on a path worse than Muldoon.