Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Stupid celebrities

The latest is Sheryl Crow who wants everyone to use one square of toilet paper per toilet visit. Does she shit little self cleaning pellets or something? Seriously, the idea is revolting, although men could presumably save up their single ones for the main event. Silly cow, especially silly for even mentioning it!
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Of course this follows Madonna, who is so concerned about CO2 emissions, she flew on a private jet to Malawi (yes you can fly to Lilongwe, via South Africa, from London), and is opposed to the London congestion charge (presumably she is too stupid to remember paying). She has quite a carbon footprint.
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Play your music and shut the fuck up

Anzac Day

There is no trace of it where I am at the moment (north of England), but I am quietly commemorating it.
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Not PC has made most of my points, in that war is the second worst state of being for any country. The only thing that would've been worse than World War 2 is surrender.
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Very few people in New Zealand today lived through war – directly. I don’t mean the country being at war, but the fighting being far away, which in itself is bad enough for the families of those fighting – but war on your doorstep. In that respect New Zealand is fortunate because of its isolation from invasion. Australia is less fortunate. East Asia carried a tremendous cost during World War 2, and subsequently in Korea and Vietnam specifically. The UK bore a high cost in World War 2, though this was little compared to the cost born by citizens of most other European countries (with the exception of those too gutless to do anything to fight the evils of fascism – there is nothing honourable in neutrality in World War 2, how can it be moral to be indifferent to the bigoted murderous tyrannies of Nazi Germany or militarist Japan?).
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Those who have lived through war have seen many things most of us would choose to not think about. The destruction of buildings, places, utilities we take for granted, the fear of being bombed or shot, the disintegration of normal life in pursuit of day to day survival and avoiding death. When all people do is that, there is little capacity to build, grow or have recreation. At worst, war sees the death and injuries of people, day after day. It is not like a one-off accident, because in war most of the deaths are deliberate. The enemy is out to destroy you, to destroy the means to retaliate, it is out to defeat you so it can conquer and pillage.
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Part of the price of this is destruction, the death of civilians - but then one should never forget who started it. World War 2 was started by Germany and Japan, the Korean War by North Korea, the Vietnam War by North Vietnam. Fighting war to fight tyranny is a virtue, appeasing tyranny is being complicit in the spread of evil - as Neville Chamberlain was to the peril of millions.
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Consider how the allies treated Germany and Japan after the war, how its citizens were treated, cities rebuilt, infrastructure repaired and modern thriving peaceful liberal democratic countries built. Consider how Germany and Japan treated those who it conquered. It was true imperialism, at best pillaging the natural resources, at worst executing the local population or using them for military experiments.
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The so-called “peace” movement would have you surrender for that. It is not that different from saying you shouldn't defend yourself against a murderer, rapist or thief - because you don't want to hurt the source of the harm.
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Liberal democracies don’t go to war lightly. Wars are expensive in terms of money and lives, and unpopular. Liberal democracies go to war in defence of themselves and their allies. Korea and Vietnam were both about that. In the first instance the war ended roughly at the same point as where it started, before North Korea attempted its conquest of the south. In Vietnam, the non-communist allies were so incompetent and unpopular that none of what the West could do saved a rotten regime from being conquered by another rotten regime, which was more popular. More recently, Iraq and Afghanistan would not have been engaged in war had their respective government not started them by their own aggression.
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I understand why people oppose the glorification of war, but ANZAC Day does nothing of the sort. Those who reject commemorating it are happy enough to have the day off work, and are happy enough to enjoy the freedoms protected by those who did fight.
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Those who do not recognise that are either naïve, stupid or sympathetic to tyranny.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Regional petrol tax (sigh) again?

So a regional petrol tax is proposed for Auckland, a really stupid idea.
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Why?
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1.Last time it was tried (early 1990s by National, but don’t expect them to remember it) to help fund Auckland and Wellington public transport, the oil companies levied the tax across the country at a level equivalent to what it necessary to raise the same revenue from only Auckland and Wellington. Why? Because petrol is taxed at the “border” it is the equivalent of a customs duty, and it is was administratively simpler to simply apply it to all petrol sold across the country. Unless a new retail sales tax is applied to petrol on top of fuel excise duty, and oil companies are legally forced to charge it in Auckland alone (better define that), this tax is likely to be applied to the whole country at a lower rate.

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2.Even if it IS applied to Auckland only, it will kill off service stations not far from the Auckland “border”, after all, why would you fill up in Pokeno if you could go to Mercer and pay 10c a litre less?

3. If you have a diesel or LPG vehicles you pay NOTHING extra. Why? Because diesel vehicles don’t pay a fuel tax (because the majority of diesel is not actually used on the roads, and a diesel tax for road use would mean a refund scheme for that diesel), but instead pay road user charges (which charge according to distance and weight). Since road user charges are bought in advance, and there is no way of detecting where in the country they are bought (or used), expect sales of diesel cars to go up in Auckland to avoid the new tax.

4. The money raised isn’t to be spent on roads, but on a rail electrification scheme that at the very best could serve perhaps 10% of Auckland commuters (though so could improved buses at a small fraction of the cost). 87% of Aucklanders don’t work downtown, and around 40% of the remainder wont be anywhere near a railway station. Perhaps an additional 2% work near a station outside the city, but in short this project will do next to nothing for most Aucklanders – except those living near a station who work in town and would rather ride a train than a bus.

This tax is to force you to pay for most of the cost of their journey to work, because the fares raised from these trains pay around a third of the operating costs, and they wont pay a cent towards the capital costs.
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This idea is going ahead, despite official advice, because Helen Clark wants to electrify Auckland rail – it’s like a toy, a big expensive toy she wants to leave for Auckland and be remembered for it. Despite record levels of transport funding through both road user taxes and Crown funding through Land Transport New Zealand (LTNZ), it is telling that LTNZ is NOT willing to fund electrification of Auckland rail. This tells me it is an inferior project to all of the other road and public transport projects that it funds, remember it is spending $2.3 billion this financial year, this is 2.5 times the funding it allocated in the year Labour got elected, and this is after Labour changed the legislation around LTNZ so that public transport projects could be funded at a lower threshold for appraisal than road projects.
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The Greens will support it because they have a fetish for electric trains – the economics don’t matter, it is a matter of pure faith that forcing people to pay hundreds of millions of dollars for trains they will never use is “good”. It is a matter of faith that this will reduce congestion, even though there is a not a single city in the new world that has electrified an existing railway service and seen traffic congestion reduce on the parallel corridors because of the electrification. If you can find, please show me the report on the marginal congestion costs for the parallel corridor before and after the electrification – because I actually would like to see the conditions necessary for that TO work.
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This is about totems – Helen Clark and Michael Cullen are building a electric network of totem poles in Auckland, paid for by a stupid tax that is probably going to be paid for by all petrol motorists, but not paid for at all by around 15% of Auckland motorists who don’t use petrol. Setting aside the foolishness of heavy subsidies for public transport, a network of bus priority lanes across Auckland and luxury buses could do nearly the same job for a fraction of the price – but no, we must bow down to the altar of the railway.
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Auckland is not London, Paris or New York, where new electric metropolitan railways can make a difference (in a few cases). Auckland’s entire rail network carries 3.8 million trips a year with around 70 carriages, in London the Waterloo and City tube line (perhaps one of the least used) alone carried 2.5 times that with 20 carriages (and no the tube cars do not have 3.5 times the capacity of the Auckland ones, they would be lucky to be able to carry double).
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That gives you some indication of the difference in economics.

By the way, you already pay a 0.66c a litre tax to every territorial authority in the country (it's the same for them all making it easy to distribute), you might ask Auckland City Council and all of the others whether they spend their share on transport? Go on, few of the so called journalists in the New Zealand media can be bothered to research these things you see.

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Oh and why are Auckland roads congested? Simple. Everyone pays the same to use them regardless of demand - it is tragedy of the commons. Singapore charges according to demand and congestion is kept at a low level - but no doubt most of you think public ownership and funding of roads works, even though virtually everywhere it happens you get chronic congestion in major cities.

nрощальное Boris

Given my very long hours working at the moment (midnight is a good time to finish and start again at 0830), I am saying not much, but it is important to comment on Boris Yeltsin, because he hammered in the last nails for the coffin of the Cold War.
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Baroness Thatcher said "He deserves to be honoured as a patriot and liberator.” She is correct. His passing isn't mourned by the leader of the current Russian Communist Party and wont be mourned in Pyongyang or Havana. Indeed neither of the monopoly news agencies in those countries have reported his death yet, the official (and only legal) viewpoint no doubt not finalised yet. That was how the USSR once was, and that is all that is left of its legacy thanks, in part, to Yeltsin.
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Yeltsin was a reformer, who believed in more freedom. By and large he did not censor the Russian press, unfortunately that has been a short period of freedom in Russian political discourse that is now somewhat suppressed (although current Russian authoritarianism still pales compared to life before Gorbachev). Yeltsin is responsible for confronting the bullies who orchestrated the "putsch" against Gorbachev in August 1991, his courage in doing so brought the downfall of the USSR. Citizens of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, now citizens of the European Union instead of the Soviet Union can thank Yeltsin for his determination, because the Baltic States gained their liberty shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, the rest of the Soviet Union has not fared so well, ranging from some liberty in Ukraine to totalitarian madness (now easing) in Turkmenistan.
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His strength was his firm belief that Marxism-Leninism had no future, and that setting Russians free from the shackles of that oppressive system was a priority. His weakness was in not being able to build up the institutions needed to replace it. The justice system, without adequate protection of property rights, contracts and with enormous corruption in the police force saw the excesses of the Soviet state transferred in part to organised crime. His willingness to privatise and dismantle state monopolies was not matched by the patience to establish a means to privatise the behemoth of Soviet businesses in a way that gave all Russians a fair stake in those businesses. The crisis in the rouble, the fiscal crisis of the Russian state (unable to pay wages on a regular basis, providing another route for corruption) saw "firesale" privatisations that clever Russian entrepreneurs took advantage of. Desperate Russians sold their privatisation vouchers for cash, while the shares of major energy, media and telecoms concerns went for excessively low prices (remembering that foreigners were not entitled to buy them).
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It is tempting to focus on his shortcomings such as alcoholism (which was more an embarrassment than anything else), the disaster of Chechnya (which should simply have been granted independence and been left alone) and effectively anointing Putin as his successor. Putin is a disaster for freedom, but he offered Russians the order and control that they yearned after Yeltsin failed to build the core state institutions needed under liberal democracy. Sadly liberal democracy seems largely absent from modern Russia, but most Russians are more pleased with the order under Putin (and the growing economy largely due to the high price of oil and gas) than the lurches from crisis to crisis in the 1990s under Yeltsin.
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However Yeltsin should be seen as, on balance, a hero, although like most, a very flawed one. Had he not stood up to the putsch in August 1991, the old Soviet Union could have at best been plunged into a civil war, at worst back to the dark ages of authoritarianism and confrontation with the West (albeit without much of its lost empire). It is that he should be thanked for. Sadly it was a lost opportunity, probably because seventy years of an oppressive, brutal, anti-life, single-minded, irrational system built and sustained on lies that could only be challenged at one's peril, stripped the spirit of individual initiative, responsibility and genuine community from generations of Russians. A people, most of whom were used to be told what to do, where to go, what to buy, what to produce and expected to do their work and be grudgingly happy, or else. A soulless system based on telling other people what is good for them, scaring them into accepting it as it is, and damning those wishing to do better for themselves, worshipping those who sacrifice themselves.
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Yeltsin stood for something better, it is a shame he didn't appear to know what it was, other than it wasn't what he had experienced under the Communist Party.
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FOOTNOTE: It is notable how the UK papers have responded to this news:
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The Times reported on its front page that Yeltsin buried communism and what was most notable was how his death was not reported as the death of previous Russian leaders "Television screens in Russia did not go blank yesterday. The music of Tchaikovsky did not play. The greatest legacy of Boris Yeltsin’s extraordinary life was the ordinary manner in which his death was announced. " Anatoli Chubais noted that "He brought us from captivity into freedom. He took us from a country of lies . . . to a country which tried to live in truth"
and this quote from Michael Binyon rings true "Yeltsin tore his country away from its crippling past and offered it the chance to become a respected moral member of the world community. Russians have still not found their place there. But without Yeltsin the search could not have begun. "
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The Daily Telegraph also reported his death on the front page, with John Kampfner noting "out of the chaos that often epitomised the 1990s, something has grown that I believe has not been extinguished. Thanks to Yeltsin, and, to a lesser degree, Gorbachev, a whole generation of Russians has become used to international travel. Much has, rightly, been made of the "Cartier, Courchevel and Chelsea" set, as they call themselves, but foreign travel and foreign influences are not just the preserve of the super-rich. Many ordinary Russians now live lifestyles that are similar to those in the West - holidays in, say, Cyprus, trips to Ikea, that sort of thing." What we in the West take for granted, is now becoming accessible to more and more Russians. Daily Telegraph obituary here.
The Guardian, apologists for the Soviet Union's apologists said Yeltsin was a destroyer not a builder. Which is largely true, but he did destroy the most evil empire of the 20th century.
The Independent continues its fetish on global warming, pointing out an apparently new island appearing off the Greenland coast. Nothing on Yeltsin on its scaremongering front page.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Remembering NZ culture

New Zealand culture, almost forgotten. A kids show called “A Haunting We Will Go” starring a Count Homogenised, who was vampire like but loved drinking milk.
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Virtually no sign of it appears online, except kiwis asking about it.
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Someone must have a video recording of it somewhere, or have acted in it or the like. How good (or bad) is TVNZ in archiving its past?
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even more parochial is Buzz O'Bumble and Lindsay Yeo. As a Wellington kid, this was part of the staple morning radio diet in the car on the way to school. Of course, absolutely nobody outside Wellington in the 1970s and 1980s knew anything about this, and there were records! Buzz O'Bumble and his girlfriend/wife Belinda, but funniest of all their kids were Bimbo, Bonnie and Bobo ("three little bees we all know" so went the song). So politically incorrect was Wally Weta (who was bad, which is wrong nowadays because they are endangered yada yada yada, but I knew as a kid that they look scary and horrible so i didn't care did I?). Lindsay Yeo apparently did Buzz's "voice" by some humming with a comb and a piece of paper (well sounded like it).
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Lindsay Yeo of course is now a memory for Wellingtonians, appearing mostly on local TV ads as a voiceover, he went from number one to slide down the ratings pole before disappearing off air when 2ZB became Newstalk ZB and Classic Hits was set up. However, I DO thank Lindsay Yeo for having created Buzz O'Bumble (and who can forget the song sung by a group of kids, maybe Yeo's kids who must now be in their 30s) which simply went "Buzz O'Bumble Buzz O'Bumble Buzz O'Bumble Bee..... " ad infinitum or with a "have a banana" thrown in for comedy effect.
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there is also Chic Littlewood and Chic Chat (with Willie McNab) and Chic Littlewood is at least still around and getting work.

Tough on youth crime?

Two people killed and two seriously injured because a 16yo brat thought he could do what he liked.
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His punishment? 3 months supervision. He’s away laughing, the poor bubba.
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Look how effective the criminal justice system is. The NZ Herald reports he had first embarked on a criminal life five years ago. At 11! Last year he faced 43 motor vehicle, burglary and theft charges.
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43!
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So every time he steals, violating people’s property and their lives, he’d get the proverbial wet bus ticket and be told “don’t be so naughty”, and he does it again and again.
This time he deserves ten years. Ten years will deny him a good part of his youth, given he has denied life to others and doesn’t care. Meanwhile his parents can be sent the bill if they think he isn't a grownup yet.
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Either he is a child and they are responsible, or he is an adult and can be punished. How much damage can an individual cost in terms of property, people's personal wellbeing and time before you decide that it is time to protect people from a petty thug.
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and yes I know he wont come out better, but you might have avoided hundreds of thefts, burglaries and the like, and even deaths and injuries by keeping him locked away.
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See how little of a disincentive the criminal justice system to youth offenders?

Women are special according to AA

American Airlines thought it was clever targeting women with a special website dedicated to female travellers. According to the New York Times, many women are far from happy about being patronised by the airline, and treated like they have "special needs".
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It talks about women connected to each other, because after all, an airline that is not sex specific clearly baffles women, and they feel alienated to those big phallic things called planes! No wonder women (ha!) need a special website, which when you look at it, has exactly the same information that I'd expect it to have for men - except it's a women's page (all breath "aaaaaaah") so you can't feel oppressed by the testosterone of aviation (which let's face it, is about planes and jets and speed, damned manly stuff right?).
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However, it does have slightly different advice for safe travel. Points like "If you need directions, ask other women or couples". Yes, don't trust those men, they are just out to lure you back to his dungeon for a good ol' bondage and discipline session. Couples, after all, are always safe, none of them are twisted and perverted.
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One comment on this attempt is:
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"As a female frequent traveler for both business and leisure, I’m quite indignant that AA thinks this kind of silly fluff is going to appeal to me. I want a clean plane, a comfortable seat, and good service at a fair price (not cheap, just reasonable). That’s what my husband wants. That’s what my colleagues of both genders want.”
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Yes American Airlines is a private company (mollycoddled by US protectionism that reserves the domestic airline industry to US owned airlines, and the subsidies thrown at it), and can do what it likes, but there remains an absolutely yawning gap between the standards of virtually all US airlines and the likes of BA, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific and even Qantas and Air NZ.
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This is because US consumers don't demand better, and because the US airline industry lobbies for less competition.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Congratulations Tesco

How sad it is to see and hear the evil envy dripping rhetoric from the BBC (which every TV owner is forced to pay for), about Tesco (which nobody is forced to pay for).
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Tesco has made a record profit of £2.6 billion. I would like to say simply – well done! This is a 20.3% increase in profit on last year, with a 10.9% increase in sales. Why has this happened? Two reasons:
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1. Tesco is selling what people want to buy at a price they are willing to pay;
2. Tesco runs an efficient tightly managed operation that keeps costs down low (and as a result avoids waste).
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Tesco has not got a statutory monopoly, or a de facto monopoly (there are plenty of shops selling the different merchandise Tesco sells), nor is it subsidised (unlike many of its suppliers, such as European farmers who whinge and moan about their buyers wanting a good price – which effectively means they want consumers to pay more).
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Britain is the only country I know of that considers a market with four major retailers, all competing vigorously on quality and price, and umpteen smaller retailers, a “monopoly problem”. What is DOES have is an envy problem, arising from middle class Guardian reading, Radio 4 listening wankers who decry that Britain doesn’t always have the smattering of small, high priced, low variety shops that add so much quaintness to the shopping experience – while at the same time they sneak off to Waitrose to get their organic mungbean surprise (or whatever).
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Tesco succeeds for the most democratic of reasons – people choose to shop there. Despite all of the media bashing by the envy classes (who look down their nose at the average family who simply want cheap good quality groceries, instead of locally grown or fair-trade organic, hand made, in season chelseaberries), shoppers have voted with their pounds and pence. It is a more honest expression that any vote at any election.
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You don’t see people traipsing into Tesco begrudgingly wishing that everything wasn’t so expensive, or the selection were better or that the queues were shorter, like they do with the state owned Post Office here in the UK. They go out of choice. Within 15 minutes walk of my place I can choose Tesco, Waitrose, M&S, Sainsbury’s or Budgens, and a smattering of smaller retailers each of whom sells some of the things those shops sell, usually at a higher price, and sometimes at better quality. I go to Tesco when it offers the best deal for what I want.
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According to the BBC Fiends of the Earth claim that "The supermarket giant's market dominance is bad news as it allows it to dictate conditions to suppliers and to drive High Street stores out of existence". Well tough shit frankly. Suppliers are in business, they don't exist as charities, and British farmers in particular are already protected and mollycoddled by Brussels, unlike Tesco. Perhaps when they face the full force of competition from efficient and more environmentally friendly suppliers they can talk, and then maybe they might start embarking on more efficient production techniques and respond like businesses, rather than like spoilt children. After all, Tesco's suppliers would love to be monopolies screwing Tesco and consumers for all they can. The High Street stores go out of business because people don't want to shop there, because they can't buy what they want at a better price. What do Fiends of the Earth expect?
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Tesco is a highly successful British company embarking on a worldwide expansion. The sort of expansion that should make it and its shareholders proud. The global presence usually seen in large firms from the USA, Japan, continental Europe and the like – you know the flipside of those who bemoan how the British car sector has largely disappeared. They forget that Britain’s recent economic success has been on the back of the service sector. Long may it grow.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Green fascism

Russel Norman telling you how to live you life:
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“In a world of poverty and starvation, to spend $109,000 on a gas guzzler is downright wrong in my opinion. If you’ve got that much money spare, donate it to Oxfam and get a normal car.”
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Why stop there? Why should you own a boat, or indeed a holiday home, or a second car, or how about designer clothing, or how about a house that has more bedrooms than the number of inhabitants, or how about that overseas holiday?
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It is comments like this that simply want me to tell the likes of Russel Norman to fuck off.
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Besides how leftwing and deluded Oxfam is on many things, what right does he have to tell anyone how to spend their own money?
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If I want a luxury car, then so be it – I am likely to get something called pleasure from it – happiness, and I’m willing to pay for the petrol. I am not making Russel pay for ANYTHING, it is my money. Besides the lump of taxes the state gets from this exercise (which Russel will happily want to decide on where that is spent), it employs people producing and maintaining the car, but most of all – it is MY life.
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Russel may think he knows best how to run other people’s live, to dictate how they spend their money, to give people guilt trips about spending money on what he thinks is “wrong” vs what others like. I think fairtrade goods are a complete scam, hiking up the price of products so that everyone along the way can cream an “over market” premium, whilst encouraging poor people in developing countries to produce goods that are in overproduction. However, Russel probably buys them. I think it is a waste of money to buy anything produced by Michael Moore – a socialist fatcat who flies first class and enjoys the high life while bleating on about poverty that he never actually experiences. I also think it is downright wrong that ultrarich “celebrities” vomit forth platitudes about “saving the planet” and making average citizens feel guilty, while they consume goods and services without that guilt.
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The problem is Russel has the strange Green religious obsession about being “anti-car”.

Want to be forced to fund political parties?

I don't want to say too much on this.
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Whatever way you cut it, this is compulsory funding of political parties.
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Nobody spinning this one way or another can escape that it is making you pay for the activities of a voluntary association that you may or may not have ever chosen to join or support financially.
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You might ask why everyone isn’t forced to pay for all other voluntary associations?
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You should. You’ll be told “that would be ridiculous and unaffordable”, and that would be correct.
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You next question should then be – why should I be forced to pay for YOUR voluntary association? Why is YOUR one more important than mine?
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You may ask why the proposal is NOT that all political parties should get the same amount of money, after all, the advocates of this often go on about equality, and how unfair it is that some have more than others. They spit out their own jealous venom at those who are richer than others. However no, the biggest recipients will be the two encumbents
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You may ask what the proposal means for you wanting to fund a campaign by your own money – remember it “your” money. Money you haven’t stolen, defrauded or cheated from anyone else, but money you have property rights over (something politicians don’t often understand).
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Think about what it will do to that, your choices will be restricted.
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In North Korea, Ceaucescu’s Romania, and indeed under any totalitarian government, the one think people could never escape was politics. In a free society it is something people take for granted. You need not vote, you need not be a member of any political party, in fact you can enjoy getting on with your own life peacefully.
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Those of us in politics sometimes think that those who are completely outside it and do nothing about it are stupid, naïve or even lesser people as a result. In fact, some of those outside politics simply think there is something more interesting than choosing or supporting people who, by and large, want to tell others what to do. Unfortunately those outside politics make the biggest mistake by thinking it will all be ok, until they find some politician has actually interfered with something that matters to them.
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I have voluntarily supported several political parties in my life, including one very small one. One reason I never joined a trade union was because I refused to support the Labour Party by proxy (another was because I didn’t think it offered me anything).
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Political parties have come and gone in New Zealand’s history, and maybe one day Labour and National will go too. The spectre of this has haunted both parties quite recently, but survival is a fairly strong incentive to change.
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I don’t care which part of the political spectrum you come from – it is absolutely immoral to force private citizens to pay for political parties – organisations that are not publicly elected, and are not accountable to anyone for their activities.
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People elect political parties based upon the individuals put on the party lists and a desire for those people to govern – but they do pay taxes to fund government NOT the parties. It is the job of MPs to represent the views of their electors and to govern or to oppose. That is what they are paid to do. We do not pay political parties directly through taxes because it opens the door to corrupt, biased funding that nobody can be clearly accountable for.
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Quite simply, if a political party cannot convince people that it is worth funding by their own choice, then by what twisted logic is it moral to force them to do so?
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The argument that “the Labour Party exists for your own good” does not wash – in fact it is eerily reminiscent of the attitude taken in one party states. Now "the two main parties are good for you, and the smaller ones a bit less good for you, and the smallest not at all".
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And no, the fact that some other countries do it is not a rebuttal. In fact is the argument of a person without an argument – it is like the child who tells his parents “but Johnny’s parents let Him do it?”.
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So that is it – do you want to be forced to pay for political parties? And if so, why aren’t you paying for them now? Why can’t you and your supporters convince people to choose to pay for political parties?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

French Presidential elections - Sarkozy please...

France’s Presidential elections are important for the world and for New Zealand. France is the 7th biggest economy in the world (on a PPP basis), and it is one of Europe’s dominant powers, a nuclear power (both militarily and in electricity generation, with over 70% of its needs met by nuclear power), and without doubt the most important roadblock to achieving substantial liberalisation in agricultural trade, with perhaps the important exception of Japan.
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France inspires romance, and has an arrogance than in many ways can be understood. It is little coincidence that the term “joie de vivre” seems to mean more in French than its English translation. Examples of French prowess continue to impress, such as its recent achievement in rail engineering (who can fail to be impressed by a rail speed record of 575 kph– albeit at a cost the French media tends to ignore. France’s relative wealth has been static for some time, it simply has a state and an economy that is not conducive to new business, tends to ossify large state owned infrastructure companies, shielding them from competition. This economic stagnation is not yet fully reflected in its social services. Healthcare continues to be the envy of many in Europe, but growth last year was the 2nd lowest of any EU member state.
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France’s malaise can be seen in how it has slipped in per capita GDP (PPP basis) to between 17th and 23rd depending on measurement, leaving it rivalling Italy for being bottom of all western European states besides Spain and Portugal. 25 years ago France was 7th, a parallel somewhat akin to the slide New Zealand suffered from being 1st or 2nd in the 1950s to being 22nd by the 1980s.
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Unemployment remains high at 9%, exacerbated by labour laws that make it difficult to fire, that keep the working week at an underproductive 35 hours by law, while the fiscal situation has bled red ink for some time. Public debt at 66% of GDP is costing more and more of the high tax take. The rejection of the EU constitution was the delivery of two messages, one was the curious hard left anti-globalisation message that rings strong in France and which is about hanging onto what France has. The other was a rejection of the status quo, fed up with the Chirac years of saying much but doing little.
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So for many in France this time the Presidential elections are about the decisive question about what happens about the French economy. The 2002 election saw the socialist candidate Lionel Jospin fail to oust racist old fool Jean Marie Le Pen from the runoff, so that the runoff election was a case of Chirac being the lesser of two evils. This time Le Pen is still promoting his filth. However there are three other serious candidates.
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The poll leader is Nicolas Sarkozy, who is touted as the Thatcher of France, but frankly if he proves to be as liberal as Blair it will be a surprise. He plans to liberalise labour laws, lower taxes, cut public debt and give universities more autonomy. He clearly is the only candidate interested in serious reform, and the fact he remains ahead in the polls indicates a substantial French acceptance of the need. He wants a new slimmer EU constitution, which is clearly welcome.
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Closely behind is Segolene Royal, the socialist candidate who has consistently been behind. She, by and large, represents the past, including increasing the minimum wage, pensions, abolishing flexible employment contracts for small firms and create half a million subsidised jobs. She wants a big socialist EU, though her weirdest comment has been “Chinese courts are more efficient than French ones”. Her plans are expensive, she wants new public housing, a big spend up on education, on other words she is promising much with no way to pay for it.
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The possible dark horse is Francois Bayrou, a centrist candidate who embraces some modest reform, he wants fiscal prudence, mild tax cut, but would also renationalise gas and electricity utilities, and is a huge fan of agricultural subsidies. He polls closely behind Ms Royal.
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So next weekend the question will be, who will be in the runoff. Most likely it is Sarkozy vs Royal, in which case Sarkozy will probably win. If it is Sarkozy vs Bayrou, Bayrou may win.
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However, from a libertarian point of view there is little to be cheerful for, but to hope that for the sake of the French economy, the EU and international trade, that Sarkozy wins. As the man least enamoured about subsidies and a big EU, he is likely to be most conducive towards moving on trade in agricultural commodities in coming years, and to reject the big bureaucratic centralised EU that is the dream of many European socialists, keen to snuff out diversity across the 27 member states.
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Sarkozy is far from perfect, he still embraces microeconomic meddling, he engages in negative rhetoric about immigrants and is far too hostile to Turkish membership of the EU - which while problematic, should not be rejected outright.
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So my greatest hope is at least that Sarkozy gets through to the second round (the French Presidential elections demand a runoff between the two top polling candidates if none gets 50% in the first round), and that Le Pen does not. The former is necessary to save France from those who look backward, and the latter is necessary to save France's reputation.

Victimless crime…. Again

Sally Shankland and Kevin Houlihan lived together for the past nine years as partners. Perhaps the only thing strange to the outside world was that she is 39 and he is 58, quite an age gap, but not unknown, particular since they are both adults.
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However, they have both been arrested and will appear in Auckland District Court tomorrow, charged with incest. Put aside the “eww yuck” comments for a moment and be objective about this.
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See Sally was adopted and didn’t meet Kevin, who is her biological father, until she was 30. None of this is particularly important, as it is pretty clear there is no victim in this case. It is nobody else’s business. Remember they have BOTH been arrested and charged, in how many incest cases does THAT happen?
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You might think it icky, but then again millions of people think homosexual relationships are icky.

About the only justification for the law against incest are in cases when the law on age of consent applies. The justification on the grounds of genetic illness can hardly be said to be fair, when it is perfectly acceptable for thousands with known genetic problems to breed and produce children that have a high risk of carrying a disease.

So I simply say the law on incest should be at least amended, to be irrelevant when both parties are over 18, or even better repealed. The law exists to protect children from predatory activity, and from those who are in the care of adults as well.

However don’t even expect any parliamentary party to want to stop Sally Shankland and Kevin Houlihan from going to prison, having a criminal record and being denied entry into several countries because their relationship is one other adults don’t approve of. Those (in Labour and the Greens in particular) who fight tooth and nail for same sex couples will be silent on this, will be silent as this couple get convicted and wont engage in this, because few people give a damn.

They wont engage because the prickery in the National party and other opposition parties will stir up hysteria about it, will claim legalising incest is legalising abuse and other complete rubbish.
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So this is why the only way this argument can be raised is in the broader context of reforming criminal law, which mean repealing all victimless crimes.
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and no, I have no personal interest in this. I do happen to be adopted, and I haven't the slightest interest in any sexual relationship with either biological parent.
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However I question why the Police who show little interest in the average burglary or car conversion are wasting taxpayer's money chasing this up - presumably the only reason the Police know is because some busybody has complained. The same reason in the old days when the Police would raid gay couples, because some anally retentive neighbour hasn't approved.
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See how worthless the Bill of Rights is in protecting individuals? The smallest and most oppressed minority of all.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Stupid and evil

15 April is Kim Il Sung's birthday. Yes I know he is dead, but then there are fools all over the world who worship this murdering tyrant.
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The British group has a poor quality website here, but you have to see them copying the doctored photos of Kim Il Sung (all nicely touched up in the shit quality North Korean style) and the official history of one of the 20th century's most totalitarian bullies. Few things piss me off more than bunches of hand wringing apologists for murderous, anti-life, brutal regimes of slavery living in the comfort and freedom of the West. They are traitorous and equivalent to apologists for Nazism, they excuse the inexcusable.
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Kim Il Sung was a very cunning blood thirsty tyrant, Stalin's puppet at age 32 to run the part of Korea that the USSR would not let have democratic elections (although the South wasn't that much better at least anarchy is better than Stalinism). However he did not save Korea from the Japanese, and did not spend the war fighting them (he fled to Russia where he was "discovered"). He enslaved the north, launched an aggressive bloody war against the south, and threatened it and Japan for decades. One man can make a difference, and he still is - and how tragic it was that the Korean War was not won.

Hong Kong

Having just returned from a week in Hong Kong, I am smiling. Is it the almost untrammelled free market capitalism? Is it the friendly kindliness that almost all of the locals displayed, albeit most trying to get me to part with $HK? Is it the fact that Easter was almost impossible to detect, as I was shopping at Causeway Bay at 9.30pm Monday evening and the place was more alive than Queen Street any night of the week? Is it the fact that I got 15$HKD for every £1? Is it the £280 I spent getting two high quality suits and five shirts at a tailor recommended to me by a good friend (who always dresses impeccably)? Is it the reliable fast and unsubsidised metro system? Is it the cheap and good Chinese food? Is it Air NZ upgrading me both ways to maintain my “never fly economy class longhaul policy”? Is it the complete lack of chavvy/bogan Brits (except a few in Kowloon around the markets looking to buy crap)? Is it the incredible range of goods you can buy at market prices?
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I don’t care – it’s a fantastic way to break up a trip between NZ and Europe. It beats Singapore for shopping hands down, and climate – a perfectly pleasant 18-23 degrees not the stinking humid 30 degrees, as well not being the stuffy fear driven smiling face of nanny state.
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Yes there were things to complain about, the smog, the annoying little South Asian men offering “copy watch” or “copy bag” every 15 seconds or so in Kowloon (glad I stayed on Hong Kong Island), the preponderance of utter crap in the night markets that would suit chivvy/bogan Brits to their white stilettos and baseball caps. However it has awoken me to some of the splendour of Chinese culture, the appreciation for education, hard work, respect for the elderly, and the fact that as I was taller than most people they simply got out of my way (and I’m only 5’10”). I wonder, do elderly people get mugged and murdered and raped there? Do children get neglected and ignored by whinging trashy parents demanding more money from the government while they sit on their arses?
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In addition, I noted that there is no competition law in Hong Kong - though there is much discussion about it, but also department stores and malls have a tendency to have competing shops or franchises for similar products (e.g. bedding, clothes). It may be unconnected, but somehow Hong Kong has found ways to avoid free market capitalism being this monopolistic behemoth that so scares the left.
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So given the variety of options to fly to Hong Kong from London, cheaply (particularly Air NZ, Virgin, BA and Oasis which all offer either premium economy or cheap enough business class to make the 12-13 hours tolerable), I can see HK being an annual trip.

Lite blogging

Well I've been far too busy at work and then been in Hong Kong to utter words about so many things, BUT I am back and things will be back to normal this weekend.