Wednesday, January 31, 2007

We're twats known as

… the Parliamentary Labour Party.
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THIS is what your taxes help pay for. Little twerps to click repeatedly on a stuff poll about John Key. 17,104 out of 33,600 votes cast (nearly 51%) came from Parliament. Let’s assume that some should have been in favour of Key (should have been around 40% perhaps?) then a few little smart arses in the Labour (and maybe other pro government parties) have been clicking their tiny mice as if they had been wanking online as 80% of votes from Parliament were anti-Key. It still means there have been a lot of votes from the Nat side of course, but really... they thought they were SO clever.

Harry Potter is never nude

Some eye candy for the female readers who aim a bit below 20 (and the male ones too, including at least one MP, it's hardly academic who that is).
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Daniel Radcliffe may be nude, but not Harry Potter.

Good on him, hell he's pursuing a dream of millions. Be a much loved role model and object of the affection of millions of girls, and now he's on the West End and worth a fortune at 17. The Daily Mail has the photo here (larger) to squeeze the juices from his fans. The Sun has more photos of Radcliffe almost naked (google likes these words)
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His nudity will no doubt mean that hundreds of thousands of girls (and a few thousand boys) will be trying to get into the play, and a smaller number of pervy men (and women) will also pursue him (such is life). Hey he's 17, let him enjoy it, he clearly looks after himself and his reputation is far from tarnished. His main problem are the gold-digging tarts looking to whore their way into his substantial fortune. In the UK they are as common as rats. I presume he is having fun screening the 0.1% who will meet his esteemed standards (being hot, smart enough to not blab and not be an excessive leech, having an equally discreet hot friend so he can watch them together). I'm sure Emma Watson can advise on some suitable companions from her Oxford private school. According to Stuff some parents are apparently upset about his nudity, because their "9yo son is a fan", well don't take the boy to the play and maybe explain why you make your son self conscious about his nudity when he showers. Another asked why his parents thought it was ok to do it, well maybe at 17 being legal age and all, he can decide? Remember the average Brit loses their virginity several years before that, appearing nude on stage is a lot less risky than that! May he continue to enjoy his career, money, life and most of all be happy, and for people to get over nudity!
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Now all that is needed is for Emma Watson to do the same (though if she does some of the press will probably be quite cruel, for women who expose are treated differently from men), as she is 17 in April (on Kim Il Sung's birthday go figure - you read it first), but she has to finish school first (don't go there). She shouldn't and wont do the "glamour model" thing, because she is smarter than that - so better to perform a serious role in a film or play that involves her being passionate and sexy. Her fluency in French should help this. So so few young female British stars can do that without simply looking cheap. She, of course, doesn't need a 45 year old sugar daddy from the City, or the money from doing doggerrell in the UK tabloid press. Don't forget Rupert Grint, he is older and may well be the most popular ginga in the UK - good on them all!

Fight foodmiles now

Phil Goff has missed the point. Tesco's plan wont hurt New Zealand exporters in itself, but the philosophical mantra behind food miles does, and it is almost universally unquestioned. I have yet to see a single item on British TV questioning food miles, and the items in the newspapers are rare indeed. You see, the food miles myth is as good as fact in the minds of many many consumers in the UK.
If you are a NZ farmer, read very very carefully, your livelihood is at stake. Whether or not you believe global warming is occurring, and regardless of your political philosophy, you need to take an initiative, together to fight the propaganda coming from the European farming sector, many European politicians and the mass media about "food miles". Why? It is becoming also quasi-religious to "avoid food miles and save the planet", when you and I both know things are far from that simple.
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You could embark on a campaign denying global warming, but frankly that is a bigger battle and one you are poorly equipped to fight. However, what you can fight is the "food miles" faith, based on evidence.
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The entire NZ agricultural export sector needs to take out full page ads in the Guardian, the Independent, the Times and the Daily Telegraph (not cheap) for starters (and then work on the rest of Europe) explaining the carbon footprint for NZ lamb vs UK lamb, NZ butter and cheese vs UK butter and cheese. You might also explain how much you might sell these products to the UK market if the EU didn't impose quotas and tariffs, let alone the effect of subsidising your competitors.
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You need to do it this year, and if you can use television as well, then the better. This campaign will cost multiple tens of millions of dollars, but you need to do it.
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The food miles fad isn't just followed by a minority of environmentalists in the UK, it is accepted mainstream mantra. You want proof? Well see these reports in the past few weeks in ALL major UK media outlets:
- The Independent (French rather than NZ wine) and again;
- Guardian and again;
- BBC and again and again and again.
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I live in the UK, I hear "food miles" nearly every day from somewhere and it is frustrating, but it has caught on. Naive reporters on television urge people at every turn to think about food miles, and New Zealand is mentioned rather frequently. No Right Turn is spot on that it is time to wake up and realise what a threat this is. While I don't agree with Sue Kedgley that some farmers should target markets closer to home, and that the sector should buy into carbon footprints as the be all and end all, sacrificing other factors for competitiveness, she is right that this is changing consumer behaviour.
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On a side note, I haven't heard that the British Greens have written back to the NZ Greens about food miles, after Russel Norman wrote to correct misinformation about food miles. I guess this says a lot about how committed British Greens are to the environment rather than protectionism.
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By the way, these two reports remain the main evidence i know of to date about why food miles are a bad proxy for environmental impact. You can't publicise these enough.

A different approach to global warming

Now there are three approaches you can take to the notion of human induced global warming:
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1. Accept the evidence of those who think there is insufficient evidence;
2. Acknowledge it could be happening or may not be, but taking a precautionary approach to responding to it (government removes interventions that encourage more energy use, while enhancing freedom and prosperity, while people can choose to do whatever they wish);
3. Proclaim it is happening, we are all doomed and the government must intervene on a scale and in a manner akin to a war footing (the Green Party approach).
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In all cases it is wise to reappraise your response according to evidence as it accumulates.
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There are risks in each approach. The risk in the first approach is that it IS happening and has serious negative effects, and it becomes more costly to respond in the longer term. Presumably the more evidence appears of this, the less appropriate it is to take this stance.
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The risk in the third approach is that you throw away your standard of living, and risk people’s health and lives by wasting money on measures that have little effect. Indeed, as long as there is little response from countries such as China, India and the USA, then the efforts of smaller countries are effectively to impose costs with little return. Another enormous risk is that the benefits of “taking steps” to address climate change may be outweighed by the costs. Bjorn Lomborg best described it in his book “The Skeptical Environmentalist”, which is slammed by many ecologists, when he explained that net human welfare could be improved far more significantly by paying for all people to have access to clean drinking water, than by responding to climate change. Of course this involves economics – the study of tradeoffs, and many ecologists have a parsimonious understanding of economics at best.
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So I take the second approach. I don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to justify a worldwide panic, but most importantly the policy agenda for responding to it has been hijacked by a left wing statist approach that carries all the risks of the third approach. Certainly some in the left and the ecologist movement see global warming as manna from heaven, because it is a convenient justification for widescale government intervention and for the religion of ecologists to be followed against the deadly sins of energy and transport. The hatred of some ecologists towards the private car is well known and quite visceral. However, there is plenty that can be done that would reduce “greenhouse gas emissions” while increasing personal freedom and not having a negative long term effect on the economy. Here are some:
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- Cease any subsidies for energy production, consumption or exploration for energy resources;
- Privatise all energy producers (Solid Energy, 3 power generators/retailers and Transpower) so they are all profit maximising, which means they will more relentlessly pursue efficiency and charging what users can bear. This may mean some prices drop and others increase. Meanwhile a core of consumers are likely to pay a premium for renewable energy, let the market respond to that demand;
- Commercialise and privatise all highways and major roads, allowing the new owners to toll them and particularly charge a premium at congested times. Even the crude London congestion charging scheme reduced CO2 emissions by 16%, while also reducing congestion and improving overall air quality. Profit maximising road companies would price congestion off the roads, making all traffic flow more freely and efficiently. It would also improve the viability of public transport and even railways and sea freight;
- End subsidies to public transport and all other transport modes. Once roads are commercially priced then public transport can stand on its own merits and will cost more. This means people will walk and cycle more, and are more likely to shop, work and live closer together, WITHOUT new urbanist central planning. At the moment governments subsidise transport in many different ways, ending this would be painful, but might make a huge difference;
- End welfare payments for having children. Forget the car or a flight to London, having kids is the single most carbon intensive thing you can ever do. The state should have nothing to do with encouraging this, it is time to abolish Working for Families, tax credits for families and declare an end to claiming for additional children on welfare, and start phasing out the DPB;
- Privatise all refuse collection. Councils already subsidise this in some cases (not others). If everyone had to pay for rubbish collection it may mean you think more about what you accumulate. The problem of “fly tippers” (as they are called in the UK) is a matter of law enforcement, privately owned highway owners wont tolerate it and it is a gross example of pollution that the state seems unconcerned about, because it isn’t as sexy as “carbon footprints”.
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There will be more examples, but essentially it is about the state no longer giving preference to measures that are energy intensive, while reducing its role and the distortions it imposes on individual choice. However, I can’t see the Greens buying it, because they worship public transport, and can’t stand the idea that, fundamentally, all people might pay for what they use. On top of that, there is nothing to stop people taking their own steps, wise or foolish though they may be. However it should be evidence based, not the faith based initiative it currently is.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Genius Kedgley is anti cloned meat because...

animals die making it. Unlike all that other meat right....?
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In addition, she lists absolutely no health risks whatsoever from eating it, but demands it is regulated. Yes, so she cares about lots of animals dying, but is she right about what she is saying? What farmer would rationally undertake a practice that will see more animals die than be sold? oops i forgot the Greens aren't too good on economic rationalism...
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So here we go:
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- Name one independently verifiable example of a person harmed by cloned food.
while we're at it...
- Name one independently verifiable example of a person harmed by food containing genetically modified ingredients.

John Key and the speech few disagree with

Not PC has pithily blogged about this rather non-event. Since I had quite a bit of coffee this morning, I thought I’d read the speech and I’m underwhelmed. How many of you get excited by this pablum? PC is right that if Jordan Carter agrees with most of it, what the hell is going on? I’ll tell you – the Nats have, once again, reverted to the ugly, whorish behaviour of outdoing the left. The speech is all very nice indeed, the Greens don't like it because they think welfare funded through threat of violence is a Gaia given right which no one should question (demanding beneficiaries work is "bashing" them, but demanding that people who work pay for them is a "social obligation").

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The last time the Nats tried to outdo the left was in 1975 when, despite the dancing Cossacks commercials, Rob Muldoon completely socialised and inflated pensions with National Superannuation, a massive drag upon the economy and disincentive to saving – he then proceeded to embark on an economic policy that, with few exceptions, was about Soviet style central planning. Now John Key goes on about “The Kiwi Way” (notice the caps, rather Leninist really) to tug at heart strings about nationalism and identity, or rather largely meaningless platitudes. I shouldn';t be so negative though. Helen Clark is, after all, a statist controller of the left, so NZ badly needs an alternative, so I thought I’d identify the key points Key made:

  1. the solution doesn't lie in just throwing more money at the problem (not JUST, so he believes in throwing more of your money at the problem. I am sure Labour doesn’t believe it is just throwing money at the problem either. The Greens do, since they support increases in welfare with no accountability for it. Next!) “I'm interested in what works and what makes a difference” (yes because Labour isn’t. What rot!) So he will throw more money at the problem, your money remember, and he wants it to make a difference. Shall we give him a last chance to prove whether this can work or not??
  2. Under any government I lead there will be no parole for repeat violent offenders” (Good, something substantial, but not new. Brash already said that, it's not dead yet, but the Nats love speaking tough on crime).
  3. We have to ensure that Kiwis, even those with relatively low skills, are always better off working than being on a benefit. We have to insist that healthy people receiving assistance from the State have obligations, whether that be looking for work, acquiring new skills for work, or working in their community.” (This means either benefits get cut, abatement rates are cut drastically, taxes are cut drastically, or jobs are subsidised. It also means working for the dole. Nothing bad about this, but it is very modest, and no actual policy, just words).
  4. A National government will challenge the business community to work with us in backing a programme of providing food in low-decile schools for kids in need.” (Are these the same kids who are obese? How about making welfare a carrot and stick for their families? How about simply cutting taxes so businesses and people can do this? Cutting GST to 10% would help reduce the costs of food. What evidence is there of serious malnutrition and if there is, why aren't the families involved being hauled up by CYFS for it?)
  5. A National government will work with schools, sports clubs, businesses and community groups to ensure that more kids from deprived backgrounds get to play sport.” (“Work with” means spend your money. Kids from deprived backgrounds largely need to learn to “reed rite n spul” first, but hey throw them a rugby ball and they’ll be happy for years, until they can’t get a job. I remember playing all sorts of games without real equipment as a kid, all you needed was a park, some sort of ball and a stick. This needs little organising and no money. You improvise, but that isn’t cool anymore).

So how is that substantially different from Labour, other than maybe shifting the bureaucracy and being slightly tougher on welfare? Without much more on policy it is hard to tell, and I'm unsure why. How many beneficiaries vote National?

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Not PC’s link to the latest Roy Morgan poll shows a drop in support for National, to the same level as Labour, which is telling - the "me too" politics of Key/English inspires little compared to what Brash did, and Labour knows it. After all, it is far easier to fight on your own philosophical battle ground that on someone elses.

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Working a charm this strategy isn’t it?

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So what can we call it? It is:

a) The Third Way of Blair, with a new slogan “The Kiwi Way”. The British Labour Party New Zealand Branch in other words. Given that NZ Labour is somewhat to the left of Blair it would fit nicely, and matches the same sort of vapidity that passes for policy in the UK Tory Party today;

b) Socialism is inevitable. This is the unofficial strategy of the UK Conservative Party (and the NZ National Party) until 1979 (1987) respectively. In essence it declares that the state is ever destined to continue to grow, that the role of the state will grow, that the left is the intellectual strength behind government in modern liberal democracies and that all the National/Conservative Parties can do is tinker with it and stop it getting worse while in power. This means the Nats believe that less government simply isn't popular and people don't want it. Thatcher and Richardson smashed those legacies for a generation, but were stabbed in the back by colleagues who are part of …

c) Born to rule. Many National/Conservative Party politicians believe they are part of a ruling class, best positioned to “manage” the country and look after the broad masses. The philosophy behind this is largely to tinker, to tell people off (and pass laws to ban things) when they are not behaving “appropriately”, give people a few alms (tax cuts, subsidies, extra funds here and there) to keep them happy and generally do very little other than frighten people about Labour. There is a disdain for those on the left who they instinctively despise, and those on the meritorious free market right, who don’t have a sense of “social responsibility” (patronising towards those who are poor).

As Tony Milne welcomes it, and his excellent “tagcrowd” shows what little meaning there is in Key’s speech, then you have to ask yourself – what is the point of the National Party other than being a club for people from a non-union, teacher, lecturer background to run for government?

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Well I can be optimistic about one thing. Key seems to understand that welfare dependency is bad and something needs to be done about it. What he doesn’t understand is that it is cultural, it is about an overwhelming culture amongst too many people that it is ok to bludge off the back of other people if you can get away with it, and those who are successful in making a go of it should be sneered at and expected to pay for everyone else.

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If Key can communicate that, then he may be onto a winner – meanwhile he talks mother and apple pie, if many of you are seduced by it then it proves the point that it's far more important to be the new face and say nice things, than to have some serious thoughts and proposals. Mind you, isn't that the basis upon which almost all local body politicians are elected?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Working for other peoples' money unfair

Sue Bradford opposes working for the dole - because, you see, the Greens believe that if you can't find a job you like, everyone else should be forced to pay for you. You are "entitled" to have your existence paid for by other people working and surrendering between a quarter and half of their earnings under threat (taxes), but shouldn't be required to do anything for it. Notice what a winning formula that has been for certain generations of no-hopers.
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Personally I'd start reform of the dole by putting a one-year limit on it, and you wouldn't be able to claim more than three years in your life. I'd also stop inflation indexing it, so that it gradually became less and less attractive as people's backstop. This would encourage people to save or take out income insurance. Beneficiary bashing? Well, it would be nice if beneficiaries were grateful for those giving them money for nothing extracted by force, or maybe they want to ask for support next time. Imagine that - asking instead of demanding help. That starting reform would be in the context of a coalition government, serious reform would put a one-year time limit on the dole, after which it would be abolished.

Green fascism

Don't think it exists? Well Tunbridge Wells Borough Council is a clear example of it.
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According to The Independent the council fined a 12 year old girl £50 for placing a piece of cardboard next to a full council recycling bin. On top of that it sent a letter to the girl threatening her with 6 months in prison and a £50,000 fine. The council nazi was going through the boxes by the overflowing bin and found one with her name and address on it, so smiling with glee he used this information to slap a penalty on her, shouting Zeig Heil (well he/she may as well have).
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The girl is keen on recycling, but has been frightened off it because of the fascist bullies at the council. Gary Stevenson, Head of environment and street scene services said "Tunbridge Wells borough residents are the second-best recyclers in Kent" - of course, this is part of the mass British religion called recycling, whereby taxpayers pay to subsidise the sourcing of raw materials for manufacturers, and fund the bullying of those who don't do it. The council is reconsidering it, no doubt embarrassed for bullying a young girl about it, but they wouldn't think twice about threatening you if you didn't put the cardboard in the overflowing bin (the council denies it was overflowing of course).
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I've yet to see an independent cost/benefit analysis of the value of recycling in the UK - but you can see how this faith based initiative is making councils bully. Central government also threatens to fine councils that don't pursue more recycling, and the EU is also obsessed with it. It is about time someone fisked this in the mainstream UK media.... isn't it?

When feminists are blindly bigoted

Read the following quote and replace “men” with “Jew” “Serb” “Maori” “Catholic” and women with “Aryan” “Croat” “European” “Protestant”.
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“I think all men do have the capacity to rape given certain situations, conditions, but many never would or will. What is significant is, the same can’t be said about women, I don’t believe. I don’t think that’s about differences between men and women. I don’t think men are “naturally” more violent or are born with a rape mentality. I think, as I’ve said before, that men have been corrupted by power in a way that women have not been so far.”
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The warm loving embrace of radical feminism covering up a fist of bigotry and subjectivist evasion of moral responsibility
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All men would rape under certain circumstances, but not all women. Excluding the physiological matter (rape doesn't need to have a penis involved), presumably they would pile insults upon one who claimed that all women could be violent under certain circumstances. This is of course absolute nonsense, it is simply an assertion that cannot be proved or disproved, it is a political assertion. You may as well say that all Maori would steal under certain circumstances, it is as valid as that. However, if you did make a similar claim based upon race, hair colour or whether someone had a beard or not then people would decry or laugh at you – it is, in fact, exactly the same.
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Of course this is different from claiming that there can be a culture which endorses, excuses or ignores rape, which means that those so inclined can get away with it or be goaded into it – but the same can apply to any act. Following the crowd is a universal human condition, it is one based on personal security, but it is not necessarily moral. Think of how many people do stupid things because they were trying to impress others, or do what others do, or they were encouraged to do it. Bullying is a perfect example, and women are as good at it as men. Certainly there are cultures where rape is at best trivialised, such as Pakistan, and indeed Western countries until not too long ago.
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However, you can see how little value there is in collectivising people. Collectivising is the currency of all those who wish to use force to tell others what to do, all those on the left including Marxists, fascists, religious fundamentalists, Nazis, socialists and ecologists. Nazis on the left? Well yes, tell me how much of national socialism has little to do with the left. Don’t try to explain the left as being anti-discrimination, when it seeks the state to discriminate explicitly on the basis of property ownership and ability, while collectivising every “victim” group it identifies.
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The irony that those who wish to be non-discriminatory talk incessantly about sex, race and class. They are completely unable to treat people on their merit and will attribute strength and weakness according to characteristics you can do nothing about. It is the world of subjectivism – when nothing is objectively true. The only moral approach is to treat all as individuals, and behaviour as that of individuals - the greater you try to explain behaviour on the basis of people belonging to self selecting groups, the greater you absolve them from individual responsibility.

The news you've all been waiting for


The winner of Celebrity Big Brother UK is …. Shilpa Shetty (Bollywood actress). No doubt helped enormously by the huge South Asian (and other) sympathy vote after brainless harpie Jade Goody bullied her. Shetty conducted herself with distinction, declaring that she didn’t think the comments were racist and “I really don't want to leave England putting anyone in trouble. This country has given me so much. I just want to thank all of Great Britain for giving me this fantastic opportunity to make my country proud." She had been booed somewhat as she left the Big Brother household, which was quite repulsive behaviour, but nevertheless she won UK Celebrity Big Brother, good for her.
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Her graciousness shows what a star she is. Also notable was that the second and third place getters were also not British. Second was Jermaine Jackson, who is a Muslim (though this would not have been obvious to most) and lives in Dubai. He came across as a peacemaker and a quiet thoughtful figure. Third was Dirk Benedict ex. “Faceman” from the A Team, who was often grumpy but entertaining.
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Perhaps most telling from all of this is that on the follow up show immediately following the opening of the Big Brother household – Celebrity Big Brother’s Big Mouth (hosted by probably the sexiest and funniest man in Britain – Russell Brand), all of the previous Big Brother contestants EXCEPT Jade Goody, her vile mother Jackiey Budden, Jo O’Meara and Danielle Lloyd (all the participants bar one in the bullying of Shilpa) did not turn up. Jo O’Meara was seriously booed when evicted two days before, whereas Danielle Lloyd somewhat redeemed herself by apologising to Shilpa and getting on very well with her after the harpie was evicted. Danielle’s boyfriend footballer Teddy Sheringham (West Ham United) apparently dumped her while she was in the Big Brother house because of her participation in the bullying. Given he is 40 and she is 23 and pretty, and Shilpa let her off for being “so young” and being rather stupid. Her prettiness and childlike demeanour may see her through, because unlike Jade she is not worth millions. Her final comment about what she learnt was “not to be such a bitch”.
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However, Jade’s absolutely vapid boyfriend Jack Tweed did turn up, and couldn’t respond when asked whether “he had learnt a lesson in the house”, as he called Shilpa a “fucking ****” behind her back (not clear what word this actually was). Jack hasn’t heard of the word embryo (he is a dad), and only qualities are that he is a male model. Given he didn’t flee the studio to comfort Jade, he may well have activated his single neuron to figure out that Jade may hinder his career as a himbo.
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So that circus is now over, the other circus called “Shipwrecked”, where stupid posh student Lucy Buchanan described black people as being really bad and that slavery should be reintroduced. However, you haven’t heard much of that because, you see, Buchanan is posh, she didn’t actually direct this at anyone, and she isn’t as well known as Goody. However, it reaffirms once again that claims by Channel 4 that it needs to remain state owned and indirectly subsidised are nonsense. So watch the final here, if you care.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The ticking timebomb of Bailey Kurariki

We can all breathe a sigh of relief that this little bastard has been denied parole a second time, and he ought to remain through to his release date of 16 September 2008. A release date that is roughly 22 years too early.
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Bailey murdered Michael Choy the pizza delivery man, as part of a gang of "really cool youfs" who not doubt are proud of what they did. Who can forget the smiling Kurariki who liked all the attention he got, we can only hope that everyone who crosses him after he gets out gets off lightly.
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So here's a challenge. Who is willing to lay a bet that Kurariki will NEVER assault anyone ever again? Think about how many other people get sentences heavier than he for doing less. Of course he was 12, and the excuse is that he didn't know better. I don't recall ever thinking it was ok to bash someone to death, kids aren't stupid and too many adults assume they are innocent and vulnerable. It raises questions about the purpose of the criminal justice system. If it is to punish the offender, protect the public from the offender or rehabilitate the offender. It is meant to be all three.
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Presumably given the denial of parole, Kurariki hasn't been rehabilitated. If he hasn't been rehabilitated then there is a question about protecting the public from him, and his seven year sentence isn't much of a punishment for denying a man 30 years of his life. Kurariki doesn't deserve to spend any of youth in freedom. The message given by this sentence and his pending release is that when you're 12, you can murder and be out for your 18th and go party having learnt a lot of useful stuff.
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It is wrong to sentence someone twice, but politicians are quick to consider sexual offenders' registers or requiring sex offenders to notify where they live - there may be some merit in this for particular offenders, but shouldn't the same apply to Kurariki? Wouldn't you want to know if he was moving in over the road? Wouldn't every pizza delivery store in the country want to know too, unless he has demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that he is reformed?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

British bureaucracy either mad or negligent

and this is just today.
Reported in The Times today...
#1 According to The Times, Ofcom, the regulator of telecommunications and broadcasting (think of the Broadcasting Standards Authority, Telecommunications Commissioner, NZ On Air, Ministry of Culture and the Arts all rolled into one) has called for UK taxpayers to compulsorily fund a rival to Youtube to “make up for a shortfall in quality television”. It is calling for £100 million to be spent annually, presumably making web videos to rival the BBC. Hello??? (whacks heads of Ofcom with cricket back) anybody home? You already make the public pay for the BBC’s seven TV channels, you already give Channel 4 a free ride with broadcasting frequencies, you already regulate free to air commercial broadcasting heavily. Maybe the formula of compulsory pay TV and bureaucrat driven commercial TV has failed and that bureaucrat driven Internet content will too? Maybe given that the Internet, including Youtube, is a roaring success is because people put the content on it that others like and if they don’t like it it fails?
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So here is a formula. The UK has one of the most competitive Pay TV markets in the world, with up to five options available (Sky, cable, Homechoice, Topup TV and BT Vision), let that be free, people pay for what they want, and set commercial free to air TV free as well to compete. That means privatising Channel 4 (yes I know I repeat this) and then focus your activities on the BBC – alone. A nice pathway for the BBC would be to make the digital channels a subscription based service, so when analogue BBC gets switched off people can choose whether they want it. Then the test of quality will be in the hands of consumers, not bureaucrats and politicians.
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(I wonder if Sue Kedgley thinks this is a fine idea – compulsory funded internet content)
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2# The time to commit relatively minor criminal offences in Britain is now. Why? Because there is a prison shortage, a chronic one. For those on the left, and this starts with the Tories, this is a scandalous failure to deliver on one of the state’s core functions – law and order. The prison population in the UK is 80,070, and some are now being kept in police cells to cope with the overcrowding. Prisons previously condemned as unacceptable are now being recommissioned. There are a couple of prisons under construction, but they still have some time to go, so what options are being considered? You guessed it, judges and magistrates are being urged to jail FEWER people, to make greater use of bail, more use of open jails (which begs the question as to what the hell is a jail – for many people work is an open jail!) greater use of home detention (essentially being a slob) and releasing low risk prisoners. In other words, making it all easier. While bureaucrats are wasting money on nonsense like whether 4 competing supermarkets are a monopoly (!) or whether there should be a state funded Youtube, the core business of protecting the public from criminals and punishing criminals for doing harm to others slips. There are some useful suggestions, like buying prison ships (which sound like the stuff movies are made of, you don’t want mutiny!), releasing immigration detainees (how about processes them more efficiently to deport or let them in), release the 1000 foreign nationals who are still in jail despite having served their sentences (!), start converting disused army barracks and hospitals. I have more, how about paying to deport foreign nationals to serve their sentences in the prisons of their countries (assuming they are countries that can be trusted for this), how about planning the release of those convicted of victimless crimes, starting with those near the end of their sentences. A victimless crime is a crime when you cannot identify a victim or a likely direct victim of the criminal’s actions. However, it is far easier to let thieves roam the streets and publish to the citizens of the 26 EU member states that Britain is soft on crime – Bulgarian and Romanian criminal gangs especially (now both countries are members) will be thrilled.
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3# Fat kids. The British government has long been concerned with the growing problem of obese children, a situation caused mainly by the standard British diet of loving anything in fried or pastry form, adding cheese to most things (broccoli and cheese soup on Virgin Trains!), loving soft drinks, beer, sweets and snacks (I’ve lost count of the number of corporate lunches where bowls of “potato crisps” are considered a legitimate lunch food). The fatty UK diet has been exacerbated by laziness (as ready meals are often laden with oils, fats and sugars), the evaporation of many physically oriented jobs and the proliferation of sedentary leisure activities. Add to that a propensity to not walk or cycle to schools (unless they are VERY close, which many are), cities that are pedestrian unfriendly (plenty of intersections without pedestrian cross phases in London alone), bus stops that seem to be far closer together than in Aus or NZ, ridiculous transport policies such as Ken Livingstone’s “free buses” for under 16yos (which simply means they don’t walk) and, let’s face it, crap weather for around a third of the year – then you can see the problem. What is amusing is the bureaucratic and political response.
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The fundamental concern is the cost of health care. Given the NHS is free at most points of use, and never reflects peoples’ risk factors then you can see that the problem is being attacked in the wrong direction. Imagine if National Insurance contributions included a factor for smoking, weight (both obese and well underweight), cholesterol and easy to identify lifestyle factors. Of course I’d rather privatise the damned lot and have people get health insurance, but if the Tories even started to suggest that taxpayer funded healthcare would cost more or less based on your risk there would be outcries galore from those who want to regulate food advertising, food kids can take to school or buy at school and those who want to embark on more intrusive schemes.
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So what do the bureaucrats suggest?
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One idea has been to weigh all kids at school. However, this would be voluntary and parents wouldn’t be told of the results if the kids are overweight because it would upset them. When this idea was trialled, less than half of the kids turned up and it was almost always those who were not overweight, so the idea proved as pointless in practice as it is in theory. There are also proposals on advertising that, while pushing leftwing buttons to blame the food industry, will also do little. In fact, surely the biggest incentive to lose weight is social – fat kids get harassed because they are fat. Girls find it particularly hard, although ironically this can simply exacerbate the problem. Another exacerbating factor is overweight parents, not just because of the genes but given the kids are hardly likely to eat well if dad likes his fish and chips with a fried egg on the side.
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New Labour is sensitive to being called “Nanny State” (just) so it doesn’t want to actually tell overweight kids that they are overweight and they should take responsibility for eating better and exercising more. However, it doesn’t want to make people take responsibility for their healthcare either, and doesn’t understand that it being concerned about obese children in itself, IS being nanny state. Meanwhile it gets upset because large supermarket chains put pressure on farmers (often supplying fruit and vegetables) to sell at low prices (which they pass on to consumers) even though this must surely be a positive in this area?
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So here’s my four point plan:
1. Make people more responsible for their healthcare costs;
2. End interference in the food industry, both through regulating retailers, subsidising producers and restricting imports from outside the EU;
3. Give schools autonomy to develop their own plans to improve the health of children. They are likely to be far more effective than London based bureaucrats;
4. End all centrally driven measures to deal with obesity and promote an ethic of personal responsibility and self esteem, that praises those who succeed and achieve and work hard, and which emphasises the importance of being yourself, being true to yourself and respecting the right of others to do the same.
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4# The UK government is to require adoption agencies to not discriminate against gay couples seeking to adopt children. This is because of anti-discrimination legislation. Part of the problem is that many agencies are state funded as well. This has outraged Catholic adoption agencies which, understandably given the religion, don’t want to comply. The solution is simple. Let any privately provided agency offer adoption on its terms, without state funding. As long as there is state funding then let it be on a contractual basis, and if the state wants to fund gay adoptions then fair enough. For my part I think the matter should be between the birth parents and the adoptive parents, with prohibitions on serious criminals (anyone convicted of a serious violent or sexual offence) adopting. I don’t have a problem with birth parents refusing to adopt to gay couples or individuals, after all it is their choice and there are good reasons why people may prefer a male-female couple as first preference (role models for each sex are generally a good idea regardless of the child’s sex). It goes without saying that there are many many gay couples or individuals much more competent than many straight couples or individuals to raise children, but this fundamentally should be the decision of the birth parents who can weigh up all of the factors. Gay lobbyists need to acknowledge that people cannot and should not be forced to choose gay people if they don’t want to. Similarly, if a lesbian mother wanted to give up her child for adoption, there is no reason why she cannot specify a gay couple as the adoptive parents. By the way I know a fair bit about adoption, but that’s for another time.

You can't make this stuff up

According to Yahoo News, a 29 year old convicted sex offender posed as a 12yo boy to enrol in two schools in the US. He attended classes and even handed in homework regularly and there were no discipline issues. It would be easy to conclude he wanted to have sex with other pupils, but given that there appears to be no evidence of this he may simply be socially regressive (and clearly has a level of physical immaturity that he can fool people - his photo is here)
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He attended one school for 50 days until being kicked out for poor attendance, after all school is rather boring if you’re an adult and don’t actually have to go!
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Now there is no indication he actually committed a sexual offence on this occasion, he has been charged with assault, conspiracy to commit fraud, forgery, failing to register as a sex offender (some past conviction) and possession of a forgery device. He forged his birth certificate and some other documents.
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However, that isn’t the weirdest part.
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He shaved his body hair and wore make up to look like a boy, and met two men online (aged 61 and 45) who thought he was 12!! They had a sexual relationship with him, which actually means under Arizona law that they have been charged with attempted child molestation and attempted sexual contact with a minor. This is because they THOUGHT they were having sex with a 12 year old, when he actually is 29.
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Now there should be a decent post-grad law thesis on this one. There is no actual victim in this (besides the school system being defrauded, and the assault victim (which appears unrelated to the weird events). Yes all the men are pervs, but that in itself isn’t an offence. How can they have attempted sexual contact with a minor when there was no minor? Yes, police officers all the time pose as kids online to trap pervs, so it is the same – but isn’t something serious awry when this isn’t a sting operation but a case of some somewhat disturbed guy who can pose as a child for presumably his own pleasure? This is most certainly a thought crime without an actual or potential real victim, rather hypothetical future ones. Is this what the criminal law is meant to be capturing? Sounds to me like a couple of appeals will be part of this case!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Save small shops by shopping there

One of the major largely unchallenged themes in the UK media at the moment is the “plight of small shops”. You see apparently it is bad that 75% of shopping is undertaken at four large supermarket chains (this is called a monopoly? Has anyone read the definition), with the rest at small independently owned stores.
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A rather peculiar middle class concern is that these big chains, such as Tesco are soulless, offer less variety and “do harm” to shops that people no longer use because they prefer Tesco. A weirder concern is that these big chains have substantial buying power from food producers, so demand ever lower prices from them – because, apparently, consumers don’t matter in this. Another accusation is that they buy tracts of land suitable for shops and don’t use them, to shut out the competition. Follow it so far? Well it is like this:
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- Most of the time people choose to shop at big supermarkets, presumably because they are convenient, have the varieties people want and are cheap (one family asked by the BBC to try shopping at local independent stores instead of supermarkets/mega stores described how it took far longer to go to the independent stores, how the variety was often inferior and the prices far higher). So in essence people are voting with their feet and wallets, most of the time they don’t want to spend their money at independent stores:
- Independent store owners don’t like this, so they pull at the nostalgia strings of peoples’ hearts accusing big stores of being ugly (sometimes true), and how “important it is” (to the shop owners) to have high streets with lots of varieties of stores, and that it is “a pity” (to the shop owners) for these shops to close down;
- Independent store owners which cannot attract enough business accuse big stores than can attract enough business of acting “unfairly” somehow. These accusations largely focus on being “too cheap” (for the competing shops) and by teaming up with suppliers who undoubtedly prefer being paid more by many small shop owners (because the supplier can be the price setter rather than the buyer);
- Small minded politicians of all political creeds jump on this bandwagon on nostalgia grounds, demanding something be done.
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The answer is simple. If you like small shops in your area, ask yourself when was the last time you actually bought something there and how much was it? If you don’t support the shop, it wont remain and don’t expect everyone else who doesn’t see value in spending THEIR money at the shop to pay for it. After all, why should a family pay more for food and clothes at small stores just because you like the store existing?
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There is a competition body investigation into this, remember we are talking about four major chains shutting out competition - not one, and there is still plenty of choice. Within 15 minutes of my flat I can choose between three supermarkets (one independent) and umpteen convenience stores.
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David Cameron supports this stupid campaign – don’t be surprised, it appeals to the upper class conservative who thinks that working class people shopping in malls is “vulgar” and doesn’t care that people on low incomes demand convenience and low prices over boutique stores with personal service. It also appeals to the socialist who hates businesses being so successful that they become franchises and more and more people use them. After all, we can't simply let businesses rise or fall on the basis of what consumers want can we??

Jenny Gibbs can't get broadband?

*heart wails with agony* Who gives a flying f***?
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As a friend of Tame Iti, and someone who hardly share the enthusiasm for the free-market and entrepreneurism of her ex.husband, why should Telecom give a damn? After all it has to offer its property to competitors, so why invest in more capacity so the competition can use it?
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Gibbs said "When I see the amount of money they are spending on advertising without putting it into infrastructure I do think it is a bit outrageous"
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Raise it at the AGM Jenny if you still have shares, if that fails then frankly when I see the amount of money YOU spend on tasteless art and travel without putting it into free market publications and media, I do think it is a bit outrageous.
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Set up your own little network, you can afford it after all - stop telling others what to do with their property.

Kerry for Mayor of Wellington?

I can’t get too enthused, although she’s better than some it would be nicer if she could campaign on at least capping the overall rates take. So I’m looking for another mayoral candidate, one committed to less council and lower rates (especially for commercial properties, to attract business to the capital rather than relying on the state sector). It would be nice to see the council sell its minority share in Wellington Airport too, to help ease the debt burden (and consequently the rates burden).
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Prendergast is almost certainly a shoo in, although there will almost certainly be some leftie luddite candidate wanting everyone else to pay for a whole host of schemes nobody would voluntarily fund – and the Greens will probably give that person covert support (surely not!!! Surely the left is transparent in all of the organisations it backs and with all of its members, like than honest Marxist Nicky Hagar). The Nats and ACT will quietly back Kerry of course, and she is enough to the centre that Labour wont waste its time opposing her. What is more important is the council, which is currently stuck in a 50/50 left/right balance.
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So who could stand for Mayor? Maybe a young man who took the Prime Minister to court might have a shot?
PS: Blogging is erratic at the moment while I await 10 days for broadband to be installed at home, having waited 10 days for the phone line to be fixed. Of course there has been local loop unbundling here for years, so this first class service will be the norm in NZ shortly!!!

Monday, January 22, 2007

Well that's over

The wholly predictable expulsion of Jade Goody from the Celebrity Big Brother household has happened, and the drama of it is fading away. She was expelled, did not face booing crowds for security reasons, has been bawling her eyes out on TV a couple of times, and has now disappeared.
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Now Celebrity Big Brother if it is lucky will last its final week as the almost entirely boring crowd deliver next to nothing in entertainment for viewers. Hopefully the truly braindead Jack Tweed (apparently male model, training to be a footballer's agent, though frankly I'm surprised if he can do up his shoelace) will be gone next, with Jo from S Club 7 and Danielle Lloyd (pretty girl apparently has lost her footballing boyfriend for her racist remarks). Then we have the quiet sweet but thoroughly uninteresting Jermaine Jackson, Dirk Benedict who flirts with women but can't stand them flirting back, Ian from Steps (yeah I know), Cleo Rocos (who was one in love with Kenny Everett, who was of course gay, and who has sufficient personality for her real job as TV and radio personality). There is Shilpa of course who will probably win anyway.
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Seriously the issue now is Channel 4's future. The papers in the weekend reported on the indirect subsidy it gets because unlike the other commercial channels, it doesn't have to pay for its broadcast frequencies (ITV and Five do), and as it does pay for its digital channels there are questions about how it will survive longer term to meet its public service obligations.
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Given that the BBC exists, I think it should simply be privatised. Channel 4's main public service endeavours tend to consist of shows about sexually explicit topics. Partial as I am to some of these, it doesn't justify keeping it state owned. It is a commercial channel, it acts like a commercial channels, looks like a commercial channel - it should be sold.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fly more domestically

So Air NZ is slashing domestic fares by up to 26%. It is like another leap downwards from when it dropped all frills with "Express Class" a few years ago. Most people will cheer, but I am sure around 5% will bemoan that this will mean more global warming - though few of those will stop flying because it "isn't convenient" and no doubt their flights are terribly important.
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Air NZ is engaging in a two pronged strategy:
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1. Stimulating a next level growth in air travel, to grow the business. It already has quite a profitable operation domestically, but there are economies of scale to exploit and its own research has indicated that people would fly more often if it was cheaper. Some people still drive long distances and this is designed to get them to fly instead, but more importantly people can take MORE trips more often. The flow on effects to the business sector are considerable too - this is called a positive externality.
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2. Warn away further competition. Qantas's dropping of Wellington-Christchurch and the collapse of Origin Pacific Airways have helped Air NZ a great deal. This also is about showing to Pacific/Virgin Blue that the NZ domestic market is not easy pickings, and helps to emphasise Qantas keeping a relatively small scale operation on the two routes it operates.
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"but what about emissions" I hear in the background, as the Greens clamour for a bill to freeze the amount of aviation emissions, I am sure they will support this as long as there are no more flights. However, there WILL be more flights. That is not a bad thing either. More flights mean businesspeople can do more business, trade more and there is more room for time sensitive domestic air cargo. It also has major social benefits, with families and friends being able to meet more often. These are not social benefits paid for by taxpayers, but by those buying airfares. It will be easier to hold conferences anywhere in the country, and will do a damned sight more for regional development than anything Jim Anderton or the Ministry of Economic Development does.
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This is a far cry from the bad old days, when Air NZ had a statutory monopoly on domestic routes (except routes that it didn' t want to fly), was 100% state owned and lost money on all routes except the Auckland-Wellington-Christchurch "main trunk". Ironically Richard Prebble of all people voted against removing the statutory monopoly in 1983 (but redeemed himself by raising the foreign ownership limits on domestic airlines to 50% a few years later to let Ansett NZ become established). The cost of domestic air travel back then was in today's terms around 2.5 times what it is now. NZ has one of the most open domestic airline markets in the world in that 100% foreign owned airlines can operate freely - this is unlike Australia and the US, and is only paralleled by the EU (but this only applies to EU airlines). The threat of competition is clearly very very good for NZ consumers. Now which political party would turn the clock back?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The rise and fall of Jade Goody

To find out why this is the biggest news in the UK in one easy read, try Bryony Gordon's column in the Daily Telegraph, she summarises it beautifully.
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You see, UK Celebrity Big Brother was doing badly in the ratings until the past few days. It had even more of a B and C list range of celebrities, with the only people in the Big Brother household with international celebrity status being Leo Sayer, Jermaine Jackson and (in South Asia) Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty, also Dirk Benedict from the “A Team” and well known film director Ken Russell. The highlight until recently was Leo Sayer breaking his way out of the Big Brother house and being stopped by security guards, because he was sick of dirty laundry. Ken Russell left on his own accord as he was sick of it, and punk musician Donny Tourette hopped over the wall because he refused to take the role of servant to Jade and her family saying ""I'm not waiting hand on foot on some fucking moron and her family" - you'll soon find out why he would say that.
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Anyway, the key person in there now is clearly Jade Goody, who became famous for being a brainless chav in a Big Brother in 2002. She made a fortune out of being on TV since then, being stupid (Cambridge is in “East Angular” according to her, which she thought was overseas), with the BBC website listing a whole range of her insights, as does Digital Spy.
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She was popular because she is very WYSIWYG – which is basically not very bright, foul mouthed and gobby (eek I’m picking up the vernacular). She talks a lot, about anything and doesn’t know much about it – which a lot of people in Britain appreciate probably because they all know people like that. She has had an “autobiography” written for her, and “writes” a column (rather gets someone else to write the thoughts she gobs out). A workout video was made of her, describing how she lost lots of weight - except she actually had liposuction. Yes I know she had a hard life when young, father left, mother is a nutter - but i know a few people who have had it hard too - they're not making millions of out talking shit.
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So she is famous not because of talent, skills, having produced nothing besides laughter from people taking the piss out of her for talking like an adolescent with less intelligence.
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Now she is the centre of a row having lost the plot by engaging in a prolonged abusive tirade against Shilpa Shetty a major Bollywood star. Her rant went on and on almost without interruption, largely just abuse, calling Shilpa a “princess” and how she’s “just like everyone else” – in other words the truth about how Jade is a nobody who was lucky to make a fortune out of it, vs others who actually are more than a mouth, hurts Jade. With Jo O’Meara and “glamour model” (in the UK it is glamorous to show your tits for a tabloid paper) WAG Danielle Lloyd cheering Jade on (with comments like “Shilpa should f*** off home. She can't even speak English”, she speaks English and much more than you, ignorant tart) it has caused an international row.
^
There is an element of racism, but moreso an element of rather common working class young women being bitchy with a more dignified and polite young women from another culture. However nothing beats Jade’s abusive tirade, calling Shilpa a liar and fake, and much more that you can read on wiki, or watch it under Jade and Shilpa fight over stock cubes.
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The culture that celebrates and rewards talentless foul mouthed stupidity needs to be crushed. Goody’s truly insane persistent rant shows her up for what she really is - a stupid little envy ridden bitch who would rather bring down people who have some dignity, class and talent than listen and be civilised. Shilpa stood there and heard this little toilet mouthed nobody spew out her chivvy abuse, Jermaine Jackson tried to intervene but Jade thinks she is special because “Big Brother” is her environment. I hope this is her downfall – sponsors and producers should steer far away from this.
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Jade – you’ve made your money from being brainless and talking like an adolescent – now get some advice, invest it and spend your life watching TV, reading gossip mags, eating ready meals and fly Ryanair to Spain ever year to get your tan and get trollied with people like you. You can take your equally stupid boyfriend with you. You are a side show freak and you’ve been shown up to be a bundle of anger and brainlessness with NO sense of when to stop and think about your actions. The age of fame and fortune without brains, talent or beauty should be over and it is about time you were given the same attention you got five years ago – nothing. Jo O’Meara and Danielle Lloyd will also need to repent, although they have some talent (singing and tits/pretty face respectively). Essentially they are the stereotype of three bitchy bullying schoolgirls sniping and egging each other on, maybe they should get real jobs and learn to get on with people? Shilpa’s comment to Jade ““You know what? Your claim to fame is this. So, good for you.” is so true
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Channel 4 is thrilled because the ratings are now way up, and newspapers in the UK and India, and TV news is dominated by what has been going on in this show. Gordon Brown has had to respond to it during his visit to India.
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See coverage in The Times, Guardian, it is THE front page in the Independent. The Daily Star calls it World War 3, The Sun calls it a national disgrace.
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This Friday Jade goes head to head with Shilpa for the vote as to who should be removed from the Big Brother household. I suspect Jade will be gone, the only question is whether the fanciful career of this nobody will have been poisoned for good. Her abuse reflects only on herself.
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By the way, Channel 4 is state owned – you might wonder why the state has a stake in this?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

British newspapers

To the uninitiated, the main national British dailies seem like a cornucopiae of choice for the reader, there being no less than 11 options available every day (excluding Sundays), and more if you include regional papers. For the average Kiwi putting up with a single paper of one of the two main chains (Fairfax represented online by Stuff and APN dominated by the NZ Herald) excluding the Otago Daily Times which remains as the leading daily independent paper.
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The character Jim Hacker on the UK comedy series Yes Prime Minister famously quipped the following about the UK papers:
"The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country;
The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country;
The Times is read by people who actually do run the country;
the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country;
the Financial Times is read by people who own the country;
the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and the The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is"
followed by Bernard Woolley saying "Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits"
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Now this is not that far from the truth, except that the Times is not read by those who run the country as much as the Independent is (which post dates Yes Prime Minister). So here is my quick and dirty summary of the papers:
There are three daily papers that are definitive of British political news...
Daily Telegraph: Almost always pro-Tory, but generally more socially liberal than the Tory party tends to be (except lately). Almost always tends to be anti-Labour, but has moved to the centre over time. Certainly one of the best written dailies and the one closest to my point of view. The definitive paper for the market and social liberal. Most reliable for conservative commentary. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by ACT voters.
The Times: Best described as aligned between Blair and the Tories, probably comfortable with David Cameron. Has supported Thatcher and Blair in the past. My second choice, but regularly out does the Telegraph for analysis. Has smudges of conservatism, but generally a moderately socially liberal, pro-economic liberal paper. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by voters in the centre or National voters.
The Guardian: The paper of the Labour left. Easily pro-Labour, but this has been challenged by the war in Iraq. About as reliably pro-Labour at election time as the Telegraph is pro-Tory, but despite its strong leftwing credentials does contain some first class analysis and journalists on its books. Backs leftwing causes on poverty, aid, affirmative action, welfarism, Europe, environment, as much as it also tends to be socially liberal. While I may largely disagree with it, it regularly defends it position with some degree of intellectual rigour. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by Labour, Maori Party or Green voters.
While it sometimes has something worthwhile to say, the Independent no longer really is, as it is essentially the paper of the Liberal Democrats - which themselves promiscuously spread themselves over the political spectrum. The Independent is the leftwing young looking neo-tabloid, scaremongering about the environment, inviting Bono to be editor for a day - so it is constantly attention seeking. As a result its analysis is more once over lightly. In NZ it would be most comfortably read by Green voters.
There is also the Financial Times not just the paper of the City of London and business, but a far more serious analysis of news that is particularly relevant to the economy and business. A heavy read for most, but most comprehensive for hard hitting analysis.
Moving down the market is the Daily Express also referred to as the "Daily Diana" because of its obsession with a well known deceased member of the Windsor household, reflected in it publishing a picture of her on the front page on the anniversary of the July tube bombings last year. It has an English nationalist outlook, tends to have a tinge of bigotry flowing through it and often publishes scandals about government bureaucracy, "political correctness gone mad" (is it ever not mad?) and lots of pictures of tarty young women. It rarely has genuinely interesting gossip that its serious tabloid competitors have, it pretends to not be a T & A rag and can't be seen to be a NEWSpaper by anyone other than BNP voters. In NZ it would be read by NZ First voters.
Further down market is the Daily Mail. The Mail is similar to the express in being crassly conservative and nationalistic, jumps on the "bloody bureaucrats interfering with your lives" bandwagon whilst simultaneously demanding the government "do something" about many other things. The Mail is a paper for the average talkback caller. It has a dark history being pro-Nazi until 1939 (when threatened with closure if it didn't change!), with its then owners supporting the German invasion of Czechoslovakia. It supports the monarchy, is anti-immigrant, supports being mercilessly tough on criminals, is anti-EU. More than perhaps any other paper, a reader of the Daily Mail risks being stereotyped as a racist old fashioned bigot who hates "bloody foreigners" and blames the government for everything. In NZ it would be read by NZ First voters.
The Daily Star is more of a true gossip tabloid. It focuses on the proletariat's obsession with celebrities, sport and gossip about stars. It tends to be somewhat nationalistic as well, but likes T & A so is far less serious and insipid than the Mail and Express. It is for entertainment more than news.
The Sun is the quintessential British tabloid. It has the page 3 girl to attract the bumcrack showing class of workers for their morning wank. It has the highest circulation of any of the papers, with over 3.1 million per day (don't link that to the previous sentence). It has backed both Thatcher and Blair, but tends to be socially liberal and somewhat skeptical about government - so would appeal to young male ACT voters in NZ. It has exposed the BNP for being nasty, so while centre-right does not tend to pander to the anti-immigrant nationalism of the Express and Mail. This excludes slagging off the French (for being French) and the Germans (don't forget the war).
The Daily Mirror is the leftwing equivalent of the Sun, originally launched as a paper for women in 1903! It supported anti-Iraq war protests and is abusively critical of G.W.Bush. It has been overshadowed in recent years by the Sun and the Daily Mail in popularity.
The Daily Sport, takes the Sun and goes further "downmarket", by essentially being a rag on celebrities and stories of ordinary people doing naughty things. It publishes a lot more T & A than any other, so could be seen to be on the boundary between "newspaper" and softcore lads mag.
Finally there is the Morning Star - the communist newspaper of the UK, published daily. I'm serious, it is Marxist through and through. It has been pro IRA, supports Labour candidates that aren't "New Labour", used to be uncritical of the USSR. You might wonder why the Morning Star is the only paper which requires a subscription to see today's "news" online, while all of the "capitalist" ones are free.

Wellington's Inner City Bypass Part One

I drove on the northbound section of this very modest inner city one way road the day after it opened, and I should hope that for Wellingtonians the phrase “much ado about nothing” should come to the for. Sue Kedgley always referred to it as a motorway extension - because it is more dramatic than calling it a one-way system - it is only a motorway extension in that it moves the motorway south one block, from Ghuznee St/Vivian St to Vivian St/new road.
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The Greens make statements such as "“The Wellington City bypass is a controversial and expensive plan to extend the motorway through downtown Wellington by just over a kilometre saving motorists only a few seconds off their journey times, at the cost of tens of millions dollars as well as the loss of heritage buildings and a once thriving community.” It isn't a motorway extension, it isn't downtown Wellington (that is the golden mile, Abel Smith Street is downtown Wellington like Khyber Pass Rd is downtown Auckland), the new road itself is 700 metres long, it saves between 10 minutes and 90 seconds depending on the time of day and the community is hardly lost.
It continues "In Te Aro, heritage buildings are being demolished - including both listed buildings and those not listed for political reasons”. In fact NO listed buildings were demolished at all, and to imply the Historic Places Trust is politically driven in this is close to defamatory, as it implies it operates outside the law. In addition, what is an unlisted "heritage building"?
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The Green alternative was to “Halt or modify the route of the Wellington inner-city 'bypass' to reduce its social and environmental impact, and address child safety and air pollution issues” which means diverting traffic along Abel Smith Street - which was rejected early on as making things worse for traffic and the local environment (there is little property access off the new route).
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So if you go to Cuba Street now, notice how little of it has been lost by the bypass built so far, although you wont notice the slashing of traffic on Ghuznee Street until the project is finished - but judge for yourself whether a community has been destroyed and whether this is a motorway extension.
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I wont write a lot about the history behind the project, Transit has a short summary, it essentially followed on from the decision that a motorway across the foothills of Wellington would provide the best route for distributing and collecting traffic from the Hutt/Porirua and northern suburbs to the city, southern and eastern suburbs. It would have originally seen two Terrace Tunnels (the current one was meant to be northbound only) and two Mt Victoria Tunnels (2 lanes each way) with a four lane motorway stretching across Te Aro. However, the Muldoon government cut road funding in the mid 70s and it was cut back to Willis Street. The project remained in the background for years, until the other end of the motorway was connected to Ngauranga Gorge (it originally only served traffic to/from the Hutt) doubling the traffic at the city end. The politically driven funding processes of the 80s saw it have a relatively low priority, and in the early 1990s Ruth Richardson slashed road spending as part of the overall effort to balance the budget. As a result there was no way in hell that even the scaled down motorway extension (keeping one tunnel each end) would be funded for some years.
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At the same time, local authority pressure on urban design changed how road projects were viewed. Originally a 4-lane motorway type road with over and underpasses between the Terrace and Mt Victoria Tunnels, there was much pressure to put it all below ground level and ultimately it became the “covered trench” motorway. This would see a cut and cover tunnel built from Vivian St to the Basin Reserve, so that Te Aro would have no visible motorway – parks and some building could be placed on top, and with one third of traffic removed from Te Aro streets (and the Wellington waterfront) it could have helped regenerate both Te Aro and the waterfront by dramatically cutting traffic. Unfortunately that design priced it out of the funding available at the time, and Transit General Manager Robin Dunlop announced that a more modest option would need to be developed for the interim. The interim was to last till 2005!
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The City Council and Transit agreed on an option, which is the one now nearly completed, but then the fun began. All of the land was held by Transit and the Council as both had bought up properties as they became available over a 25 year period. After extensive hearings, the route was confirmed under an RMA designation in 1996, but this was appealed to the Environment Court by the ecologist group Campaign for a Better City in 1999, which lost comprehensively. CBC was thoroughly fisked by those who come from a not dissimilar perspective, but believe in evidence rather than anger based analysis. Transit was awarded partial costs for this, but CBC has refused to pay this. You see it thinks that it has a right to take court cases that fail paid for by you, the motorist. Sore losers are the ecologists. You’ll notice that their still active website does not include the decision – not that interested in competing arguments either.
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The Green campaign against the bypass got new impetus with the change in government. The official Transit website summarises how it got Historic Places Trust approval (phew) to dig up the site because of the “artefacts” (my old flat was older than them) and the CBC appealed it to the High Court but that was dismissed also.
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Following this, Transfund granted the project full construction funding….
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However, something else went on behind the scenes. With the change of government, and the Greens granting the Labour/Alliance coalition confidence and supply, they wanted to stop the project. Labour bent over backwards to do what it could to appease the Greens, but all of its best analysis, and more importantly the law – meant that the bypass was worthy to fund.
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In this process the Greens would distort lie and ignore everything put in their way, even though every Wellington city and regional council elected in the 20 or so years has supported the bypass or its predecessor. You see they are not that interested in democracy when it doesn't suit their point of view. However every chance was given to review the project. This included:
- Wellington Regional Councils and Wellington City Councils elected in 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001;
- Wellington Regional Land Transport Committees over that period;
- Transit New Zealand boards over that period;
- Transfund New Zealand boards considering investigation, design and construction funding;
- Hearings Committee on the designation;
- Environment Court;
- Historic Places Trust;
- High Court;
- Parliaments elected in 1993, 1996, 1999 and 2002 (in refusing to propose or consider legislation to stop this particular project);
- Independent Peer Review of the evaluation of the project;
- Major Projects Review of major road projects in advance of entry into force of the Land Transport Management Act.
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When does someone wake up and realise that the argument is lost?

Red Ken must go

Day and Nightmare/mayor of London, Ken Livingstone was reported by the Daily Mail (one of the most scurrilous rags in the UK press) to be supporting the funding of 50th anniversary celebrations of the Cuba communist revolution. This has been rebutted as being untrue by his office, in that Cuba is simply being invited, like other Olympic countries to stage events before or after the Olympics in London. Nothing more.
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Which is an enormous relief, except when you see the fawning rubbish put out by Ken in support of the Cuban dictatorship. He claims "'Life expectancy and infant mortality are at levels comparable to far more economically advanced countries." We actually have no idea, because under a communist dictatorship you can't know - the stats are no more reliable than they were in the eastern bloc or North Korea today. He talks of " Fidel Castro is one of the most popular leaders around the world". Funny how Fidel has staunchly refused to put this to the test by allowing the Cuban people to vote for him or alternative candidates in a free and fair election.
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"There is no reason why Cuba should be singled out for controversy except for people coming at international issues from a very right wing perspective." Nor Chile under Pinochet Ken, except for those coming to things from a very left wing perspective - or perhaps both from people who believe in freedom of speech and individual liberty, you envy ridden Marxist bully.
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Cuba is not a land where you can criticise the government, in fact it means you go to prison or worse. That is what is wrong Ken - no free speech, free press or freedom of assembly or association.
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On top of that I received an invitation to this conference which is about challenging the notion that there is a clash of civilisations - part of Ken's warming up to Islamic radicals.
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Why can't the Tories find an intelligent candidate to run against him? Or has that candidate already been chased away by New New Labour leader David Cameron.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Telecom raises local line rentals

Having clapped with glee about the government’s decimation of much of Telecom’s property rights, there is now noise (from only two sources) that Telecom is increasing local residential line rentals of between $1 and $1.84 a month. Nevertheless, even though local fixed line phones are not compulsory, people will moan about it. A few will live in Wellington and Christchurch where they DO have a choice, but where the majority still use Telecom. What does that tell you?
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Telecom can’t just increase local line rentals willy nilly though, it is only allowed to do so under the Kiwi Share held by the government. Now from my point of view this is not an infringement on Telecom’s property rights because this was negotiated as part of the privatisation, but it does mean that every year Telecom hikes up the fixed line rental because it can quote the Kiwi Share as justification. Whether it would do it more often and more without the Kiwi Share is debatable.
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You see, unlike most countries, the government requires Telecom (through the Kiwi Share) to provide a flat rate unlimited free call option for local calls. In Australia you pay per call, in the UK you pay per minute per call, in the US it varies, so in NZ if you are a heavy user of the phone for local calls it is a pretty good deal, a particularly good deal if you use the internet for dialup access (which is perhaps one reason why New Zealand had quick takeup of dialup internet, but not so quick for broadband).
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New Zealand fixed telephone line customers don’t think twice about making very long calls on local lines, including dialing up their ISP. Those who use the phone occasionally effectively cross subsidise the rest. However there is more. The Kiwi Share also requires Telecom to charge rural customers no more than urban customers. This is where things really become interesting. The cost of providing a rural telephone line is many times in excess of the local line rental. I recall a government study undertaken in the late 1990s which indicated that the average cost of providing a phone to a rural property was around ten times that of the line rental. Don’t forget that these rural properties are always considered residential, when they are almost always farms – these would be businesses in the city, but because the farmers LIVE on the properties Telecom is required to charge them the same as if you lived in an apartment in downtown Auckland, where it costs less to provide. Remember business lines are completely outside the Kiwi Share’s ambit.
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Paul Budde, who has long made a career out of commenting on telecommunications for the media (and reprocessing and publishing publicly available information for a fee notice the companies that he has NOT done CONSULTANCY work for) has criticised Telecom because “Prices in technology are dropping and dropping and dropping, and so it's very difficult to argue that these prices should go up”, ignoring that the provision of the line is not just about the capital cost of the line. It is also about the power, the labour costs of maintenance of the lines, power and poles. Budde is right that the marginal costs of making phone calls is tiny, but Telecom is not allowed to recover that cost from residential customers – it has to recover the average cost of providing the fixed line infrastructure nationwide and the marginal costs of local calls from all customers. It is worth noting that I have never ever heard Budde being quoted as an authoritative source from anyone in the industry or government circles, but that the press always trots him out because he is so desperate for attention that they can easily find him willing to comment on these matters. I would trust David Cunliffe on telecommunications more than Paul Budde (and that is saying something!).
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Clearly Telecom charges enough of a margin in main centres that it was economic for the then Telstra-Saturn to lay out a competing residential line network in Wellington (including the Hutt/Kapiti) and Christchurch. Maybe it would have done the same in Auckland had the government not been so willing to give it access to Telecom’s own lines, and local authorities not been so anally retentive about it laying cables in the streets using the RMA to stop it. We wont know under the current environment.
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So what options do you have?

1. Pay the extra and recognise that you are a consumer buying a service from a supplier, and nobody has forced you to buy that service. If you are in a major city you may ask your council what its policy is on new operator laying their own cables to provide a competing network. If you are in the rural hinterland, be grateful you’re probably paying a tenth of the cost of providing you with a phone line and that farms aren’t treated as businesses.
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2. If you are in Christchurch and much of greater Wellington, you can choose Telstra Clear. This is the network it owns, it can charge what it likes.
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3. Abandon your fixed phone line and use a mobile phone.
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4. Use one of the resellers that Telecom is forced to offer its lines to at a government regulated price for local phone access (Ihug and Telstra Clear offer this virtually nationwide).
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5. Set up your own network. Try raising the capital with all the others who complain what a ripoff it is and compete – after all, why waste time at your current job if you’re such a good market analyst? You'll complain Telecom will cut prices to compete with you, well Telstra Clear has managed over 50% market share in Kapiti and between 20 and 30% in Wellington and Christchurch, so work on the basis of doing about that well. Go on, you'll have thousands on your side wanting to stop the "monopoly gouging".
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So what will it be?