Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Helen Clark confronts food miles

It's about time and I'm very pleased, but more needs to be done. Publicity is needed in the UK on this, it is still almost invisible that there is more to carbon emissions than how far food has travelled. For every day you delay, is another day when UK media bleets on this lie, like it has today here, here, here and here.
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Amazingly, a green oriented site has actually started to talk a bit more sensibly about this quoting the Lincoln University study.
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How about the Nats having a policy?

The rail network is worth what?

Stuff reports that the Crown Accounts now show the rail network as being worth a ridiculous $10.6 billion, as this would be the replacement cost if tomorrow there was no rail network and you wanted to start from scratch. Imagine if Telecom's "value" was the replacement cost of its network?
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Of course, nobody would pay $10.6 billion for it, the government paid $81 million for the Auckland network and $1 for the rest, and the total value of TranzRail/New Zealand Rail was never close to a billion dollars when it held the lot.
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Cullen doesn’t even believe it is realistic. You couldn't charge track access charges to recover a bank deposit rate of return on an asset valuation like that, minus maintenance costs.
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The appropriate value should be the market value – what would the government get if it sold it off, which would be, in many cases, the scrap value of the track and the sliver of land the network is on. You could make a bit out of the rail corridors in Auckland and parts of Wellington, but most of it would be a marginal addition to farm land. The value of the asset as a railway is only reflected by how much rail companies would pay to use it, and it is unlikely to be very much (with little left behind after you cover the cost of maintaining the track, signals etc).
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The value of the rail network is as a sunk asset in most cases. Nobody seriously would build a brand new line from Napier to Gisborne for example.
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So how much of the Crown’s net worth is this sort of snake oil?

Are you banned in China?

China, the great capitalist powerhouse of Asia is also the great censorship powerhouse. The freedom loving guys at Pacific Empire have an excellent post on this, including the link to the Great Firewall of China website - where you can check to see if your website or blog is banned in the People's Republic of China. Pacific Empire is, this blog is not as of ... right now.
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However if you go to my blog through the firewall and THEN connect to Pacific Empire there doesn't seem to be a problem. Technological barriers to censorship are, by their very nature, subject to many many holes.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Steve Jobs on TV and education

Julian Pistorius has an excellent post on Steve Job's views on TV and how public education has contributed to it... his basic points are:
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Most TV is of poor quality because most people want to switch off their brains.
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Educationists want technology to fix their problems, when the problem is people, incentives and unions and administrators that don't want to confront poor performance.
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He said "The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it's not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy".
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The full post Julian quoted from is here. As long as teacher unions continue to think that teachers cannot be paid and evaluated based on performance, they will continue to be defenders of mediocrity - and who in their right mind thinks all their teachers were equally worthy.

Charles not fit to be King

Prince Charles’s environmental fetish is well known, but I believe his latest outburst proves how completely unfit he is to be King. He wants McDonalds banned.
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According to the Daily Telegraph, when visiting the United Arab Emirates he said “Have you got anywhere with McDonald’s, have you tried getting it banned? That’s the key”.
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Fascist! So you want a dictatorial kingdom of old Charles? Well frankly you are not fit to be King – how can anyone trust you to legitimately be the sovereign and accept the advice of your democratically elected government when you’re just a rather loopy leftwing nutter? You’ve never had to work a day in your life, the work you have done is by choice – you are one of the most privileged people in the world, you have not the slightest idea of what it is like to risk your own money on a business franchise (and risk bankruptcy), or to have to get a basic job. Your children don’t either.
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How you express such an explicitly political point of view, condemning a legal business operating in the UK?
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Set aside your own prejudices about McDonalds. The bottom line is that it gives a lot of people pleasure, and a lot of people jobs. Many of you have gone there, and those who don’t are fine – you don’t have to eat at fast food restaurants. If you want to get it banned, then fine, be a fascist – be honest about it. Charles is meant to be apolitical – but he is not, and as such he is not fit to be the constitutional monarch of the UK or indeed New Zealand.

Local government - fascist and wasteful

Recent reports of the latest Auckland City Council junket are not surprising. Sister City status is nothing more than a way for councils in both cities to justify expensive holidays in each others’ cities for nothing more than a junket. The trip by three to Hamburg to discuss an “economic alliance” is bullshit – absolute bullshit. For starters, what does Auckland sell that Hamburgers (yes yes) want to buy? Is Auckland City going to Hamburg to demand that Germans lobby for the EU to open up its agricultural market? Does Hamburg have so much in common with Auckland that Auckland can learn? Hardly. If Auckland wants expert advice on anything it ought to turn to its own advisors, who get paid for the job and for consultants on a case by case basis. Would they hire three consultants from Hamburg to fly over and advise Auckland on… whatever? No. It is what it is – a junket – a junket that Auckland property owners pay for compulsorily because Auckland voters chose that council and the Labour led government gave carte blanche for councils to do what they want.
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Of course Daily Telegraph reports the UK faces the same, petty fascist councils wanting to interfere almost endlessly. Prosecuting people for not recycling a piece of cardboard, or putting an envelope in the street rubbish bin that a person carried from home, charging exhorbitant parking fees because you have the wrong car.
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The thing is almost nobody standing for local government wants councils to do less and spend less. Seriously, even the non explicitly leftwing candidates are, almost to a T, big government oriented.
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New Zealand adopted the UK model for local body powers – so watch and learn. Local government in the UK is responsible for far more than in NZ (education and police for example), but its standards are lower than what I’ve seen in some NZ councils.
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Rodney Hide had a Bill that would’ve been a useful first step to dealing with this, but we see what happened to that. Maybe this year you’ll all vote for councils that want to do less and do what they are meant to do, better and more efficiently. I’m not holding my breath.

Do you care about the roads?

Well respond to Transit’s draft 2007/2008 Land Transport Programme, which lists the road projects Transit will be seeking funding for in the coming financial year and the priority given to them. Remember Transit does not fund anything, Land Transport New Zealand does, and Transit is purely state highways, not public transport.
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You can be sure that politicians who go on about their pet projects don’t bother to make a submission, but you should if something you think is worthwhile has a low priority or vice versa. Transit is seeking to spend $1.25 billion next year, of which £1.16 billion will come from your road taxes (the rest from borrowing against future toll income). The draft programme gives you maps showing where projects are and lists of projects and descriptions of what it sees as major issues.
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However Transit has taken a different approach to presenting all this information. You no longer get the estimated costs of future projects, lest it show that costs escalate year by year. You no longer get proposed exact years for starting construction, lest a project be advanced or another dropped. Much of this makes sense, but there are estimated costs behind major projects that Transit is not publishing
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You have until 30 March to make a submission.

Given my Wellington heritage, the main points for Wellington appear to be:
- Starting the Dowse to Petone interchange on the Western Hutt Rd (gets rid of the first two sets of traffic lights leaving Wellington and provides a new entrance to Hutt City from the south, relieving Melling bridge);
- Completing design and starting construction of Stage 1 of the Kapiti Western link road (a new route starting halfway between Waikanae and Waikanae Beach to Raumati via Kapiti Road, taking local traffic off of the highway);
- Designing and starting construction on an interchange at Haywards to replace the traffic light intersection between SH2 and SH58;
- Investigating and designing a major improvement to the Basin Reserve, meaning probably a flyover from Mt Victoria Tunnel to Buckle Street across the northern corner of the Basin (relieving bottlenecks around the Basin in the AM and PM peaks);
- Investigating and designing Transmission Gully.
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Hardly grand road building when only three major construction projects are set to start, (given one is complete and two more are about to be completed in the current year, it is really about maintaining the same level of activity). Of those three, two are just about getting rid of traffic lights on four-lane highways to make them run more efficiently, and the third is about providing a safer local connection in Kapiti Coast so that traffic (including cyclists and pedestrians) don’t have to mix with highway traffic. I’d be interested to see what Tom Beard thinks of this.
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Aucklanders can take heart that it is full steam ahead with a bunch of projects to be completed in the next year, and more to start such as the Hobsonville deviation (which will link the NorthWestern motorway to the soon to be completed Upper Harbour Bridge duplication and Greenhithe motorway to build a complete Upper Harbour Motorway from the North Shore to Waitakere), and Brigham Creek extension pushing the North Western motorway further towards Kumeu. Meanwhile lots of large motorway projects continue to be under construction, from the ALPURT motorway extension from Orewa to Puhoi, to extending SH20 north to Mt Roskill and south to the Southern Motorway. Most of this is a backlog of work that should have been built years ago.

AJ Chesswas abandons blogging for lent

The renowned Christian fundamentalist blogger AJ Chesswas is applying his own approach to life and is not blogging through Lent. He has a lengthy explanation here. However he says:
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“I need to slow down and absorb a bit more of life. I need to feel again. And, obviously blogging is a distraction in this regard.”
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Fair enough too. He goes on “It is after all my most distracting and compulsive addition, and self-denial is what lent is all about”. The state really ought to regulate it!
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He gets his last word in on a number of things, the highlights for me are:
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Smacking is crucial to communicating respect for parental authority to our children, and for helping build good taste and manners, so make sure Sue Bradford doesn't get away with trying to ban it” Why I agree it shouldn’t be banned, smacking is NOT crucial, in fact I regard it to be a failure of parenting. Violence does not communicate respect, in me it communicated power and an unwillingness to communicate anything besides “I’m bigger than you and I can inflict pain on you to make you do what I want”. Smacking builds good taste?? “Oh Michael likes coprophagia because he wasn’t smacked” (don’t look up the word).
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“British identity is alive and well both in the motherland and in her colonies” Well perhaps, though if he visited here recently he’d know it is a matter of much debate. The colonies? You mean Pitcairn? Gibraltar? St. Helena? Tristan da Cunha? New Zealand stopped being even the vestiges of a colony in 1946.
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“Ecological and social issues are directly related to one another, and can only be resolved through decentralisation and an agrarian revival of faith, farm and family” Well so he’s joining the Green Party? Decentralisation of what? This could mean being a libertarian, but agrarian revival? We’ll all be in the cornfields singing Kumbayah with the family? The planet will be saved by everyone farming?? Africans will be thrilled they have the ideal life.
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“The only legitimate place for the expression of human sexuality is within a heterosexual marriage of a man and woman who are committed to each other for life.” Who decides legitimate? A Naki farmer interpreting books written centuries ago, the preacher of the church of the Naki farmer, or the people whose bodies actually have to undertake this? Presumably this married couple can enjoy oral sex, as an expression of human sexuality? (nope, but then AJ thinks that most people find this completely abhorrent).
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“Bill English is much more preferable than John Key” Sorry AJ he wont sleep with you, despite you posting his image more often than David Farrar posts images of sexy women. About the only difference so far is that Bill English decimated the National Party in 2002, John Key hasn't.... yet.
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“A woman with a strong desire for faith, farm and family is much more preferable than a woman with a strong desire for cosmetics, cars and career.” Each to their own. I’d pick the latter myself, though a strong desire for cosmetics doesn’t impress me, but career and cars are fine by me.
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I wouldn't mind if he simply made these statements as ways to live his own life.

Nanny State comment of the day

“We know that more and more people are beginning to realise the dangers of smoking.”
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Beginning? Hell, the evidence has been around since the 1950s, I was aware of it as a child and virtually everyone I ever met who smoked was well aware of it. How damned stupid or insular do you have to be to not know? If you are that stupid then frankly fine – you are like the people who ignore level crossing barriers or handle appliances with wet hands – it isn’t just a mistake it’s systematic stupidity. I don't give a damn about people who are stupid, they are the bane of my life (and it's amazing how there is a link between stupidity and violence).
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We are so glad that Damien O’Connor, Associate Minister of Health and Minister of Blokey Real Men Affairs, has figured out that in 2007 people are “beginning to realise” how dangerous smoking can be. Maybe it has taken that long for enough of his constituents (particularly those who vote for him) to realise that?
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One piece of advice Damien, people do things that are dangerous at times even though they know this, because they value SOMETHING ELSE. Adults can make their own decisions and if they decide to smoke, they take the risk with their own bodies. You see people don't always live in a world of being safe and good.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Mile high

Ridge and Loos try it on on Air NZ flying from London to LA.

The NZ Herald reports that:
“Passenger Rachel Bernam, told London newspaper The News of the World: "It was pretty obvious what was going on." She added: "They started snogging and then she disappeared under the blanket. I was shocked - it was then the steward told them to knock it off." An Air NZ spokeswoman said the airline was "not at liberty" to discuss individual passengers. "However, we can confirm there were complaints in the premium cabin on NZ1 on February 2 that required cabin crew to ask a couple of passengers to modify their behaviour"
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However the Brisbane Courier Mail tells more:
“Ridge was busted receiving oral sex from girlfriend Rebecca Loos on an Air New Zealand flight from London to Los Angeles last week. Crew had to interrupt the pair after passengers complained. "It was pretty obvious what was going on. She was giving him oral sex . . . and he was loving it," said passenger Rachel Bernam, seated behind the former league star.”
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Now there are planes and seats better suited to this than the Air NZ business class pods. For starters, the bathrooms at the back of a 747 are many and not well monitored, especially at night. The rear of the front cabin (nose) on a 747 tends to be quite discreet and private, the back rows especially. The upper deck isn’t as good as it seems, because the galley is at the back and the crew rest areas and cockpit at the front. There is another crew rest area which most passengers are unaware of, but unless the crew want to share you, you’ll get no chances there. Some Airbus A340s have downstairs toilets or galleys (Thai, Cathay, LAN, Aerolineas Argentinas all fly these to NZ).
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So some basic rules of thumb:
1. The bigger the plane the better your chances. Boeing 747s and Airbus A340s are the biggest in the air now, the A380 may offer even more chances.
2. The more exclusive the cabin the better your chances. This is mainly because some airlines make the first or business class toilets bigger, and there are more of them per passenger. It also reflects bigger more private seating, but that is all.
3. Do it in the dark. Wait till after dinner on an overnight flight and then slink off when the lights are dimmed. By then the crew are doing little, most people have their earplugs and eye masks on.
4. Find banks of toilets that are not monitored. Rear ends of planes that don’t have galleys are best (747s) though this goes against rule of thumb 2.

Rail crash

The only point I want to make of this is how wonderful technology is that this train has survived crashing at 145 km/h with only one fatality. None of the windows broke, none – the Italian made tilting trains (Pendolinos) that Virgin uses are clearly a winner! The carriages are by and large intact, which is a far cry from previous rail disasters. The nay sayers who regard rail privatisation as the source of all ills may look at Virgin Trains having leased trains that have three times the crash resistance of the required safety standard. It helps that the competitive pressure through the franchising system incentives private rail operators to operate trains and services that maximise revenue (and Virgin Trains has done quite well in winning passengers from other modes).
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Yes there are issues around the track at this particular location on this occasion, and Network Rail may well be culpable. However, rail accidents are going to occur from time to time. What this train has proven is that it is possible to protect people from death and serious injury at high speeds with good design. Imagine taking any road vehicle and sending it off the road at 145 km/h.
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It gives me added comfort as I catch these trains nearly every week!

Should incest be legal?

This will stir people up.
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Patrick Stübing and Susan Stübing are taking a case to Germany’s constitutional court to get a law overturned. Patrick Stübing is 29 years old and his sister Susan is 24, he was given a sentence of 2.5 years for incest. They are adults and in love. He was adopted in east germany at the age of 4, and was not allowed to find his biological family until he was 18. The details are in this story in The Independent, but in short they fell in love and had four children, all but one is in care and two have “mental damage” from inbreeding. Patrick has been in jail twice, his sister in the care of social services. Patrick has since chosen to be sterilised, but his relationship with his sister remains criminal. You might think they are probably stupid or ugly or something else, you know the sort of things that lesbians get accused of as to why they don't want sex with men. I don't know if they are or not, and frankly it doesn't matter. The concern in Germany is that the law against incest has its origins in the Nazi era - which makes sense if it is all about reproduction. In NZ and the UK it has religious origins, even though it is impossible for the bible to make sense without incest (who did Adam and Eve's kids breed with?).
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Now the first reaction of most to this is rather quick judgment. Starting with “eww yuck”, which frankly is irrelevant. I can think “ew yuck” if I think about sex with most people I know, or meet. What you think of a particular relationship is per se, neither here nor there. Secondly, remove any questions of abuse or violence, as there is none. Presumably the sexual relationship started once his sister was of legal age, as prosecution for that would have followed as well. Besides, today they are both adults. Thirdly, the issue that most raise is “what about inbreeding”, in which case I would ask, what is your eugenics policy?
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It is not illegal in Germany (or New Zealand) for people with hereditary diseases from having children even when there is a very high chance the disease will be passed on. Two of the four children the couple had were “mentally damaged”, but the other two were not. It is not a good idea for siblings to reproduce, but should it be criminal?
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Furthermore, given the couple can no longer reproduce, why is it anyone else’s business whether an adult brother and sister live together as a couple and have sexual relations? Ask yourself if your revulsion is no more different than the revulsion 20-30 years ago for same-sex relations, and whether that revulsion justifies a criminal record. Who are these people harming? Is the “yuck” factor enough to put someone in prison? Seriously!
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Finally, the word incest automatically brings to most people images of abusive relationships, and these do exist and the law exists to rightfully prosecute the offenders. However, some brothers and sisters (and sisters and sisters etc etc) do engage in sexual play in their youth. Would it be more appropriate to treat incest as a factor to consider in sentencing in cases of abuse, rather than for it to be a crime in itself?
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By the way, about twice a year a similar case arises in New Zealand between adult siblings, and typically the man gets convicted. I wonder why?

Eco-labelling - our saviour or our undoing.

According to the Daily Telegraph, UK Environment Minister David Milliband is to announce today that he is considering eco-labelling for food that will outline the amount of greenhouse gases used in production and transport of food. This will be greeted with cheers from European farmers, even keen to suckle the Brussels tit and ever keen to block out food imported from more efficient food producers. However, as has already been explained it should not be a matter of simple reporting “food miles” – one of the greatest green crocks of our time, but the total cost of production.
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Now I oppose compulsory labelling. If the producer doesn’t want you to know something about the food then you have the choice of buying it or not. However, New Zealand should agree to provide input into this analysis, which will surely be impossible for all food imports, but also provides an opportunity to do two things:
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First, is to transparently and objectively determine the entire carbon impact, which in many cases benefits New Zealand farmers. However this wont happen without a fight. British farmers will baulk when NZ cheese appears in supermarket coolers with a lower greenhouse rating. However, lest Britain be hauled up in front of the WTO, it must not be a barrier to free trade.
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Secondly, how about identifying food by subsidy levels, e.g. 25% of the cost of producing this block of cheese was paid for by EU subsidies, or US subsidies etc etc. Now that wont happen, but the first could be pushed for. We can’t sit back and let this be defined by those with the loudest voices, as the “Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will work with producers and retailers” according to the Daily Telegraph. This doesn’t mean our producers or importers. Stop sitting back New Zealand, bloody well do something!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Brian Rudman is intellectually vacuous on transport

Brian Rudman has been the Herald's leftwing pinup columnist for some years now. In that time he has rallied for several causes, one is his tired old conservative leftwing view on transport. It's a view that few transport officials take seriously, unless of course, you sit on the left hand side of the Auckland Regional Council. Given his prominent column, he is an opinion maker in Auckland - there ought to be a corresponding opinion piece given by someone at least armed with facts. Rudman's view is rather simple - Auckland bureaucrats get it right, Wellington bureaucrats get it wrong - in fact both get it wrong and right at times, but hey simplicity is easy isn't it?
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According to Rudman, Auckland's transport problem would be fixed if only an absolute fortune was poured into rail, including a large underground electrified rail loop in the central city. The cost of this is in the multiple billions, but never mind he thinks government (that means you) can pay for it. Never mind that 88% of Auckland's employment is not located in the wider central business district, so that 4 out of 5 commuters (let's be generous and assume 8% could catch trains between locations outside the CBD) would find no use for this. Never mind that the ARC's own CS First Boston report indicates that the full rail business plan would improve average traffic speeds on the parallel motorways by less than 0.5 km/h. Never mind that the Ministry of Transport/Treasury's own analysis said that Auckland's congestion could not be fixed by spending up large on public transport.
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Now he is bleeting on about buses, the much ignored mode of transport in Auckland. The mode that saw ever decreasing patronage over thirty five years under local authority ownership and control, retrieved from decline after privatisation in the late 1990s. In his latest doggerell, Rudman calls the current model for bus regulation and funding as the "disastrous" Thatcherite model, but fails to note the appalling standards of service, chronic underinvestment and ever growing subsidies (and declining patronage) of the old system. This system that has "dogged" Auckland for 15 years has only been operating fully for 9 years (check the legislation Brian) and for most of those years has seen increases in patronage, a reduction in the average age of buses operating, the first air conditioned buses and most of this without substantial increases in subsidies. This doesn't suit Brian's socialist unprofessional viewpoint.
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He unashamedly takes ARTA's view on bus regulation, not challenging any of the notions like how "That most civilised cities used the simple contracting model they were proposing". Well actually they don't Brian, most provide the services themselves and see ever declining patronage, look to the US for such examples - where union dominated operators run by councils run adequated fleets with ever growing subsidies and ongoing declining patronage. The "extremely unattractive" model run in Auckland actually has saved ratepayers a fortune and seen patronage increases. However, you'll need to look elsewhere for a columnist who might hold ARTA to account. He did note that 26% of Auckland bus services are unsubsidised, and these carry 46% of all bus trips - so nearly half of all trips don't need a dollar of taxpayer money? Extremely unattractive only to those who are bent on control. He twisted stats to say "Is it pure coincidence that in the 15 years the current model has been in place, bus patronage growth in Auckland has been the worst in Australasia - down 34 per cent relative to population?". No Brian, the current model has been in operation since 1998, and it is NOT the worst in Australasia, in fact there have been declines in the last two years largely attributed to the collapse of the Asian language student industry in Auckland (where large numbers rode on buses on corridors in the isthmus) and the replacement of some services with his much loved trains. He fails to note the reason why Stagecoach pulled out of commercially running some services is because of competition with highly subsidised rail. He claims reforms will make the trains run on time, even though they are all currently subject to a contract with ARTA that ARTA specifies.
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A couple of weeks or so ago he took the Winston Peters approach to congestion charging, a populist no - even though it has proven to work in Singapore, London and Stockholm. He misconstrued the results of the study on Auckland road pricing as negative, when in fact it said that congestion could be considerably reduced if Auckland adopted congestion pricing. He claims "For years this region has received less than its proportionate share of national road and transport funding." without identifying what a "proportionate share" means. If he means by population, then Auckland can claim that for just about everything involving government - but I doubt he'll go tripping around the South Island, Northland, East Cape and Wairarapa demanding "Auckland's fair share". If he means according to where money is best invested, he'll find funding has generally followed where it can best deliver bang for the buck - but I didn't think Brian cared much about efficiency. Besides, it is not the point - when demand exceeds supply for someone that is essentially free, the price should go up to ration it. You see Brian can't figure out that having roads priced the same regardless of time of day or location (socialist pricing) is the problem, and that road pricing COULD be introduced to replace fuel taxes and ratepayer funding of roads - but he doesn't understand that. Nowhere in the world has congestion been solved without pricing, unless you count banning cars.
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Before that he moaned about Wellington Regional Council short listing suppliers for new electric trains while "Despite what seem like 101 reports in support of Auckland's passenger train network going electric, they who know best in Wellington keep asking for yet another report". Mainly because no report has actually said there are net quantifiable benefits in electrifying Auckland rail.
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He criticised the Ministerial Advisor Group report on roading costs because it criticised the exhorbitant cost of the Victoria Park Tunnel proposal (which is about increasing the lanes on State Highway 1 from spaghetti junction to the southern approach to Auckland Harbour Bridge from 4 to 6 lanes by putting 3 lanes in a tunnel, while converting the viaduct to 4 lanes southbound), which in a highly overengineered solution when a duplicate bridge could do the job for a fraction of the cost. However he doesn't say where the extra money should come from to support his green-plating.
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Other things Rudman knows little about include:
- Motorway ramp metering (it works well in the USA, reduces the likelihood people use expensive motorways for short trips). He could argue for far more information on electronic roadside signs to divert motorists from incidents instead;
- For Auckland transport the "obvious answer is everything to be publicly owned" by the same entity, in other words the model Auckland had for decades. In other words, no pressure to innovate, be efficient and full capture of subsidies. So obvious that no officials recommended it.
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Rudman is clearly an intelligent man, but his columns are as partisan and one-sided as you can get. You'd hope one of the Herald's leading columnists might argue the alternative point of view as having some merits, but he doesn't. He is vacuous on transport, he is mostly wrong and almost anything ARTA says he will swallow.

She's a racist though she doesn't know it

Tariana Turia is racist and does not believe in democracy.
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Her newest concern is that more migrants coming to New Zealand have white skin, compared to Maori breeding. Why should the colour of the skin of citizens matter, unless you judge people by their race and ethnicity, rather than what they do? You see, Tariana judges you first by your skin colour - it just happens she thinks the most of you if you are Maori.
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She's called for restrictions on immigration because of what it means for Maori political representation - presumably, she doesn't like the fact that a cornerstone of liberal democracy is one adult one vote.
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Stuff reports how she claims it ISN'T about race because, in the bizarre post-modernist world of identity politics, it is absolutely impossible for a non-white person to be racist to a white person - in Tariana's world racism is about judging people on the basis of race, but white people judging people on the basis of race. She is quoted as saying "No, we aren't playing the race card, because we are not talking about Asian immigration. In actual fact, the majority of immigrants who come to this country come from Great Britain, from Europe, from Canada, from Australia." . How dare they!
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How dare people with skills, education, talent and aspirations to live a better life come from those places. Anyway, in Tariana's world these people are second class compared to every single person of Maori descent - the people she prefers.
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Helen Clark has wisely refuted Tariana Turia's mad assertion that immigration is a cunning government plot to dilute the Maori population (yes I can see Labour doing that can't you?) saying "Our country has been built on migration. You're part of it, I'm part of it, our forefathers were part of it".
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Indeed Helen.
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John Key is quoted as saying "But that is a very small issue in my view in relation to the bigger one of what not having those people coming to New Zealand would represent."
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John it ISN'T an issue - but you want to get into political bed with this racist lunatic for power don't you? Just like National did in 1996 despite Winston's asian baiting. John you could've agreed with Helen - she's right, you're a wimp.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Iran continues to ignore the international community

According to Associated Press The International Atomic Energy Agency has found that Iran has ignored a UN Security Council ultimatum to freeze uranium enrichment, but in fact has expanded its programme. In addition, Iran has done nothing to answer questions from the IAEA about the programme and has severely restricted the access of inspectors to site they previously could visit
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"Iran had installed two cascades, or networks, of 164 centrifuges in its underground Natanz enrichment plant with another two cascades close to completion. This represented efforts to expand research-level enrichment of nuclear fuel into "industrial scale" production. It said Iranian workers lowered into the plant an 8.7-ton container of uranium hexafluoride gas (UF-6) to prepare to start feeding centrifuges, which can enrich the material into fuel for power plants or, if refined to high levels, for bombs."
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Swissinfo reports that Ahmadinejad has vowed to keep continuing its nuclear programme saying "If we show weakness in front of the enemy the expectations will increase but if we stand against them, because of this resistance, they will retreat". The enemy? I thought it was a peaceful programme - why are there enemies if it isn't about war?
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Of course Iran has been bolstered by:
1. The chaos in Iraq, backed up by the substantial reduction in the US/allied willingness to persist in Iraq;
2. North Korea gaining a deal to get free oil in exchange for freezing its nuclear programme, now that it HAS nuclear weapons;
3. Little Western appetite for military action (the high number of potential targets).
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Some will say, fine, let it be - and wont be worried until Iran uses a weapon, in which case it will be the fault of the USA. Some may want war, but that is impracticable and I think unnecessary. What is needed is sanctions - freezing of Iranian state bank accounts, banning of Iranian aircraft from EU airspace - it has to hurt to Iranian economy. Iran is a nation predominantly of young people, predominantly of people who don't subscribe to Islamism, and they simply need a reason to stand up to Ahmadinejad and his bullies.
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The risk of Iran using nuclear material itself or through its terrorist proxies is not worth doing nothing. The European approach has failed, what would've been the US approach is too late and likely to be counterproductive. Now is the time to isolate Iran. Blair is opposed to military action, Bush is balancing up the need to do something vs domestic political backlash.
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and yes Prime Minister that means the lucrative NZ-Iran trade must halt as well as that of our allies and friends, or is it only French and US nuclear activities that get the Labour party excited? What I would love to know is why multilateralists, that are always keen to hold the US to account, are so silent on Iran? Where are the Iranian flags being burnt in the street?

Be Lazy - the Union told you so


The Trade Union Communists, I mean Congress, is calling for all Brits to “work to rule” meaning to finish work on time, and no later, and to have a full lunch hour. This is because the TUC claims that employees are “ripped off” as employers get £23 billion of “free work”.
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Well fine – let’s all do that, do nothing more than you absolutely need to. Why don’t doctors do that? “shift over, sorry I can’t fix you”. Just think if everyone did this! Just imagine how many small businesses could function on that basis?
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It is classic socialism, the worship of being average and it is the reason the TUC doesn’t understand the huge bonuses a few thousand in the City of London get for working enormous hours under much pressure.
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I haven’t had a successful career because I did 9 to 5, or always had an hour’s lunch, in fact that would be exceedingly rare. That’s why I don’t need the TUC, I am prepared to work and have an employer who rewards it .
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So Work Your Proper Hours Day is a waste of time. Employers ought to respond to employees who do this though. Employees caught using stationery, telephones, internet access, pens and the like for private purposes should have that deducted from their salary. This includes spending time online during “proper hours” or talking to friends or the like.
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So how about Do Nothing But Work While at Work Day. I’m sure the TUC will back.

Ban alcohol advertising will fix binge drinking?

According to the Daily Telegraph, Professor Ian Gilmore, head of the Royal College of Physicians, has called for a total ban on alcohol advertising because it will combat Britain's binge drinking culture.
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No it wont.
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The only thing that will make it change is when more people want to be conscious more often than not, rather than escape their own lack of self esteem and their own lives.
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They wont drink less because there is no advertising - the Soviet Union is the classic case. Advertising affects choice of drink not the choice TO drink, and children learn early on that alcohol is a grown up taboo thing, and people have fun taking it and laugh at the stupid things people do when drunk.
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The answer is culture, not regulation.

Egypt’s lack of free speech

It is sad that one of the bulwarks against Islamism in the Middle East -Egypt - is brutal towards free speech.
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Hosni Mubarak is a dictator – he is no doubt better than having an Islamist regime, and he has maintained peaceful relations with Israel – but he is a dictator. Political dissent has few outlets in Egypt, and that is sad because it fuels dissent in the major independent institution in the country – mosques. I know the alternative for now is an Islamist regime - which would be far worse. As No Right Turn points out "In a free society, criticising an educational institution and the government should not be a crime. But Egypt is not a free society". The bubble of Islamism is only encouraged if criticism is suppressed because it will rally opposition towards Islam - as in Iran.
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Hosni Mubarak is big and bright enough to not do this, to grant Abdel Kareem Soliman a pardon, and allow criticism of government and Islam. The US administration should exercise pressure as well.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Classic Boris Johnson and Qantas's new business class service

Conservative MP Boris Johnson’s latest Daily Telegraph column highlighting the hypocrisy of certain tabloid newspapers which on the one hand luridly post headlines and images involving gratuitous sex, while also being part of the “outrage” community who forever bemoan the filth on television, perverts and the sexualisation of society. Johnson is often hilarious, usually unintentionally, but did have the balls to take on Jamie Oliver on school meals.
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He was motivated by one Qantas flight attendant granting Ralph Fiennes business class service (from Darwin to Mumbai), which came to light because the damned silly woman sold the story to the Mail on Sunday (here) - the trashiest tabloid if only because it is the one that most pretends to be about news, but is actually carefully cloaked anti-foreign, populist, reactionary bullshit. The Mail doesn’t do the phwoar tits and arse of the Sun, but its no serious paper either.
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By the way, this is the juicy bit from the Mail on Sunday, because I know if you aren’t interested, you stop reading:
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“There were only 12 passengers in business class that night. Then, as she was preparing to go on her break, Fiennes made an unexpected suggestion. Lisa said: 'We had chatted a bit about India - where I've been five times - and his movies. 'When I told him I was going for a break, he said, "I might come and visit you for a chat, if that's OK." I was a bit surprised, but also thrilled. I said, "Sure."' Lisa admits she was smitten by the star, but says she did not make the first move and had no thought of what might happen next.
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It was 11pm and most of the other passengers were asleep. Lisa retired behind the curtained crew area, next to the cockpit, took off her shoes and put her feet up. But moments later she was interrupted by Fiennes.
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'I'm sorry, were you sleeping?, he said. 'No,' she replied. 'Come in and take a seat.'
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Lisa is not proud of what happened next, but she found Fiennes 'irresistible'. 'At first we just chatted,' she said. 'He sat really close to me. He told me he was learning lines for a new movie with Colin Farrell, playing the part of a gangster. He said he was practising his cockney accent. 'I asked him to give me an example. He did and it was really good. I told him again that The English Patient was just the best movie, but he said, 'That was over ten years ago. Why don't people value my later work?'
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'I apologised and said I didn't mean to offend him. I guess we talked for about an hour about lots of different things. He thought it was funny that I lived alone with my dog, a Lhasa Apso-poodle cross called Finn.' Fiennes told Lisa he was touring Indian villages for Unicef to talk about AIDS awareness. He asked what she would be doing in Bombay, where she was staying, and said, 'Do you want to meet up?' Stunned and deeply flattered, Lisa said: 'Yeah. That would be cool.'
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By this point they were sitting so close their faces were just inches apart. Lisa said: 'He held my hands. Then he started kissing me. The kissing was very passionate and his hands were all over me. I just melted.
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'He was caressing my neck, holding my head and he started undoing the buttons on my dress. The way he was going, he would have made love to me right there.
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'I was very turned on and so was he. I had butterflies in my stomach. I was touching his face and his hair. He had beautiful skin. I was undoing his shirt as well. It was a bit surreal, like a scene from one of his movies.
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'But I was afraid my supervisor might pull back the curtain and catch us. Eventually, I couldn't bear it any longer. I just grabbed his hand and said, "Come in here a minute."
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'By this time, we had half our clothes off and I didn't care about anything. I led him into the cabin lavatory next to where we had been sitting and locked the door. 'Ralph was a great lover. And I thought if I was going to get the sack, it would be worth it. I knew it was against the rules and wrong but I didn't care.
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'I was a bit shocked that he didn't wear a condom. Looking back, I think of it as dangerous behaviour and hypocritical given that he was going to India to talk about AIDS. 'He asked me, "Have you ever done this before?". I said, "No, never." I asked him the same question and he said, "No." 'The only strange thing was that he kept his eyes open the whole time, staring at me intensely, although we were kissing madly.
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'I realised that people would miss me and wonder where I was as my break was almost over. I told him we had to get out of there quickly. 'I helped him get dressed and he told me that when he got out of the toilet he would press his call button to distract the other flight attendants so that I could leave.
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'But a male member of staff saw Ralph come out of the toilet and he saw me lock the door after Ralph. When I came out, the member of staff was still there. I prepared to get back to work but the cabin manager wanted a word with me. She asked, "Did you go into the toilet with a male passenger?"
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'I said, "No." But she said three people saw me do it. She told me I had crossed the line and that she was going to report me when we got back to Sydney. 'Ralph called me over and asked, "Is everything all right?" I told him, "No,"and sat down next to him. He was very concerned, but I downplayed it and said I would sort it out.
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'I knew I was in big trouble. I was ordered to spend the rest of the flight working in economy and I was the talk of the other cabin crew.”
Ralph Fiennes' publicist says the flight attendant was the aggressor. Nevertheless, she's out of a job and he's sitting back with a new boost of publicity and will be forgiven - after all, he's a man women find beautiful - and they are always forgiven. While some say this episode is good for Qantas, I think it is the exact opposite. When you are famous and fly you don't want the cabin crew to be selling stories of your trip - discretion is the key. Quite a few celebrities (Sarah Michelle Gellar) fly Singapore Airlines (where you wont get this sort of service of course), and you hear nothing of it.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Road pricing petition shakes Blair

In 2006, Tony Blair invited e-petitions to be set up on his website for the public to put their names to, as part of extending democracy. This, of course, encouraged nutters galore, and there are over 3000 of them. Many are semi-literate, some are crazy (Ban 4x4 owners' clubs, ban hoodies, cull seals), but one has worked in getting attention. Nearly 1.8 million people have signed a petition against road pricing.
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The detailed wording of the petition is:
"The idea of tracking every vehicle at all times is sinister and wrong. Road pricing is already here with the high level of taxation on fuel. The more you travel - the more tax you pay. It will be an unfair tax on those who live apart from families and poorer people who will not be able to afford the high monthly costs. Please Mr Blair - forget about road pricing and concentrate on improving our roads to reduce congestion."
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UK government policy on road pricing is to encourage local authorities to pursue local schemes, with all surplus revenue dedicated to funding local transport projects. London and Durham do this now, and a lot of other cities are considering it too - partly to relieve chronic congestion, partly because the government is willing to fund more projects if those cities pursue road pricing.
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However, wider than that the government has indicated a long term policy to introduce national road pricing that will vary by distance, time of day, location and vehicle type. Now this is economically rational by itself. Britain has the worst congestion in Europe on average, and while there is scope for plenty of modest road improvements (especially in London, where Ken Livingstone is opposed to increasing road capacity), the real problem is that too many people want to use free roads at the same time.
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Fuel tax isn't an answer, Britain has the highest petrol tax in the world (50.9p/l or NZ$1.40!), and none of it is dedicated to transport (unlike NZ where it is now all spent on transport). Raising fuel tax now means that road users in the countryside or driving off peak are paying a punitive level of tax.
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However the government has done an abysmal job of selling road pricing. For starters it has not ever responded to the nonsense about it tracking everyone's movements. Anyone with a basic understanding of GPS knows it is not a "spy in the sky" satellite - it broadcasts signals that a unit in your vehicle triangulates and determines itself where it is. GPS satellites receive nothing from GPS receivers. Secondly, the technology to be used doesn't need to transmit location data anywhere - it can be used to calculate a charge and deduct it from a prepaid card, but only transmit location data when you fail to pay. It doesn't help that the Blair government is pursuing compulsory national ID cards or has a national DNA database of everyone arrested - in other words it can't be trusted on privacy.
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It also has failed to state clearly what has often been mentioned, that road pricing must come with a countervailing cut or removal of fuel and road tax (similar to motor vehicle licensing in NZ).
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Most importantly, the real problem is that doing something like this nationally is a huge risk for central government. It would be far easier and less riskier to commercialise or privatise the highway network, and let it be tolled to pay for all of its costs, and then make councils operate their roads commercially too and do the same thing. In any case, national road pricing wont exist before the next election, though the London scheme has just been extended, and there may be another local scheme or two before 2010. Blair has responded to the petitioners in a way that isn't bad, but probably not convincing enough for doubters.

Malaysia is not truly Asia - fortunately

I've been to Malaysia a few times, I don't really like it that much. The television ads that seem to show worldwide "Malaysia truly Asia" grate with me. I like Satays and there are some things interesting about the country, but it is also a real Nanny State. It has been infected by Islamic politics for some years, and by legalised racism and nationalism born from envy of the success of Chinese migrants. I hoped with Mahathir having moved on that Malaysia's authoritarian ways might have eased.
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However, now according to Stuff the Malaysian government is going to recruit spies to snoop on unmarried couples doing “unislamic” things like holding hands or kissing. This is an offence in Malaysia for Muslims. When religion and state are not separate you get this sort of Taliban-lite nonsense.
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I actually have committed several of these offences in Malaysia some years ago, my girlfriend at the time came with me and we shared a bed, and we did break several laws on "unnatural" activities. (Apparently sharing the hotel room was an offence in itself)
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Imagine how petty vindictive and pathetic you would have to be to spy on couples holding hands. Actually you don't have to just be an Islamist, you can be a Christian. There are plenty of Christian telltale busybodies who may cheerfully spy on and arrest unmarried couples being "immoral", let alone lock up homosexuals or people publishing tips on masturbation.
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Malaysia isn't largely about bullying people, many of its people are kind and generous - and the Islamism is not truly Asia - the generosity and hard working attitude of many of its people are.

Ken Livingstone rips off developing country and Londoners

It is truly bizarre that one of the world's financial capitals is led by a leftwing nutter who worships Castro (leader of a dilapidated health care system, not that the UN is told the truth by the Cuban government), welcomed leaders of the IRA at the height of the bombings and now is having an affair with the latest leftwing bully, Hugo Chavez.
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So Ken has signed a deal to buy oil (presumably diesel) from the Venezuelan state owned oil company at 20% below market prices, which will be onsold to the numerous London bus companies in exchange for those companies halving fares for welfare recipients.
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This is truly the case of the poor of a poor country paying for the poor of a rich country.
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So what does this really mean? Some think it is great, but when you look into it, London and Venezuela both lose.
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On paper, it is a £32 million a year saving in fuel. London wins, Venezuela loses - welfare recipients in London are almost certainly a lot better off than the Venezuelan poor. What a socialist Ken is, ripping off poor countries to pay for his own poor.
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However this deal isn't just about saving money. By halving bus fares for welfare recipients, there is a loss in revenue. The £1 standard fare (using Oyster cards) goes to 50p, to travel anywhere within Greater London (very very cheap), but this is for 250,000 people. Hockney council estimates that the fare loss will cost £25 million, and the Mayor's office claims maximum benefits of £16 million, so at best London gains £7 million or at worst loses £9 million. Hmmm
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but there is more. Venezuela isn't doing this out of socialist solidarity alone. The Greater London Authority is to provide free consultancy advice to Venezuelan cities on "transport, protection of the environment, development of tourism, and town planning". After all, Caracas and London share so much. That advice isn't free of course, it means opening a GLA office in Caracas - yes the Greater London Authority will have a branch in South America. One estimate of that cost is £45 million. It better be less than £7 million clearly!
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Even more peculiar, Livingstone goes on:
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"At the same time it is a good deal for Venezuela. That country has started on the road of using its oil riches for the benefit of the majority of its population, which lives in cites, prioritising areas such as improving health care and the environment, public transport, better housing and town planning. This will gradually transform the quality of life for the majority Venezuela’s population, including replacing slums with modern towns and cities served by first class public services. London has invaluable expertise to contribute in this field and this will save Venezuela millions of dollars."
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Would you take advice from officials from Greater London Authority or another city or specialist experts on health care, public transport and housing? Remember GLA has no role in health care, some role for the environment, a marginal role in housing and planning (though a major role in public transport). Notice how effective London has been in replacing slums?
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So come on David Cameron - find a sane man to stand for Mayor, I've had enough of Ken Jong Il.

Smacking ban?

I’ll admit this debate has challenged me. I sympathise with those who don’t like smacking, but I also sympathise those who believe criminalising it is more destructive than not. I don’t like smacking, I wouldn’t use it against my children when I have some, because I remember how I felt when I was smacked – I thought it was disproportionate and thought it meant that I was hated. As a kid I figured people only hit other people when they don’t like them, as a punishment it seemed cruel to hit someone for making a mistake. I would rather have been explained to. Of course below a certain age I can’t remember being smacked, and below a certain age I wouldn’t have been easy to reason with. The question is also what smacking is – I had my hand smacked quickly when I tried to first put my fingers near something hot and was told why, I didn’t do it again.
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So I can understand why some want to ban it – I don’t like it and don’t think it should be used – but, making it criminal bothers me. It bothers me because it lowers the threshold for state intervention in what are otherwise healthily functioning families. It bothers me because there are pretty robust laws against child abuse, and beatings and the like are illegal. It bothers me because it could be used by older children to threaten parents who attempt discipline that they’ll tell the Police. It bothers me because it seems to be unenforceable.

There are chronically negligent and despicable parents out there in droves, and it can be seen in those that use an extended family for parenting purposes – which leaves many adults partly responsible for kids, including teenagers responsible for children. Banning smacking will do nothing about this. It wont stop James Whakaruru’s mother, who handed the child’s murderer the vacuum cleaner pipe used to beat him to death, from having more children, hooking up with dysfunctional men who have further access to abuse her children – while she does nothing. It wont stop the state paying for these people, or paying welfare to convicted violent offenders, or stop violent offenders from having custody of children. At best it will send a message of non-violence, at worst it will criminalise otherwise good parents, who social workers, doctors and others will dob in for a smack on the bum.
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I don’t like those defending it because they think it is a legitimate way to punish children, the only reason to not change the law is because criminalising this behaviour outright will go too far. If anything, there may be a case for reviewing and defining what is acceptable and what is not. However that is a tweak, perhaps defining physical abuse as any hitting that causes bruising. Think about this, if you are attacked by a child (remember this could be between ages 12 to 18 depending on who you talk to), would retaliating be counted as abusive? Imagine children accusing people of smacking them – with no evidence – adolescents aren’t stupid when they want to be despicably manipulative.
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As Not PC says, the laws as they stand have done little to stop many many cases of abuse. Sue Bradford has a wider agenda, and you see it in Childrens’ Commissioner Cindy Kiro – it is the state having a greater and greater role as parent – in funding children, regulating children, regulating and funding their health and education, media, housing. No Right Turn supporting the Bill says in respect of most parents smacking "they are highly unlikely to be prosecuted unless the assault is considered serious enough to warrant it" in which case, doesn't the law adequately cover that now?
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Child abuse is a complicated problem, and banning smacking will at best stop parents from whacking their kids in public, a humiliating practice for the child. This will be deterred and that is that – but hardly a great win.
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If you’re serious about reducing the rate of abuse, then perhaps policy needs to be tough. How about this?

- Those convicted of serious child abuse are banned from living in any household with people under 16 or being alone with any child. This should be part of sentencing, beyond a certain threshold this should be a matter of course. Breaches of this will see prosecution and imprisonment. Those who are accessories to this also face prosecution (so mothers who love convicts may become convicts themselves);

- Eligibility for welfare and state housing is denied to anyone convicted of a serious violent offence (anything beyond mild single assaults), second time round you lose access to state health care and national superannuation (go ask for charity, see who cares after you ruin the lives of others);

- Parents/guardians able to be charged as accessories if their child is physically or sexually abused in their presence, and the crime has not been reported promptly.
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A useful measure is to remove those who brutalise and destroy childrens’ lives from being able to receive money from the state, and from having access to children in the future including being parents. By the way this applies to rapists too. Once you have brutally violated another person, you have no right to expect any of the privileges of state, except to be left alone with those who choose to be with you – children don’t count in that.
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I hope the smacking ban does not proceed. I would like smacking to end as a culturally acceptable practice, I don't believe banning it achieves that - I believe it deflects attention from it and is an "easy" answer, but then some on the left are strangely reluctant to take away welfare and privileges from violent criminals.

Airline passengers charged by weight?

Given how strict some airlines get about checked luggage, and the growing obesity of airline passengers, an enlightened airline policy could be to combine weights of passengers and luggage to determine if there is an “excess” fare. This means instead of a standard 20kg policy for checked luggage it should be total passenger/luggage weight of (in economy class) say 113kg = 85kg body plus 28 kg for hand and checked luggage. If you weigh 65kg, you get 20kg more luggage, at 110kg you get 3kg to carry/check in, unless you pay more.
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At a certain point girth has to matter too, the narrowest Air NZ seat is on the Boeing 737 at 17 inches, so that’s the test. If you can’t fit 17 inches without overlapping, buy another seat (or on international flights go up a class, where it doesn’t matter as seats in premium economy and business overlap).
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It’s green too – reduces fuel consumption on planes, reduces demand for flying and it would also encourage more people to lose weight.
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Now it shouldn’t be government policy, but I wonder how many people would choose an airline if they could take more luggage if they weighed less, AND knew they could have a seat without someone encroaching on their space?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anderton praises fan of Berlin Wall and North Korea

Jim Anderton’s eulogy for one of the country’s apologists for the former east germany’s corrupt, brutal, Stalinist dictatorship and the North Korean slave state shows the sickening double standards applied by many on the left.
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Wolfgang Rosenberg wrote often in the New Zealand Monthly Review about how important it was to recognise the Berlin Wall was needed so that well educated intelligent east Germans could stay to rebuild the country and socialism, instead of being selfish and wanting to enjoy a better life. He preferred the imprisonment, the spying of the Stasi and the “shoot on sight” policy of East German border guards to freedom – or maybe Rosenberg simply didn’t believe those who told the world of the stifling horror of lies, torture and execution in the eastern bloc. He once waxed lyrically about how wonderful Pyongyang North Korea was because it had no congestion, unlike Wellington – ignoring that not having a car wasn’t exactly a choice for almost all North Koreans. He enjoyed his academic and political freedom, but didn’t think twice of singing the praises of those who stifled it at the point of the gun.
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Rosenberg sung the praises of Stalinist economics which was not only a complete disaster economically, but was backed up by pure bloody brutality, a litany of lies defended by brutal force, and was so loved that as Kennedy said “democracy may not be perfect, but at least we don’t have to build a wall to keep our people in”.
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If Rosenberg apologised for his rantings and defence of the undefensible I look forward to seeing it, but the evidence is that he sympathised with these murderous regimes to the end – his prominent role in the NZ-DPRK Friendship Society, which is used by the dictatorship in North Korea to prove in its propaganda that it is endorsed by foreigners (having foreign friends it says), indicates this, and New Zeal can confirm it.
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Anderton thinks Ruth Richardson was brutal… maybe he should look at those his friend once defended. Of course had Rosenberg had his way, I'd have been locked up by now for counter revolutionary activity... I wont miss you Wolfgang, sadly you never noticed your own views were closer to Nazism than you'd ever admit.
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UPDATE: There has been a request for the source of Rosenberg's statements about North Korea and the German Democratic Republic (east Germany), simply peruse back issues of the New Zealand Monthly Review in the 70s and 80s. You'll find a wealth of this doggerell.
UPDATE 2: The fetid authoritarian remnants of the Alliance are mourning too, pity they don't mourn all those murdered by the North Korean regime every day, or the deaths of those killed escaping east Germany. Murray Horton, part of the nationalist socialist CAFCA wrote this.
UPDATE 3: New Zeal unfailingly has posted a detailed profile of Rosenberg including one of the quotes I remember reading (my access to NZ Monthly Review is rather limited in London). He claimed in 1987 that "The Wall contributes to peace in Europe and to successful economic and social development in the GDR." Imprisoning peaceful people contributes to peace in his warped little mind. Rosenberg dismisses the likes of Peter Fechter, an 18yo shot by East German border guards as he attempted to flee to West Berlin (they'd get promises of watches for everyone they stopped/caught/shot) and left to bleed to death in the "no man's land" between East and West Berlin. US guards on the western side feared intervening as the Soviet/GDR soldiers would interpret it as an act of war, and GDR guards later retrieved his corpse.
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Rosenberg endorsed that wall, ignored the 192 killed trying to escape the GDR prison, the prison that had just over 3% of the adult population of the GDR spying on the rest of the population for anything that could be construed as being critical of the regime. What a hero! Read the book Stasiland by Anna Funder to see the totalitarian horror that Rosenberg endorsed.
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UPDATE 4: Chris Trotter has sung his praises as well saying "his encounters with the democratic socialists of "Red Vienna" had convinced him of the enormous creative potential contained within "ordinary" human beings. He never doubted that critical thought, free expression and mass organisation were the keys to unlocking this transformative social energy" Free expression is hardly compatible with the Berlin Wall, nor is critical thought compatible with the North Korean slave state. Trotter's delusion includes such claims as "a country where only intellectuals of the Right were accorded unfettered speaking rights." Try and have those rights in a university now if you aren't of the left?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

What's wrong with (some) British kids?

The noise around the UN report on the state of children in the UK produced the usual predictable responses. Some on the left saw it as a damning indictment on free market liberalism, thinking that somehow the rather highly taxed, certainly highly regulated UK is some sort of libertarian free for all, also ignoring that France and Austria, two countries with generous welfare systems were barely ahead of the UK. The correlation between the report results and state welfare was poor indeed, but then all too often those of us on all sides of a political argument jump at any chance to let facts line up with our own prejudices.
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The right took to criticising the veracity of the report, or focusing on families. The conservative right tend to call for tougher law and order, discipline and blame divorce and family breakdown. While there is some truth in this, I submit that it is far wider than that. Beating up on misbehaving poor people wont fix things - it is far more insidious than this.
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It’s not poverty. The link between poverty and crime is typically taken to be because those with nothing will steal out of desperation, but as Jenny McCartney of the Sunday Telegraph points out those in poverty today are not skinny and malnourished, but more often overweight – they are seen with MP3 players and brand name sneakers. The so called relative poverty for most in modern day Britain is so remote from the poverty of even forty years ago, that another explanation is needed. Those children living in bleakness today are not doing so because there isn’t housing or they are starving, it is because of chronic parental failure. Parents who either through abuse or neglect are wholly incompetent – incompetent with their own lives, and unfortunately barely competent enough to copulate and then ruin other lives.
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In the past two weeks three teenagers have been murdered in south London, and another in south Manchester. The environment in places like Peckham and Moss side is dire. They make south Auckland, Taita, Kaikohe and Flaxmere look soft. McCartney’s brilliant article cuts to the heart of what is wrong.
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The real, terrifying poverty among Britain's children now is a poverty of vision, of aspiration, of education and of human empathy. Small children, including those who come from the sort of homes that would make hardened social workers weep, are usually poignantly clear about what they want from life. Above all else, they crave order and affection. The stories and films that they enjoy are usually those that offer some kind of fantasy of cosiness and containment, whether it be from the sight of a dormouse climbing beneath a patchwork quilt or the idealised public school setting of Harry Potter's Hogwarts. With unerring instinct, they gravitate towards adults who are kind, without questioning what that adult looks like or possesses.”
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Children raised in homes where violence and abuse are rife, where there is chronic neglect of not just their education (how many homes are bookless?), but of attention and love. Laws against corporal punishment will do little to combat this – it is a nihilistic culture without affection or kindness for others.
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At best, some of these children live with loving parents working hard to get their children out of these suburban hellholes- the hellholes that the police largely ignore because they are violent, gangridden and nearly lawless. They go to schools where hard work and intelligence are sneered at, and bullying rife.
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At worst, kids grow up without attention and affection, so they seek attention elsewhere. They see adults cynical and envious, using alcohol, drugs and sex to inoculate themselves from emotions and confronting reality. The kids learn this early on too.
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Television, the gutter press, the music industry and youth culture is more and more obsessed with how you look and what you own, with the greatest attention and respect given to those who are the flashiest with it, with the least effort. Boys see footballers and rap stars as role models, girls see modellers, footballers’ parasites (wives) or being a “ho” as role models. Meanwhile, a majority would deny the hardest working, wealth creating City Traders their million pound bonuses, because after all it’s acceptable to make an absolute fortune in the entertainment and football industries, but not banking. Similarly they cheer and laugh at the downfall of their kind. Seeking to embarrass, humiliate and destroy – Jade Goody was a creation of this. She made a fortune out of being an empty headed talentless nobody who was foul mouthed and angry.
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So the “poor” youth grow up wanting it easy, they want to be rich, but sneer at those who work to get there. They don’t give a damn about anyone else, because their parents didn’t either – whoever dad is. So they will bully, intimidate, rob, beat up and in some cases, murder. They have esteem only from others, by being in groups, by getting attention from what they own and show off, and through sex and drugs. Alone they are nothing, and alone they despise and fear those who have something – because they were loved, learnt and worked.
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By contrast, McCartney noted how little kindness is expected or respected. Perhaps it is so easily exploited and so is hidden behind closed doors, the example she gave was of a woman with her two small children on an Easyjet flight. The booster seat would not fit the older child, so a neighbouring woman passenger offered to sit the child on her lap to make it easier. Easyjet ordered the mother and the two children off the flight because of fear of “abuse”.
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It is not poverty that is wrong in Britain. More money wont help, because healthcare is free, there is plenty of cheap housing and a very intact welfare state. Education may need substantial reform, but there is only so much that can be done in communities where children arrive bored, uninterested and not valuing education at all. Even the most innovative, creative schools can only go so far. Tougher law and order may help somewhat, far too many teenage thugs know they can get away with intimidation, violence, burglary and vandalism and know their “rights”. The current prison crisis must strengthen the hand of them all. While government can be tough on crime, open up education and use welfare as a carrot and stick, there needs to be something else – a cultural shift.
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This is a shift from the empty headed hedonistic escapism so worshipped, and the notion that identity and esteem come from others and from being in a group. A shift from the nihilistic distrust of others, envy and seeing other people as a means to your own end, rather than seeing them benevolently as fellow human beings. A shift towards generously acknowledging when others have achieved and created, rather than sneering that someone was trying to prove to others. A shift away from glorifying in the decline and degradation of others. A culture where it was more important to believe in yourself, than to care what others think. This culture does not come from leftwing identity based politics or conservative religious guilt.
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and the answer is not political, it is philosophical - it has to come from individuals, not the state.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Happy Birthday Kim Jong Il - with a rep from NZ!

If I was in Pyongyang and sat on a newspaper with his face on it, I'd be thrown in a gulag - where over 100,000 other political prisoners are, including young children - all made to work 7 days a week from dawn to dusk, as slaves, being tortured, abused at will by their captors, then executed at random, or used for experiments with chemical weapons. North Korea makes every other regime today look like a holiday camp, Iran is comparatively liberal, Saddam's Iraq was too, so is Syria and even Turkmenistan. China is a bastion of personal freedom compared to North Korea. Think of what you know about authoritarian dictatorships and take it to the limit, read Orwell's 1984 and think of North Korea as a sanitised version of the same, without the two way video monitors in every home.
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So what sort of person would fly over to celebrate the birthday of a tyrant who presides over a slave state, especially by going to the place feted as his birthplace but most certainly is not - Mt Paektu is a North Korean shrine, but Kim Jong Il was actually born in the Soviet Union, one year earlier than is officially noted.
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Why doesn't the media ask this man some serious questions? Does Borrie ask why children are imprisoned with their families because of suspected political crimes? Does he ask why he never ever gets to see mental patients, why nobody disabled is ever seen in Pyongyang, why North Korea's regime lies blatantly and systematically about the outside world and its own domestic affairs to its own people? Why has he been the sycophantic boot licker of this regime of Orwellian totalitarian cruelty for the last thirty years? Would someone who supported the South African apartheid government been treated the same, or someone who thought Nazi Germany was misunderstood?
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It is one thing to be a socialist, an admire different societies and cultures - it is another to willingly be supportive of a regime, and used in its propaganda, to justify what is a cold -blooded, murderous slave state. Borrie enjoys freedoms in New Zealand that are completely unheard of in North Korea - so why is he a tool of a totalitarian government, or should I just have left out the words after "tool"?
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Unless Borrie is sacrificing himself for the free world and is an assassin who intends to kill Kim Jong Il, which would be quite something.
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If the North Korean authorities suspect this, then he might learn what life is like for those who he ignores. So I ask the government of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea to question Don Borrie's intentions, after all his socialist credentials are pretty poor if the NZ Labour Party wont select him to stand in Wanganui (as he sought in 1990). On the other hand, it shows that the Labour Party isn't crazy - imagine having a North Korean sympathiser standing for Parliament! This will also be a test as to whether the Democratic People's Republic of Korea uses the internet to do surveillance of the outside world - and find out who Don Borrie really is?

Hope for Turkmenistan?

Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov is not a name to roll off the tongue, but he is the new President of Turkmenistan. While there was widespread concern at the rigged elections in Turkmenistan, reported by No Right Turn, to replace the truly despotic Niyazov who died at the end of 2006, a there may be some hope with his successor.
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The Times reports that one of his first moves is to allow unfettered access to the internet. This starts with web cafes and all schools are to have access as well. This is not the move of a wannabe dictator, and will be the beginnings of much more freedom for Turkmenistan. As a poor country (which actually has made a fortune from oil and gas), few will be able to afford it, but it is a very important first step. Berdymukhamedov apparently will also engage in “educational reform” and will allow more private enterprise. Education reform apparently includes allowing students to study abroad, and returning to 10 years of education (and I expect will quietly see study of Niyazov’s own book – the Rukhana fade away).
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Funnily enough, Ashgabat is quite an important airport hub for people flying between Europe and India/Pakistan, because Turkmenistan Airlines is one of the cheapest ways to get there. It's not old planes either, but Boeing 757s from Heathrow and Frankfurt, though it gets a 2 star ranking from airline ranking company Skytrax and the passenger reports are mostly abysmal.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Borrowing to pay for roads

Now that, in itself, is not a bad thing, as long as there is revenue generated to pay back the loans with interest.
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The problem is that the government is spending all revenue it gets from road users, plus $300 million more over the next five years, on roads and public transport. There is no longer money “diverted” from road taxes onto non-transport spending, so no money to pay back the infrastructure bonds.
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Borrowing to fund transport is common in the private sector, but you have fares and charges to pay for it. Borrowing to fund roads is also common in the private sector, which is why Sydney and Melbourne have had some excellent new highways built in recent years – and those highways are tolled too.
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So a government in the future is going to have to hike up road taxes to pay for this borrowing, or take it from you some other way. An alternative would’ve been to allow Transit to borrow and then toll, taking the risk itself – but funnily enough, most of the major roads the government wants to fund have enough people willing to pay to use it to pay for it.
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That might tell you something…
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There is an alternative, but it is funny that the Greens are now propping up a government embarking on New Zealand's most ambitious road building programme since the early 1970s.

Aviation security hysteria

Fucking security hysteria. Where is the cost/benefit analysis, where is the risk assessment? What is the likelihood of a flight to Niue causing havoc compared to one to Dunedin? Of course, has anyone told security people about how liquids are not the only way to make a bomb? Planes have alcohol on board, and glasses (these can break and be used as weapons) and crockery... there is no end to the risks of flying - and of course it wouldn't take much for half a dozen likely men to simultaneously open a couple of doors midflight.
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Remember when New Zealand had absolutely no domestic air security? It still does, whenever you fly on an Air NZ turboprop plane (i.e. all Air NZ link flights) there is no check as to whether or not you have a machete, caustic soda or something metallic in your underwear - so you see Al Qaeda can plan its attack on the Beehive using an Air NZ ATR-72 - which of course it wont.
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You see, this is because apparently the 6am flight from Wellington to Sydney is a risk, and the Aussies wont let us fly planes there unless we screen them all. Sydney, Perth and Norfolk Island are all the same risk.
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So whether you are flying to LA, Norfolk Island, Adelaide, Papeete, Niue or Osaka, you will face the following:
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"From 31 March, all international air travellers leaving New Zealand will only be able to carry onto an aircraft liquids, gels and aerosols in containers of 100ml or less, and only as many containers as fit into a single resealable plastic bag of one litre volume. Flysmart is designed to inform those travelling overseas how they can comply with the new standards without causing any disruption to their travel plans or to the plans of other passengers. There will be exemptions for medicines, baby food and essential dietary supplies, but these items will be subject to additional checking by security staff".
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Some little anally retentive wanker thought that up didn't he? "one litre volume" like some self righteous little wannabe school prefect who likes telling people what to do, who enjoys confiscating some elderly woman's perfume because she didn't know any better and goes off at lunchtime bragging about the people he has harassed before going to the loo to have a wank of his pencil dick. Security and safety fascists must be the worst parents ever, with either the most rebellious or most militaristic kids, and with a secret BDSM fetish demanding that they are in turn told what to do by someone else.
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Now I know the EU and US have this, but there are no non-stop flights from NZ to Europe, and only flights to Honolulu, LA and San Francisco to the US - all of which already have secondary security at Auckland airport, so it isn't Europe and the US. The hysteria is because Australia is doing the same.
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This is completely disastrous for all sorts of reasons. It will mean:
- No deodorant for many travellers;
- Dehydration (so damned well demand water from airlines, ask flight attendant for water more often - damn them if they wont respond to security mania). I used to buy a large bottle of water to carry on board flights between NZ and Europe to cover what is around 30 hours of travelling, now you'll have to deal with whatever is available airside at the terminal - which wont be cheap;
- Medications without prescriptions. So if you have a cold before you fly, nothing. If you are an asthmatic, you probably don't keep prescriptions with your Ventolin.
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Presumably efforts to negotiate with Australia an exemption for New Zealand have failed miserably (I hope there have been efforts).
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Of course this will be a windfall for airside shopping in all international airports - not so bad in Auckland, rather dire in Wellington and Christchurch and disastrous in the likes of Hamilton and Palmerston North. So airport companies have NO incentives to oppose this. Neither with no frills airlines like Jetstar and Freedom Air, who sell you food on board. Of course it makes it even more advantageous to fly first, business and premium economy classes where it is easy to get more to drink (and especially as airlines make most of their revenue from these).
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In typical New Labour style, the campaign has a "kool" catchy name "Flysmart". This is so it seems like new restrictions on your travel are GOOD for you, or you could call it "Slyfart" instead.
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Well I am going to have to:
- Spend money airside on things I can buy landside cheaper ande better;
- Waste time taking little plastic bags to carry objects more inert than many other things on planes, and waste time thinking about it;
- Stand in queues behind people who don't know any better.
I wish people would fly smart, I wish they would do the following things:
- Fill out your frigging departure car/arrival card before entering the queue;
- Get your ticket/passport out before you checkin, and have your boarding pass ready for the gate and when you get on the plane, idiots;
- Don't take children under the age of 8, they are a nuisance and it is beyond me why it is cheaper for them to fly than adults, they take up the same space, use the toilet as often, need their own meals and get more cabin attendant attention;
- Don't hang around the gate waiting to board - you don't board first, I do, along with all the other frequent flyers who keep the airline business afloat;
- Don't rush up to get out of the plane the moment the seatbelt sign is off, the gangway/steps aren't ready yet, the plane isn't going to leave the airport with you on board and don't push forward if you sit in the back, you don't leave first, I do, along with all the other frequent flyers... because you see, our luggage comes off first too. You can leave first when you pay for the privilege of sitting up front or become Prime Minister;
- Don't keep coins in your pockets, wear large metal jewellery etc before security - you slow it up for everyone else you fool;
- Don't negotiate for an upgrade, you will fail. Upgrades are granted spontaneously or to those who pay for them through points/frequent flyer status etc;
- Turn your cellphone off before you get on board, keep it off until you leave. It has little to do with safety, but you can wait less than half an hour before talking. Please stare disapprovingly at anyone doing this too, it ought to be socially unacceptable;
- Seriously obese people should lose weight, sit in a higher class or buy two seats - sorry you're not entitled to both armrests and other people's sitting space;
- don't stand to pee unless you're very very good at it (in other words competent) and clean up afterwards if you ignore it;
- Don't carry so much luggage that you don't know what to do with it at your seat, what were you planning on doing, camping out?
- Don't sneeze or cough without fully covering your mouth and nose.
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There is NO good reason for this to be universal (saving money is not a reason, what value time and convenience and freedom? We could all save money if the government approved all our private spending according to whether it was good for us). There does NOT need to be insane security flying to the Pacific Islands, Asia or South America - and given the majority of people flying to Europe fly through Asia, at least give them 12 or so hours without this nonsense on their final leg to Europe. You see I can fly Hong Kong or Singapore to Auckland with my water but not the other way.
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Security is important, but the least secure place in New Zealand is not travelling on a Boeing 737 flying to Norfolk Island - it is the streets and houses in certain parts of the country. People involved with security will always err on the side of restricting freedom - like the Police. Every single proposal I ever read from the Police involved having more powers, more laws and more ability to intervene in peoples' lives - for their own good.
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It would be nice if the government had said it reluctantly has decided to proceed with this for flights to Australia only, but will seek an annual review of the security arrangements with Australia and will not unnecessarily inconvenience or delay travellers to other destinations (except the US) when there is no reason to do so.
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However, that's too hard. By the way, I wonder if this security also applies to Ministers and to Broomsticks 1 and 2 when they fly overseas to any destination? I wonder how long it is before all cutlery are banned on board, belts too, alcohol, glasses, or indeed you're never allowed to leave your seat unless accompanied to the toilet by a flight attendant (!). After all, it's for your own good!
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However most of you are such sheeple, you'll just baaah and say "musn't grumble". You see your fear about security catching flights to Australia makes me laugh, when I can catch a main line train in the UK into any major London station with absolutely no security checks whatsoever - into Kings Cross, Euston, Victoria, Paddington, Liverpool Street. I can catch the tube without such checks.... so how many NZ-Singapore flights have been targeted by terrorists compared to the tube? Go on.... explain that away petty NZ security advisors please?