Monday, April 28, 2008

Advice for those in poverty

Others have rightfully blogged about the Marxist group Child Poverty Action Group demanding that successful New Zealanders and their businesses be forced to pay for others.
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It is concerned about child poverty, it fails miserably to note that the primary reason children are raised in poverty is because poor people have them. It is not because those in poverty have been robbed, it is because of irresponsibility.
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It's a shocking concept for many, almost offensive, to say simply this:
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If you can't afford to have children then don't!
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This is why the welfare state, as long as it remains should quite simply not pay any more for having more children. There should be no reward from the state for breeding.
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What do you then say to people who have more kids and can't pay for them?
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Look in the mirror. It is your responsibility. You didn't have to breed. Survive on welfare or get a job or ask people for money.
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BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN, IT'S NOT THEIR FAULT?
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No, but is it mine? Why are all those who work bloody hard to raise their families and themselves have to be made to pay for those who make bad decisions, or don't care?
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Oh and if you care a lot about these people then nothing is stopping you - you can help through charity or maybe directly. It's called benevolence, compassion and is about caring about those less fortunate than yourself.
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Poverty will always exist. Today poverty includes having a TV, car, selection of clothes, video recorder and cellphone. The number one incentive to escape poverty IS poverty, and the state today makes other people pay for the education, healthcare, housing, food, clothing and entertainment of those who are poor.
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Taking money by force for those in poverty has done next to nothing for the last few decades. The key problem is not money, it is poverty of ambition, aspiration and desire to get out of the vile culture trap of acquiescence. Throwing money at the problem has failed miserably to change this, but it has made around 20% of the population dependent on voting Labour. You can't help but wonder if this is far too convenient.

The Great Leader's benevolence will see the proletariat so grateful

How despicably manipulative is it for Helen Clark in the Dominion Post promising "timely relief for families" as if she is Santa Clause, the feudal overlord, the Great Leader or the big chief, from whom all that is good can come.
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It's a bit simple. Give people their money back Helen. It will mean giving less to those who should be earning it themselves, this includes businesses on corporate welfare, artists, and paying people to breed. It means your government itself actually cutting back like people and families are.
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Then you might be able to do the three steps that will make a bit of a difference:
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1. Cut GST to 10%. Hardly a huge step, but it will help and help those on the bottom the most.
2. Introduce an income tax free threshold of at least $10,000. Amazing what that will do, allowing people to start earning money from their jobs or businesses without you rifling through their pockets.
3. Cut all other rates by 2%. It's not much, but it will make a difference to people.
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Of course you'd have less to spend on other things, but then - so does everyone at the moment. No reason why you should be different.
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UPDATE: John Key has, of course, suggested canning the proposed regional fuel taxes. An excellent idea. There is already remarkably high amounts of spending on roads, and far too much on public transport. Previous National Party policy was that increasing fuel taxes wasn't the right way to get more money to spend on roads, maybe there IS hope?

What government is all about

Yep, I'm not the first to point this out. I first saw it on the Have I Got News For You TV show on BBC TV, and it is also discussed in the Times today with libertarian writer Daniel Finkelstein's blog.
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British taxpayers paid London branding agency FHD to come up with this logo for the Office of Government Commerce. Of course you need to look at it horizontally to see how it was meant to be read. As Finkelstein quotes:
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"A spokesman for the OGC said (I kid you not) this:

We concluded that the effect was generic to the particular combination of the letters 'OGC' - and is not inappropriate to an organisation that's looking to have a firm grip on government spend."


The people who think they know how best to spend your money use it to pay for this - it's beautiful.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Joyless bureaucrats regulating fun

Picture the scene. It is the sunny Kapiti Coast. Families have taken a break for the day or the weekend from their working week or school, to enjoy themselves. Some choose to go to the great family experience of the local miniature railway. The kids like the ride, it's good clean fun. Anzac Day after all is a day when, for the morning, shops are required to close to pay respects for those whose lives were lost at war. However, the work doesn't stop for the eager Labour Department bureaucrat. With the clipboard, cellphone and the eager enthusiasm of someone whose sole purpose is to stop people doing things, one was working that day - yes on Anzac Day - and found the Kapiti Miniature Railway operating, allegedly against the law!
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Half a dozen people were on one of these trains. Trains mind you that don't get a dollar of government subsidy, they are operated by volunteers, people ride it for the purpose of fun, but no... Mr Bureaucrat ordered the railway to shut down.
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Was it unsafe? No, there was no evidence that it was. Given the railway reportedly carries hundreds of people every weekend, the public seem to be satisfied. The joyless petty little man, who produces nothing, shut it down because "the club had not paid its registration under the Fairground and Amusement Devices Regulation Act".
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He couldn't wait could he? He couldn't hand the notice to the club President and threaten its closure. No, far more self satisfying to shut down an outfit run and funded by volunteers, and enjoyed by the public. Having got himself off in the only way such bureaucrats can, he can go home wipe himself off, and think about what a good little cog in the wheel of Nanny State he is.
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The Labour Department spokesman (somehow it's always petty little men who are inadequately endowed who seem most comfortable acting like former East German bureaucrats) said "Amusements are required to be registered and, as part of that, they have to be able to prove it can be operated safely."
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Of course the law does say that. Heaven help you engage in unregistered amusements!
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I can hear it now. "What if something happened"? Like what? The train derailed? Some kid ran in front of a train? A kid ran out onto the road? Yes that's what. The purpose of this law is to deal with fairground attractions, to avoid dodgy little men who make a living from driving around the country with rusty equipment throwing kids around with their dated rides (and frankly most look like they've been around since i was a kid). There may be better ways of doing this, but I wont go into it much here (think private property rights, rights to sue, strict liability for accidents attributable to equipment failure)
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Some of the greatest dangers today are in areas that the state doesn't get too involved in. Kids cross roads all the time, and they are unfenced and their activities are not supervised. Most accidents happen in the home, and there are no home safety inspectors checking if nothing will burn, hit you on the head, trip you up or the like. I don't doubt that poorly endowed Labour Department inspectors will have thought of the merits of this idea. Of course it doesn't help that ACC does away with civil liability for personal injury by accident, or even grant higher or lower premiums for bad or good behaviour.
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However nothing better exemplifies the joyless bullshit of Nanny State that this little man, on Anzac Day, shutting down a miniature railway while little kids are having fun. No MP betters represents him that Sue Kedgley - the high priestess of Nanny State.
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Of course Nanny State can't work without the vile little humourless onanists who haven't the ounce of humanity to let kids enjoy a miniature railway ride on a nice day. I bet he thought he was doing them good, I bet he thought the (largely) elderly men who proudly built and maintained the railway were themselves beneath him. Nothing like ruining a day for kids and the elderly is there?

Rainbow presents the London Mayoral debate



It's far more interesting than the real three.

Simple step to reduce traffic congestion #1

New Zealand, unlike the UK (and indeed most countries) prohibits taxis from using bus lanes. One reason for this has been because (unlike most countries) New Zealand's free market approach to taxis means there are more than most, and cheaper as a result.
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Nevertheless, wherever a bus lane operates significantly under capacity, then other public transport should be entitled to use it - that means taxis. Taxis don't compete with car usage. Most taxi users are either without ready access to a vehicle, without access to a car park, have no viable public transport alternative or are drunk! Allowing taxis to use bus lanes would save taxi users a fortune, and taxi drivers could undertake more trips, and by removing them from parallel lanes would help cut congestion more generally.
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Of course to do this would mean removing the ideological commitment to buses, which themselves need to carry eight passengers to be a better use of road space than a car, and twice as much as that to be more environmentally friendly. If local authorities were more committed to reducing congestion rather than simply encouraging use of public transport, then they might actually support this. Remember that almost all bus lanes in London allow taxi usage.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Anzac Day

As I write this, thousands of New Zealanders and shortly thereafter thousands of Australians will be attending the dawn services in both countries to remember Anzac Day. Writing from London it seems distant, but it is a chance to recall those who gave their lives against the forces of tyranny that threatened both countries and Western civilisation itself.
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The tragic loss of life in World War 1, a brutal war of empires, left a huge scar across the communities of both countries. The cry "never again" did see the end of such great wars of empire. Few can celebrate the "victory" that saw rivers of blood of young men dying for the sake of next to nothing, and the many thousands shot dead as traitors for conscientious objection, or those damaged by the trauma of war. It was the end of an era, and few could ever glorify what was destruction on a grand scale.
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World War 2 was perhaps the great war between good and evil (and two versions of evil). The Nazi dominated Axis in Europe, which sought to transform Europe into totalitarian tyrannies of militarism, racism and genocide was a despicable threat to so many of the freedoms we all take for granted. The signs of that era are largely invisible in today's Europe, with free movement of people, goods and services across borders that were once battlefields, common citizenship between countries that were hostile enemies, and free, open civilised liberal democracies. The price paid to destroy Nazism and its toxic allies in Italy, Hungary, Croatia and elsewhere was high - but who now would imagine how Europe would be had it failed. Whereas Japanese imperialism in Asia also sought to make Asia and Australasia an extension of the rising sun. The brutalism of the Japanese occupation of east Asia from Korea, coastal China, Indochina, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies and Burma was rolled back by thousands upon thousands of brave men. Again, as with Germany. Who today can look at Japan and see the signs of what an aggressive brutal coloniser it once was. It too engaged in genocidal acts, and was repudiated at high cost, and at Hiroshima and Nagosaki the suffix of the war showed what might happen next time. New Zealand was spared Japanese occupation, and today Japan is a close friend and trading partner.
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In Korea, Stalin and Mao gave the nod for the totalitarian dictatorship of the North to invade and swallow the impoverished south. Again, bravery saw that occupation rolled back, almost obliterated and then for 2 tragic years lives lost as the stalemate went back and forth. South Korea today exists because of those who fought in Korea to save it - and one need only look at the bleakness of North Korea to see what they were saved from.
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As many have said before, war is one of the most horrible actions that anyone can live through. It is second only to living under brutal tyranny. Anzac Day does not celebrate war, or the need for military action, but it is a time for quiet reflection, acknowledgement of those who lost everything to fight for free Western civilisation in our parts of the world. The old adage that "if it weren't for them, we'd all be speaking Japanese/German" is only partly wrong, it's more likely many of us would have been dead or not even born.
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It is worth remembering that had the so-called "peace movement" had its way, the Nazis would have been appeased until when? The Japanese would have allowed independence like that they granted to Manchuria, I mean Manchukuo. It is worth also noting that North Korea only attacked the South, after the US had withdrawn its post World War 2 troop presence.
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The price for peace is defence, it is deterrence and the willingness to respond to aggression. It is only when belligerence is clearly beyond imagination that this can be rolled back, and western Europe is today an example of countries that could hardly imagine waging war on each other, though they need not go far to find those who will (the Balkans).
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Alastair Cooke's "Letter from America" once stated that the country with the highest per capita loss of combatants on foreign soil was New Zealand - and it is no surprise why. I'd be interested to know if this is still the case, as the USA has lost quite a few over the last decade or so.
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Nevertheless, take time today to remember those who lost it all for your freedom. They did more for peace than anyone who protests for it ever have.

Advice for Bailey Kurariki

You're so lucky, and hopefully you feel shame and remorse. If you had been living in a lot of other countries you'd either still be behind bars or dead.
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Abide by the conditions of your parole. Then you should spend the rest of your life making good of what you did. Find a way to communicate to Michael Choy's mother that you will tithe half of all of your earnings, for the rest of your life, to pay to compensate her and her family for what you did. You can keep enough to keep a roof over your head, food and clothe yourself. Paying half of what you earn to her and her family will be better value than paying a church. Meanwhile you should think about how you can help stop other kids committing the hienous crime you did.
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oh and if you reoffend, you should expect a long long prison sentence. You'll have blown your chance. Mercy is the prerogative of Western judicial systems, be grateful for it, it is time to start making recompense for the life of a peaceful man that you helped destroy. If the rest of your life is spent compensating the victim's family and teaching and supporting kids to avoid a life of crime, then your early release will not have been in vain.
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ADDENDUM: The NZ Herald reports he will have early release with an electronic tag and strict monitoring.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I'm not anti China

Blair Mulholland has an excellent post on how those protesting against human rights abuses in China are NOT anti-Chinese. In response to a NZ Herald report of a planned demonstration by supporters of the Chinese Communist Party authoritarian regime he said:
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"I support China; a China with free speech, freedom of the press, and freed political prisoners, that I will also be going to Aotea Square - to protest against these people and their support for dictatorship. "
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Good for him! I encourage all of you, across the political spectrum who believe in these fundamental rights to join him. If China was free, the Beijing Olympics would be a cause for celebration around the world - like the Olympics were in Athens, Sydney, Atlanta, Barcelona and Seoul.
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The Chinese Communist regime is using its domestic media monopoly (protected literally at gunpoint) and substantial wealth to spread utter lies that the protests are some sort of racist anti-Chinese attack. It claims that people in the West are jealous of China's economic success, which is laughable given that China still has an average GDP per capita a fraction of that of developed countries. After all, the Olympics were held in Seoul, South Korea and people didn't protest that - because South Korea had, finally, thrown off its authoritarian regimes and dictators.

The Daily Telegraph reports on websites set up in China to boycott Western companies like KFC and Carrefour (French supermarket chain), and the absurd "anti-CNN" site. Given CNN does not broadcast freely in China (the government there blanks out anything it doesn't like) it is bizarre for anyone to claim that Chinese people in China actually can know what the Western media says. Free speech is unknown in China as is a free press, but hey it's "anti-China" to expect the Chinese people to have these privileges.

You'll notice the anti-CNN website is itself rather bigoted because those who disagree are "ignorant Westerners", a post it attacked was quite reasonable in pitying those who only get the Chinese government side of the story. He also noted, imagine if Chinese created an anti-CCTV website in China. No. The naive are being led astray, and the mighty forces of those who have a vested interest in the Chinese Communist Party are fighting free speech.

Chinese Ambassador to the UK Fu Ying continues the claim that China is being demonised by the Western media. No. India doesn't get demonised, and it is big, a nuclear power and growing fast. That is because Indians have free speech, free press and liberal democracy. She reasonably said:

"Coming to China to report bad stories may not be welcomed but would not be stopped, as China is committed to opening up.

China is far from perfect and it is trying to address the many problems that do exist. It would be helpful to the credibility of the Western media if the issues they care and write about are of today's China, not of the long-gone past."

Fine. How about letting the Chinese people speak up? How about letting them express openly their concerns about government policy, about corruption, about crime, about pollution? How about NOT executing or imprisoning people who disagree with you?

China has gone a long way since the dark days of Mao - I endorse it and I like China. China has reincorporated Hong Kong and it remains a fantastic example of what China could be. Taiwan itself is very much also a great example. You see civilisation does NOT mean using force against those who disagree with you. Civilisation does NOT mean providing aid, trade and support for those who murder (regimes in Burma, Sudan and Zimbabwe being some of China's friends with much blood on their hands).

That's what I want to see from China. I want a China as a world power that is open, that has a vibrant free press and media, that unleashes the dynamism of the Chinese people to disagree, argue and be open among themselves. To do this, the Communist Party has to accept criticism, it has to separate the state and the party, and it has to fight hard to make the Chinese judicial system independent.
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Is someone who wants this for China anti-Chinese? Sadly even CNN still reports some protests as being "anti-Chinese". Is it any surprise that when that phrase is used that Chinese people get upset?
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I hope those who protest in Australia do not just protest for Tibet, as important as that is - this should be about China's own domestic freedoms and China's support for murderous regimes elsewhere. I also hope that Chinese who don't support the Communist regime are not scared by those waving People's Republic of China flags.
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Remember when those who say they are pro-Chinese wave the flag of Chairman Mao, they are waving the flag that represents over half a century of political repression, torture and murder. The Communist Party is not China.

Hillary wins but for what?

Hillary Clinton's win in Pennsylvania is seen by her as showing there is life in her campaign - she won by just enough to remain credible. Perfect from the point of view of someone who doesn't want her OR Obama to win. The left leaning New York Times has widely been reported as describing her campaign as "even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it..... It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election."

Ouch. The New York Times endorsed her before too.

It hits out at Obama as well "Mr. Obama is not blameless when it comes to the negative and vapid nature of this campaign....When she criticized his comments about “bitter” voters, Mr. Obama mocked her as an Annie Oakley wannabe. All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience."

Indeed.

However Hillary has worked her life for this. She is so hungry for power that she wont give in. It is fundamentally disturbing how hungry for power she is. She lies, she evades and pretends to be who she is not. She is strong on foreign policy, but weaker on trade and advocates a grand programme of growing the federal government, with tax increases. She is an electoral liability to the Democrats, which is why so many Republicans can't wait to have her as the candidate. Nothing will get the Christian right, who do not see McCain as their great ally, out to vote like keeping Hillary out of power. If the Democrats are stupid enough to let her win the candidacy then may they reap what the sow.

ALPURT toll road might not be viable

According to the NZ Herald, the Order in Council approving tolling on the motorway extension from Orewa to Puhoi has been amended, in that the Minister no longer needs to be satisfied as to the financial viability of it as a toll road.
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It is not a surprise for two reasons.
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First, ALPURT has been green-plated. Transit deliberately increased the cost of the project because it believed that if a toll road is built it should be of better quality than the similar untolled road. It put a tunnel in where a gully would have done the same job, and made it all four lanes instead of four and three lanes (the latter makes sense, but the tunnel was green-plating). This is even though the toll on ALPURT wouldn't actually pay for the full cost or even more than half of the cost of the road. A road that once was costed by Transit at just over $90 million in 1999 is now $360 million. Part of that is inflation, part of that is the inflation of the contracting sector due to the government spending up large on roads.
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Second, the tolling of ALPURT was politically driven. Transit sought a whole programme of toll roads to be built, including the Tauranga Harbour Link. These would share the cost of the back office and billing systems to operate tolling (which is to be fully electronic free flow with no toll booths). Now with only one and Transit having funding to build the toll system for a whole set of roads, it isn't quite the economies of scale of transactions Transit had hoped. You might think it is odd that road users pay for the cost of building a tolling system, after all shouldn't a tolling system pay for itself? Yes, good question. One that hasn't been properly answered.
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So you see when road users finally pay to use ALPURT as a toll road, they will be using a road other road users have paid for too. Yes every motorist paying fuel tax and road user charges is paying for a road that they have NO right to use. Interesting that. It would be fine if the fuel tax and road user charges used to pay for ALPURT equalised those used by the people USING the road, but this is a subsidised toll road, green-plated for political reasons.
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Will it work? Will it be well used and popular? Will it be empty with people not wanting to pay to use it? or will many use it, fail to pay and face unpopular penalties for not paying a couple of dollars? We can only hope that the new Land Transport Agency - a big government bureaucracy can make it work. Bureaucracies are good at customer service after all....

Future of petrol tax?

Here's a thought. Bearing in mind the report in Stuff today about regional fuel tax being rethought, should the way people pay for roads move away from fuel tax?
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At the moment diesel vehicles pay for road use through road user charges. Now there are some problems with it, but it means you pay directly for the distance you travel. You pay more by weight so the more damage you cause the road, the more you pay. However the system used in New Zealand, while once revolutionary, is being superseded in other countries by an electronic system that allows charging by time and place.
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Now there are plenty of governance issues that ought to be resolved first. For starters who sets the charges and where does the money go. Charges should be set on a reasonably economically efficient basis, to make a commercial return on running roads - and the money should go to road companies. However I don't want to focus on that for now... but on the technology and the practicality of it all.
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Tolls sound like a useful option, but they are really only practical on crossings or motorways which have few alternatives. So that in itself is no solution except for maybe the occasional road - Auckland Harbour Bridge could be tolled and that could pay for another crossing which could be tolled too, for example.
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Congestion charging is more useful, but again you have to be careful how it is applied. It could replace rates funding for cities, but shouldn't be used to pay for public transport. Public transport users should pay for that. If done well, congestion charging can reduce delays and mean road users are paying to use scarce road space. However London is not the way to do it for New Zealand.
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Longer term it would be better if everyone had the option of road user charges, in an electronic form. The first step would be changing the current road user charging system to vary by location, weight and time (if only night and day), so that trucks and diesel cars would pay closer to the costs of using different types of roads - motorways, urban streets, lightly sealed rural roads and unsealed roads. It would also improve enforcement and mean trucks pay according to route, like trains have been. More accurate charging of trucks, buses and diesel cars wouldn't be a bad thing, especially if the money was better linked to the cost of maintaining and building roads. The second step is to offer it to all other vehicles. You pay by distance and road you're on, and you get a fuel tax refund - a full fuel tax refund (including the GST on fuel tax).
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Meanwhile fuel tax can continue to increase, but more and more people would move off of fuel tax onto road user charges, because they would vary only according to what was needed to maintain and upgrade roads. There would also be a change as to how road improvements were funded, because it could be linked directly to money raised from road users on that road. No longer could improvements be made on empty roads, and improvements on busy roads would be less likely to be delayed.
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However there is little sign Labour wants to move away from fuel tax, in wanting to introduce regional fuel taxes for petrol and inexplicably, diesel (for which half is not even used on the roads). National in 2005 supported moving from rates, motor vehicle license fees and fuel tax towards tolls and road user charges.
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Can National get this right? Does it want some help?

40 years since the Wahine

New Zealand's biggest shipping disaster in recent history happened 40 years ago on 10 April. Patrick Dunford's blog reports on the details surrounding that tragedy. It was in the twilight years of the Wellington-Lyttelton ferry service on the long gone Union Steam Ship Company. I remember being taught vividly about this at school in Wellington, it left quite a mark on people in Wellington around at the time.
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The Wahine, along with Tangiwai and Erebus, was one of the three major transport disasters since World War 2. They all seemed to show how small New Zealand's population was (and still is) in that so many knew someone or knew someone who knew someone who was part of it. Indeed, today you can't take a ferry from Wellington to Lyttelton, or an overnight train from Wellington to Auckland or take a sightseeing flight from Christchurch to Antarctica.

Broadband Think Big - so where is the demand?

Well as David Farrar posts there has been a lot of positive about National's proposal to make you pay for a network you may never use. Even some snarking from the left, which of course means nothing, because as Owen McShane pointed out on Kiwiblog - Labour (and the Greens) want to pour over a billion dollars of your money into public transport that hardly anyone will use, and which will lose money and make hardly a dent on congestion in Auckland.
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So in some ways you can see that spending $1.5 billion on broadband makes more sense that on railways. No study asserts that Auckland rail improvements will generate new income or even generate net economic benefits.
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However, it is important to remember Telecom's (ha!) network of twisted copper pairs is not the only telecommunications network to many homes in the country. In Christchurch and Wellington (including the Hutt Valley and Kapiti, but not Porirua except a small part of Whitby) almost all homes have access to, not fibre to the kerb but the next best thing - a hybrid fibre coax network. What this means is that fibre optics provide the backbone, but this is broken out into networks for streets with coaxial cable, which is far higher capacity than twisted copper.
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This network is TelstraClear's and it sells cable TV services and highspeed broadband over that network. In Christchurch it offers 25 Mbps, and 10 Mbps in Wellington.
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So I want to ask, given TelstraClear isn't the majority provider of broadband in either major city, given it is technologically more advanced than current ADSL services, why aren't Wellington and Christchurch enjoying the rapacious economic "boom" promised by National?
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Meanwhile, the reaction from other parties is instructive:
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ACT has actually shown some principles
and argued that (funnily enough) it is Think Big all over again (gee who said that first?) . Rodney Hide said:
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Who will invest now, when National is promising one or other company a $1.5 billion investment subsidy?.... Telecommunications has suffered hugely from government-induced risk and an uncertain regulatory environment. National has thrown the existing regulatory framework back into chaos.... It’s 'Think Big' all over again, with John Key 'picking winners' in an industry remarkable for its innovation. He has set an arbitrary goal of 75 percent "Fibre to the Home" by 2014 with no clear analysis of the costs and benefits. And it's a backward step for competition in the industry as the $1.5 billion subsidy will deliver a state-sponsored monopoly."
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Indeed Rodney, well done, although he didn't explicitly say ACT rejects it, it was as good as doing so. Naturally Libertarianz rejects it out of hand.
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NZ First is just stupid saying National wants to do a deal with Telecom. It's almost as if its geriatric voters don't understand the idea of open access or competition. Nonsense that home phones are dear (with unlimited free calling) and cellphones are expensive is just plain old fashioned pig ignorance.
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Peter Dunne likes it, but then he worships the cargo cult of Transmission Gully - another $1 billion waste of money that needs general taxpayers to prop it up. He funnily said ACT "delivered a standard libertarian rant", ah we can dream Peter. You deliver the standard "government should spend other people's money" rant.
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So I do wonder, should National sacrifice Transmission Gully in favour of transmitting broadband? Or should it just remember whose money it is?
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Oh and for all the arguments about lifting GDP - here's one, for National - cut spending and cut taxes! That means company tax at 20% not 30%, the top tax rate not at 39% but at 20%... it means New Zealand being attractive for investors, businesspeople and professionals.
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It's called the level playing field - you might even find telecommunications investment increases then.


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

John Key's Thinking Big

eh heh heh heh, well done John Boy. I can almost hear Sir Robert Muldoon chortling away. National's gone back to the 1970s. Welcome back the words "subsidies"and "state socialism" all shrouded in the word "investment". It's revolting.
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For a while now I’ve hoped that given I will dance merrily when Labour loses office, I’ll relax knowing that a National government led by John Key will do a little better. This is even though the list of things that could be better has shrunk on a weekly basis.
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National was once the party of big government investment into infrastructure. Many wont remember the age when oil was at record prices and that the economy was being strangled by the threat of disrupted oil supplies and inadequate electricity.
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So came Think Big- a phrase that lives in infamy for anyone with economic rationalism in their veins.
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Taxpayers paid for a gas to gasoline plant at Motunui. I remember how Rob Muldoon and Bill Birch cheered it on, saying it would produce half of the country’s petrol. By the time it was completed, it was reportedly cheaper to convert all vehicles in NZ to CNG and LPG. The cost of building it was written off as government debt before Petrocorp was sold. The plant is no longer in operation. One wonder if the public would have paid for gas conversion kits themselves if the government of the day didn’t have marginal tax rates approaching 66%. However, central planning lost.
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Central planning lost again when, after years of badgering by the Railways Department, the National government decided to approve the Railways borrowing to electrify the central part of the North Island Main Trunk railway (Hamilton to Palmerston North). Apparently the export boom of the late 1970s had strangled the capacity of the line (which through that segment is particularly steep and windy) and electrification would allow longer and faster freight trains. NZ$350 million was the final cost of electrification. However whilst it seemed a good idea at the time of high oil prices, another move by the same government eliminated the capacity problem. You see the railways had a capacity problem whilst having a legislated monopoly on almost all freight consigned for distances of over 150km. So in 1983 that monopoly was removed, and funnily enough the railways lost about 18% of its freight tonne-kilometres carried relatively quickly. Problem solved. Furthermore having corporatised the railways (Labour didn’t start it), the newly business like Railways Corporation had a study undertaken which demonstrated it had enormous scope to cut costs and increase productivity, through measures like eliminating guards vans. So more could be carried without pouring concrete and stringing up wires. That same corporation commissioned the then Coopers and Lybrand to investigate if the electrification could be an economic investment, but it concluded it would lose money even if electricity were free.
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As a result of that the Labour government of the time bailed out the Railways Corporation (for the first time since its creation) by taking over the entire debt for the electrification. It is notable that the sale price of New Zealand Railways on privatisation roughly equated to that debt. Another failure for central planning.
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So now the National Party thinks it knows best again announcing that it is forcing YOU to pay NZ$1.5 billion to “invest” in a broadband “fibre to the kerb” network. This will be one of the biggest handouts to an industrial sector since Think Big. The term “invest” is thrown about with abandon by politicians who want to use your money, after all “spend” is honest but sounds less worthwhile, “subsidise” is more honest but it’s a bad word. So it’s invest. I’m sure we can all come up with things that we’d like to force others to “invest in”. Of course unlike roads, this network wont reach virtually every property now, will it? You'll all pay though!
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So what is this all about? Well besides all the hype about generating jobs and investment (yes heard it all about Think Big too, and Jim Anderton hyped it up about his own Ministry of Economic Subsidisation), Key says this new socialist programme (which it is) involves five principles:

- The network being open-access (like the roads, and every peak period in Auckland you see how that works);
- ensuring the investment does not see already-planned investments cut back (of course not, after all the government building a network in competition to your own, or one you could use instead of building one. Why would it? Of course it will, we’ve already seen how local loop unbundling killed Telstra Clear’s investment programme in hybrid fibre-coax broadband/cable tv networks);
- ensuring increased broadband services (meaningless. It’s like saying I hope building this road means more freight and people get moved); and
- making sure we do not end up lining the pockets of incumbent industry players (ohh the “boot into Telecom” point. No, you’ll line the pockets of the contractors who build it and whoever has the job to manage it. You see they wouldn’t have had to do it unless you’d taken money off of other people and forced them to pay for this.
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So it’s time to ask some questions:
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1. What would happen to broadband services if this DIDN’T happen? Wouldn’t those who would benefit immensely from it continue to buy existing services creating a market for new infrastructure?

2. Has Labour’s socialisation of Telecom’s local loop hindered and will it continue to hinder private sector investment in alternative broadband technologies? If so, wouldn’t it be wiser to let Telecom make money out of its own network and for competitors to build duplicate ones? (hey if its such a great investment it will happen wont it? If it’s not why are taxpayers paying?)


3. What other barriers exist to private sector roll out of broadband, such as the RMA and local authority preciousness about overhead wiring?

4. Who would run this broadband network, what happens if it goes wrong? Will it charge to make a commercial return on investment?

5. Why is telecommunications so special it needs a massive subsidy from the rest of the productive sector?

6. Are those who will benefit from faster broadband willing to pay for this, and if not, why should everyone else do so?

7. What could the rest of the productive sector do if the money, that was their’s in the first place, was handed back to them in tax cuts?

8. Why shouldn’t software, fruit growers, painters, watchmakers, publishers, plumbers, taxi firms, pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology firms, caterers, hoteliers etc etc get a handout too?
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Finally, John Key’s claim that “One hundred and fifty years ago the government had the vision to build railways and highways to facilitate the movement of goods” is nonsense. There were no railways in New Zealand 150 years ago for starters, the first was opened in the 1860s but construction didn’t really take off till the 1890s. Some were built by private enterprise, such as the line from Wellington to Palmerston North, and much of the line through Arthurs Pass. Many of the railways built were marginal and served, well nowhere. Noticed Waikaia, Waikaka, Eyreton or Tokarahi on the list of great booming towns? No – they were all lines built for political reasons, to prop up land prices and win elections. The government funded railways were actually primarily funded by local and provincial governments, as were the roads. Central government had little to do with it. Local governments did this as they could raise money from land released for sale and developed. There was no such thing as national highways until 1922.
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So there you have it. Will ACT resist this Think Big attempt to bribe the IT sector? David Farrar, as always liberal on most things, is singing the praises of this enormous handout to the sector he is involved in, rather disappointingly.
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After all, is the telecommunications sector so strapped for cash that it can’t invest? If it is a matter of wont rather than can’t then why not ask why rather than make everyone else step in?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Greens want something else banned

Stuff reports now plastic baby bottles...
yawn.... Sue Kedgley says "Scientists do not know what levels are safe and what levels are not," she said. Much like governments, water, butter and most things.
please, someone put together a list of everything the Greens want to ban or make compulsory, and then the one of everything they want to REMOVE regulations for....
Seriously - the cryptofascist Green party is the new statist party of the country. So illiberal it isn't funny - Sue Kedgley IS Nanny of Nanny State. Even more than Helen Clark.

Ken friends with advocate of domestic violence

For all of the excuses that the left can make about Ken Livingstone's left wing affiliations, nothing tops how utterly repulsive is him embracing the likes of Yusuf al-Qaradawi. The Daily Telegraph reports that Qaradawi described "homosexuality as an "unnatural and evil practice" and said the Koran permitted wife-beating in certain circumstances".
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He also was reported as advocating the use of Palestinian children as suicide bombers and "once claimed that Asian tsunami victims were punished by Allah because their countries were centres of perversion".
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Funny friend to have when you go around the gay community talking about minority rights. He was an "honoured guest" of City Hall, and Livingstone's excuse is that he "doesn't support Al Qaeda" or terrorism against the West. However he does support terrorism against Israel, and he does support men bashing their wives and would happily see homosexuals oppressed.
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It's quite vile, and of course that means Muslims 4 Ken cheer him on. However, it is one thing to talk to Muslims and respect their right to live in London peacefully, another to tolerate a man who advocates violence. Muslim votes don't depend on you embracing those who embrace violence Ken - or if they do, then something is sadly wrong with the London Muslim mainstream!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Chavez - subsidiser of the rich

Those on the left whose collective tongues are felching the legacy of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's wannabe dictator should pause for thought with his latest venture - subsidising movies made by Hollywood stars who are also sycophants for authoritarian socialism. Danny Glover, Kevin Spacey, Sean Penn and Harry Belafonte are all receiving this. Chavez is spending £9 million on films made by Hollywood stars - five times the Venezuelan film sector's annual budget.
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So socialism is about... subsidising the richest city in the world and the richest actors in the world.... great!
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Such a hero of the poor

Hillary Clinton's odious campaign

Camille Paglia, celebrated post-feminist, has written in the Sunday Telegraph as to why women should not support Hillary Clinton. Some of the best quotes are:
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"Whatever her official feminist credo, Hillary's public career has glaringly been a subset to her husband's success. Despite her reputation for brilliance, she failed the Washington, DC bar exam. Thus her migration to Little Rock was not simply a selfless drama for love; she was fleeing the capital where she had hoped to make her mark."
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"In Little Rock, every role that Hillary played was obtained via her husband's influence - from her position at the Rose Law Firm to her seat on the board of Wal-Mart to her advocacy for public education reform. In a pattern that would continue after Bill became president, Hillary would draw attention by expressing public "concern" for a problem, without ever being able to organise a programme for reform."
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"The argument, therefore, that Hillary's candidacy marks the zenith of modern feminism is specious. Feminism is not well served by her surrogates' constant tactic of attributing all opposition to her as a function of entrenched sexism. Well into her second term as a US Senator, Hillary lacks a single example of major legislative achievement. Her career has consisted of fundraising, meet-and-greets and speeches around the world expressing support for women's rights"
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having said that, she will lose and the blame that will attributed is that the USA is sexist, it will be so much noise that the truth will be somewhat lost:
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"If Hillary loses, batten the hatches against a mass resurrection of paranoid, paleo-feminist martyrs, counting their wounds and wailing at the blood-red moon."
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Add that to Christopher Hitchin's damning indictment of her in Slate, and you really do wonder, why do the Democrats tolerate this continuing?
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She is a vile, calculating, power hungry fake. She would rather Obama lose against McCain than win, and the idea anyone can trust or believe this shell of a human being is beyond me. Why would ANYONE cheer her on - except, of course, Republicans?

Africa has to get over colonialism

At last the Sunday Times reports that the African Union has called for some action over Zimbabwe, if only for the election results to be released. It has been the depressing legacy that those who govern Africa have not wanted to be accountable to the world, or each other, or even their own populations. Thabo Mbeki's disgraceful legacy is one of death and complicity with murder in Zimbabwe. Fortunately both a trade union and the South Africa court system have some sense of right and wrong. In what seems to be the most moral action by any waterfront union I've ever known, South Africa's watersiders refused to unload the Chinese ship of arms destined for Zimbabwe, and a court ordered the ship to leave South African waters. I needn't mention how China continues to act internationally to provide sustenance and the means to murder to murderers - that is worth protesting more than Tibet, but I digress.
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Colonialism was the first and perhaps one of the only major movements that the UN advocated in its early history - colonialism was a "bad" through and through, so colonial regimes were deemed bad and post-colonial ones "good". Sadly far too many of Africa's post colonial governments have been any advance over their predecessors. The legacy of Idi Amin, Bokassa, Mobutu and Nyerere range from murderous to simply incompetent. Mugabe has followed the spectrum starting with incompetence and moving to the murderous.
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However he is seen by African leaders for being a hero, for fighting the racist Ian Smith regime. This neglects that even South Africa's racist apartheid regime stop providing support to Rhodesia in the latter years - something South Africa's government wont do now for Zimbabwe. However colonialism is over. Long over. Africans are not let down by the West half as much as they are let down by their own governments - government which, in many cases, are simply legalised gangs of kleptocrats who barely maintain a semblance of authority.
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Zimbabwe's coming weeks could cover Africa with glory in how it responds or show it to be impotent in the face of murder and tyranny - Africa has managed Kenya with some success from the brink of disaster, it is time to exit Mugabe and his Zanu-PF Mafia immediately. They disgrace Africa and Africans. So much is happening in Zimbabwe, with people killed, and Times correspondent Jonathan Clayton tells of his ordeal in Zimbabwe.
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Is the 21st century going to be characterised by acquiescence in the face of tyranny that could so easly be defeated?

Domestic violence

Cactus Kate has an elegant solution for women wanting to avoid hooking up with men who will hit them, but I would add a couple of points:
- Odds are in some communities finding the man who wont hit you is tricky. The answer is to leave, you are better than those that hit you, or those who tolerate being hit;
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- If you have kids and he hits you then you should seriously consider leaving. Seriously, if you saw your mother hit when you grew up ask yourself if you want your kids seeing the same, or even worst risking the same. If you don't think this is right then you don't deserve your kids. The first duty of any parent is to protect your children.
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Think, if only women were treated as empowered, not as victims, to tell violent men to fuck off, to not have sex with them, to not breed with them.
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Sounds too simple? Too easy? Well it already happens, a lot - it needs to happen more. Imagine if it did... Imagine if no mother let her child be raised in a home with a violent man.

Mike Williams has got to go

According to the NZ Herald, he advocated using taxpayer funded resources to campaign for the Labour Party - in other words he thought it was a "good idea" for the separation between state and governing party to be blurred.
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The blogosphere is pulling him apart, David Farrar doing a better job than most.
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Helen Clark rejected the idea, it is time for Williams to lie down on the sword and go. He has too many roles in too many government agencies that make his position in ALL of them untenable. This is his record:
- Board member of Transit New Zealand;
- Board member of Ontrack (New Zealand Railways Corporation);
- Board member of Genesis Energy;
- Board member of Auckland Regional Transport Authority;
- Director of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Ltd.
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It should be beyond question that the President of the governing party should not be advocating a blatantly corrupt practice. He is not fit to be on the board of any government agency, and for good measure should resign as Labour President. Those who question this can't point a finger at Zimbabwe or any other country without being hypocrites.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

London mayoral race doesn't inspire

I've never understood those passionate about local government. The world of sewerage, rubbish collection, footpaths, planning, bylaws, parking and strategic visions is far from inspiring. In fact whilst many of these activities are respectable businesses, the deathly bureaucratic insipidness of how local government loves to govern should send shivers down the spine of any person who has a sense of life. I'm not saying there aren't good people in local government, sadly local government dominates some sectors so that professionals in those sectors have few other places to work - roads being one. However, those who get excitement about the potential for local government to make people's lives better are really deluded and possibly ill. Local government is perhaps the least accountable layer of government there is. It generates the lowest electoral turnout, it almost always attracts people of modest achievement compared to national politics and by and large most of what it does is so tedious that only in particularly egregious cases of incompetence does it get media coverage.
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So in one respect the lack of coverage of any aspects of the English local body elections this year is a blessing - it shows how little time most people have for it. The only contest of interest is the London Mayoralty. One aspect of UK local elections is how national politics is replicated at the local level in that Labour, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats all contest such elections, and by and large, local results reflect national polling. So this time round Labour is worried, and the prize of London is coveted by the Conservative Party.
So this is why Boris Johnson was selected. Who else could the Tories choose to defeat the self promoting ego-centric Ken Livingstone than the entertaining quick witted Boris Johnson, known for having his foot in his mouth more often than not, but by and large well loved for being a comedian. Boris's wit and general congenial character means he is a chap likely to give the Mayoralty a good shot, although some of his embarrassing past remarks have seen him be carefully stage managed, rather sadly. Livingstone on the other hand has, pretty much, seemed like a grumpy old sod who thinks he is the centre of all that is special about London, whilst he largely ignores a lengthy set of claims about the use of public resources to campaign and the waste of money by his self selected dubious advisors.
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For me I simply want Livingstone defeated. He is a ghastly little man who still blames poverty on Margaret Thatcher, is sycophantic towards leftwing dictators like Castro and happily pours money down nonsense such as "city embassies" in Caracas, Beijing and Delhi. His ambition to gain London the Olympics is seeing a monumental waste of taxpayers' money on managing it all, and granting the construction sector a massive windfall. Londoners and UK citizens may wonder how much money would be available to them all in taxes if London had abandoned this folly. A vastly overcrowded city with creaking infrastructure and a booming tourist sector doesn't need the Olympics - but it's a fait accompli I'm afraid. Livingstone has promised all sorts of socialist nonsense from free tube trips at peak times for pensioners, to his enormous public housing campaign. He has nothing good to add, and his attitude to corruption allegations (throwing the word racist at opponents) should seal his fate. Yet Boris Johnson's good qualities - wit and humble determination to do his bet, aren't quite enough to get me excited. I'll rather cheer the end of Ken than have solace with Boris.
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Take one area I DO know. Transport. It is rather hard to tell the two apart except on a couple of points. Boris doesn't like articulated or "bendy" buses, rather passionately. About the only reason to hate them is how they've become the free buses of much of London, as one notices hooded youth tending to enter by the back doors and not flashing Oyster cards to pay. Ken saw them introduced. Ken wants to convert the congestion charge into a punitive tax on big cars, Boris wont. However there is no serious challenge to the status quo. Both oppose a third runway at Heathrow Airport, although clearly there is the demand from travellers. Neither advocate doing anything substantial for roads, although London has perhaps the worst developed arterial road network of any major Western city. London's bus network costs over a billion pounds a year in subsidies, is dirt cheap to users and most buses run with very few passengers on a per km basis. The tube is costing a fortune to recover from years of public sector underinvestment, yet it doesn't cost seriously more while it is overcrowded than at other times. Meanwhile Ken pursues expensive but low impact projects like the East London line extension, whilst renationalising maintenance and management of two thirds of the tube!
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A lot could be done, but Boris doesn't want to rock the boat. He is waiting for Ken to lose, although he does advocate confronting the transport unions and fighting petty crime. That and being more spendthrift would be nice. However Boris is no Thatcher, he wont cut spending and council tax, he wont privatise what London needs privatising. London will continue to make money from the City and tourists, while bleeding elsewhere and subsidising half of its population and most of the UK, whilst having pitiful infrastructure that barely keeps up. It could be so much better, but socialist Britain wont hear of it.

TAP Air Portugal? 3 stars




I recently flew TAP Air Portugal for the first time, London to Lisbon return, in scum class. No I didn't expect much, and neither should you. Portugal is a nice country, the people are lovely, the airport at Lisbon was better than many, but the airline could do with some polishing. I've reviewed it on my travel blog, which will now include flights and hotels that I experience and think you should know about. The verdict? BA's better - although at least my luggage turned up.


UN “experts” with vile credentials

The reputation of the United Nations is, for most I dare say, one of morality, peace and even handedness. Yet the UN more often than most know appoints so called experts who, in any sane interpretation, would be considered cranks. The sort of people who should be standing on a street corner with a cup whilst they blast out their unhinged nonsense.
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David Aaronovitch writes about two of them in The Times. Professor Richard Falk, once Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University (I remember reading some of his articles when I was at university) has been appointed expert on Israel by the UN Human Rights Council. Remember this same council selects the likes of Cuba and Libya to be on it to judge the human rights of others. Imagine an organisation of convicted child abusers advising on how children should be protected. It is that hypocritical, that despicable and that fraudulent.
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As Aaronovitch writes, Falk himself has taken to comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. Falk believes “suicide bombers appeared as the only means still available” for the Palestinian “struggle” to go on. Falk also has written a chapter in a book called “9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out”, a book authored by David Ray Griffen. The book talks of how no plane ever flew into the Pentagon and how the World Trade Centre came down by a “controlled demolition” (though how they explain the two airliners flying into it is a little harder).

Of course the UN would give this intellectual with some severe problems a job.

Aaronovitch also writes about how the Swiss government convinced the Human Rights Council to appoint Professor Jean Ziegler to its advisory committee. Professor Ziegler has defended Mengistu, the former Ethiopian dictator who was responsible for the famines in the 1980s (Ethiopia once exported food until Mengistu collectivised the farms), Robert Mugabe, Fidel Castro and Muammer Gaddafi.

However, given Switzerland’s proud history of sitting courageously on the fence being bankers to the Nazis whilst Europe burnt around it, I don’t expect a great deal from the Swiss. Being neutral in what was the defining war between good and evil (and evil and evil) in the 20th century is indifference to evil.
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The UN of course is not indifferent to evil, just hypocritical beyond words. Of course it was created after World War 2 to stop another such war. However, imagine what harm it would have done if it had existed in advance of that. Would it have stopped the Nazi goosestepping advance across Czechoslovakia, then Poland? Would it have stopped the Japanese empire, which had already enslaved Korea advancing its racist brutal dictatorship along the Chinese coast, past Indochina and in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies? Hardly. Of course a review of the UN would only expose that it is fully constrained by appealing to the majority of states, which are typically quite corrupt and power hungry, and by not offending Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, two of which – China and Russia have been held predominantly by totalitarian or authoritarian regimes since the UN was formed. So the UN is the sum of its members, and many of its members are morally dubious, and some quite evil indeed. However that is another story.
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You see some see the UN as being a repositary of virtue in international relations, or some authority that should be listened to or respected. However, it is none of the sort. The most recent appointments of an "expert" on Israel who is a conspiracy nutter, and an advisor on human rights who sympathises with Robert Mugabe continue to deny it any real claim to morality. Until the UN or its member states unite against such repulsive individuals having any role within it, it will remain a place where those who are great achievers and those who cheer on murderers are treated the same. Anyone who looks to that for inspiration or guidance will surely be lost.

Maori party's despicable sophistry

A chap who shares part of my name has posted on SOLO about the Maori Party's attempt to place criminal gang members on the same level as Jews in Germany in the 1930s.
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The Maori Party has had a free run, because of the rather vacuous notion that it is difficult to criticise a party that attempts to define itself as being of a people rather than a philosophy. Except it IS a philosophy. It is nationalism, collectivism and with the possible exception of Pita Sharples on a good day, morally dubious. It has a highly privileged position in having part of Parliament defined on the same basis as it defines itself.
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Having said that, who doubts that, if he believes he needs to, John Key will sell out his principles and policies to the Maori Party for power. Actually sorry he wont do that anymore than I can sell out my ownership of the Isle of Man.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mbeki and China accessories to Mugabe's bloodshed

As despicable as Robert Mugabe's despotic machinations are to cling to power, steal and prop up his blood thirsty cronies, whilst bulldozing the bodies of ordinary Zimbabweans into the dust, a close second comes to his buddy - Thabo Mbeki - not an appeaser but a partner in the crimes against Zimbabwe. Mbeki by rights, should be persona non grater in international circles. However, South Africa at the moment chairs the UN Security Council, which doesn't particularly surprise me. After all, when Libya gets selected to go on the Human Rights Council it confirms the moral vacuousness of the UN, which has the moral heights of its lowest member.
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The UN, after all, including the People's Republic of China, repeatedly condemned apartheid as an hienous system - not hesitating to comment or pass resolutions regarding the internal affairs of South Africa - but not Zimbabwe.
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So Gordon Brown's call for "the world" to stop Mugabe stealing his election finally shows some backbone, supported by France. China regards this as an "internal matter", but then again China is far from the world's repositary of moral authority. Mbeki chaired the UN Security Council meeting where Brown made this call, and did not mention Zimbabwe. Mbeki despicable betrayal of Zimbabwe seen by his reported "snub" of Brown afterwards and condemnation of "loud diplomacy". Of course loud diplomacy was fine under apartheid - but Mbeki presumably supports the halving of life expectancy, the murders, the electoral fraud, or he insanely believes his wealthy thug of a friend that it is all a conspiracy. This may explain it, given Mbeki's retarded views on AIDS and HIV, he may simply be an idiot who is friends with a bullying fraudster.
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Mbeki's role as "mediator" for Zimbabwe is completely ridiculous. It would be like appointing Mussolini to mediate between the Nazis and the Jews. Morgan Tsvangarai has called for Mbeki to stand down in this role - it is critical that this gets widespread support. Mbeki is known for believing AIDS isn't caused by HIV, but by poverty. This ludicrous notion has undoubtedly killed many South Africans who believed that, with HIV, they could act with impunity.
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He says claims of serious violent crime are exaggerated, apparently 50 murders a day - the second highest rate in the world, isn't bad enough for Thabo Mbeki. Perhaps 100 a day, well apparently Zimbabwe's death rate isn't an issue. He is a quiet man who not only is in denial about his own countries biggest problems (AIDS, crime and now electricity shortages), but is an accessory to murder and a constitutional coup by Mugabe and his Zanu-PF thugs. South Africa's post-apartheid moral leadership of the continent has been lost because of its siding with one of the continents biggest living kleptocratic thugs. It is complete evasion to claim, as Guardian columnist Blessing-Miles Tendi does that this is about South Africa respecting state sovereignty and non-intervention - South Africa is intervening, it choses to let constitutional law in its neighbour to proceed. It treats and warmly embraces the man undertaking it - Thabi Mbeki is embracing a murdering tyrant, and that makes him only one step better.
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Meanwhile the latest step is China - as it seeks to claim the moral highground over the Olympics- is now shipping arms to Zimbabwe, as a Chinese ship has docked in Durban South Africa for transhipment to Zimbabwe. If you wanted another reason to oppose the Beijing Olympics, then enjoy noting that while Zimbabweans starve, Zanu-PF, the army and the police can put them out of their misery with Chinese made arms. Of course, South Africa wont stop the arms shipment will it?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Helen Clark defends Winston Peters?

So the PM thinks that it is notable that Winston Peters doesn’t trust National. Well that’s hardly a surprise, but she selected a man who leads a racist party to be Minister of Foreign Affairs.

What would immigrants, particularly Asian ones, think of how cozy Clark is being with Peters?
and more importantly, why should anyone trust the Prime Minister when she has to deny the tactic promoted by Mike Williams - Labour Party President - member of various government boards - to use the public sectors' resources for political campaigning?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Greens oppose competition for government companies

Green MP Sue Bradford in the typical "Nanny State knows best" fashion of the Greens has said in her press release against privatisation that despite John Key's decision to have a privatisation policy to the left of the British Labour Party..
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"Key's assurances say nothing about opening up state assets to private competition"
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So the Greens now believe that state owned enterprises should actually be monopolies? She witters on about ACC - the only example in the world of a state monopoly for personal injury by accident cover, and as a result one with the worst payouts. If you're a student doctor and have injuries that prevent you ever being a surgeon you'll get compensation equivalent to you pay as a student - not what you would have lost. You can't sue of course, because that's not allowed in the happy socialist world of "no fault", even if someone drove drunk into you.
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Bradford's view presumably means she thinks that NZ Post should have a statutory monopoly again (the Alliance did vote against it), Air New Zealand surely should have domestic routes to itself, and private companies shouldn't be selling electricity, so bye bye Contact Energy and Trustpower. We know the Greens aren't friends of privately provided health and education, so presumably private hospitals and independent schools should go. Banking is more complicated, because presumably Kiwibank shouldn't have to face private competition.
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So in other words it's ok for the state to rip you off, provide poor service and shut out competitors, because competition is "bad" unless it is the evil private sector facing it. Presumably if you get bad service from the "people's" hospital, you should complain to your MP who will fix it - you know how effective that has been.
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The Greens don't like monopolies except ones that you, the taxpayers have to fund, and which are owned by the big brother state they want to control and grow.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Auckland local government?

It doesn't matter how you want to slice the Auckland local government cake - it is still cholesterol laden and tasteless. It's too big. Arguments about the best structure avoid the first point - what should local government do? Labour and the Greens believe it should have the power to do just about whatever it wishes, this means running businesses, supplying housing, regulating and planning as much as it can get away with. I believe that, at the most, it should provide a transitional role in defining property rights, administering public space and divesting itself of activities that could be done by the private sector and voluntarily.
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What does National believe?
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It could start by restricting local authorities to only being custodians of arms length commercially or cost recovery run water, sewage, stormwater, rubbish collection and public parks, with planning authority only to enforce private property rights. It could transfer roads to companies with adjacent property owners owning the shares and paying access fees. However, most of all local government needs to be limited. The current review of Auckland governance ignores this, and attributes blame for Auckland problems on the wrong arrangement of councils - when the real blame is the meddling of councils and their inability to carry out well some of the functions they are entrusted with. The poor turnout at local body elections show what little interest many people have in local government and how poorly representative it is of "the community".
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So first decide what local government should or shouldn't do. What do YOU think? Would Auckland be worse off if Auckland Regional Council was abolished?

Labour's Zimbabwe election tactics?

If anything should justify universal outrage about Labour it is the report in the NZ Herald that it plans to sidestep the Electoral Finance Act, by using YOUR money through the once politically independent state sector. These come from confidential strategy notes apparently distributed at the Labour Party Congress.
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According to the NZ Herald "in a private session on the election strategy, run by president Mike Williams, delegates were advised to distribute pamphlets on KiwiSaver produced by the Inland Revenue Department and on Working for Families produced by Work and Income. They were also advised to tell voters when handing out the pamphlets that National voted against both measures."
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So Labour wants to use taxpayer funded leaflets about government policy to campaign - how very convenient. Of course all public servants are expected to declare to the Chief Executive their political affiliations - all such public servants should simply not be permitted to remove from their work large numbers of publicity material for political purposes.
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This, of course, was always the problem with the nonsense about "buying elections" with private money. The incumbent government can always "buy elections" with the resources of government departments directly or indirectly, and it is compulsorily funded by taxpayers whether they support them or not.
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So will Nicky Hagar write a book about Labour's strategy to buy the next election? Oh no, that's right, that "journalist" wants Labour to win. Meanwhile, watch Labour's blogging lackeys deny it, say the Herald is a rightwing rag or claim that it's been misinterpreted. Anything for power right?

John there IS an alternative - make the argument

So John Key has been reported by Stuff as saying that National has "ruled out" state asset sales in its next term. Why? Well don't expect any thought about it - it's simple, Key doesn't believe in much another than getting elected. Fair enough some of you will say. However, some of us want to think that he'll DO something other than not be Helen Clark and not make things worse.
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Of course, Helen Clark is having him for toast on this. "Miss Clark said Mr Key's stance was "laughable" and could not be trusted." It is and I actually hope it can't. I hope he DOES engage in asset sales, because there is so much the state shouldn't do.
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There are multiple reasons why the state should privatise its commercial operations, and why the abject lies spread by the left about privatisation should be confronted. Here are some:
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1. Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to invest in businesses they don't want to invest in.
2. Politically appointed boards will be less competent than privately appointed boards, because politicians have incentives to meddle and make a company less profitable than it would be otherwise - which then means there is a bigger chance of a bail out.
3. The state should not be engaged in competing with the private sector. It is unfair for private competitors to fund state owned companies through taxes.
4. Private companies can more readily raise capital to invest, update and expand than state ones - this explains why Contact Energy seems more able to fund and build power stations than its competitors.
5. Businesses SHOULD be allowed to fail if they don't perform. It's part of capitalism and the world moves on, and new businesses buy the assets and provide services for people to use. This happened to TV3 in 1991, not that most of you will remember that. Australia was hardly crippled by the collapse of Ansett.
6. Privatisation can provide new expertise and capital to grow and develop businesses. Telecom and Contact Energy are two examples of this. The refusal to allow Singapore Airlines to do the same thing for Air New Zealand is one of the reasons the firm fell over.
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However, arguments about better performance, getting more investment and accountability will not work with most of the public. Even arguing selling SOEs to cut public debt wont wash that much, although it is still valid. John Key could advocate privatisation of a more direct kind - give away the shares.
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Imagine if National offered to give shares to every single citizen, in equal numbers to avoid arguments, in one current SOE. This would be true public ownership. Everyone would own shares, get dividends and watch the value rise and drop - and could decide whether to sell, buy more, and appreciate a little what it means to own business. Oh and the socialists could give the shares away to their favourite charity, not that they would of course.
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So go on John, say you'll sell just one of the three government electricity SOEs (no monopolies here, there are around seven electricity generating firms) like Genesis - with 40% of the shares going in a public float and the rest shares distributed to all citizens. The firm buying 40% would provide the expertise and capital injection, the rest would mean all citizens could vote for directors, attend AGMs and truly own shares.
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How many Labour voters would vote to get their shares? How would it change how people felt about capitalism being all shareholders? Watch how Labour and the rest of the left would say the poor would simply sell the shares - showing their contempt for their own supporters - assuming they are all stupid or that it is wrong to give them a part of the beloved state THEY can control.
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Go on John, it's worth a shot. You could make privatisation NOT a dirty word.

Where is Nelson Mandela?

According to the Sunday Times, Mugabe's murdering self styled "war veterans" are back on the rampage, brutally attacking the handful of remaining white farmers, and black farmers accused of supporting non Zanu-PF candidates:
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"When the trunk stopped they punctured the tyres, dragged the farmer out, cuffed his hands behind his back and drove him away in another vehicle. At one point one of the war veterans put a wire noose round his neck and began to strangle him. He stopped before it was too late. Meanwhile, the police had been alerted and managed to persuade the war veterans to release their prisoner"
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Charming indeed, for a 76 year old man to endure. However, Mugabe's thieving murdering lackeys fear him losing for fear they will be held to account for their own crimes. The Sunday Times also reports that "meticulous records kept on filein a special archive in the Reserve Bank could be used against them". This includes the army chief Constantine Chiwenga, the Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, and many other high ranking military officials and politburo members. Air Vice Marshal Henry Muchena was reported as saying that Zanu PF " did not fight a liberation war to have Zimbabweans vote incorrectly".
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Meanwhile, there are to be recounts of results in 23 constituencies, 22 at the call of Zanu-PF. The appeasers of the Southern African Development Community, which represents 14 countries in southern Africa couldn't even agree that there IS an emergency - at best useless inert nobodies, at worst mates with Mugabe all with blood on their hands.
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So while Thabo Mbeki does nothing while black Zimbabweans starve, get beaten up, tortured and bullied, where is his predecessor? Nelson Mandela - the great hero of South Africa, who was rightly feted for having allowed a peaceful transition from fascist apartheid rule to relatively open non-racial liberal democracy?
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Why is he silent when fellow Africans are being so appallingly mistreated, lied to, cheated and killed by Comrade Mugabe? Well the ANC is wilfully blind to electoral fraud, putting out press releases like this, which ignore any claims of fraud, bias or intimidation. According to the Helen Suzman Foundation, the South African media is largely craven in its unwillingness to criticise Zimbabwe, because the ANC wont. It calls for targeted sanctions.
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but it wont happen. Mandela COULD speak up, he could call for Robert Mugabe to step aside, for international monitors of a free and fair runoff election with no intimidation, and for failure to follow this to be a reason for South Africa to impose targeted sanctions. He wont, and this makes him, as one commentator put it, a fallen hero.
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Robert Mugabe has created more damage, death, pain and suffering than Ian Smith's racist minority regime ever did - it is a damning indictment on Mandela, Mbeki and the ANC that Mugabe's past support for the fight against apartheid excuses his murderous tyranny. When human rights campaigners criticise China for propping up Myanmar and Sudanese tyrannies, they might start aiming criticism at South Africa for doing the same thing.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Woe betide those going to Lincoln University to study transport

You really have to wonder how Lincoln University's Professor of Transport Studies Chris Kissling gets any sort of credibility. I've been in the transport sector for over eight years now, and the times I mentioned Lincoln University's courses I tended to be looked at funny, and the more I heard about it, the more I knew why. They are courses that have a marginal connection to economics, and are more akin to the fantasies of fanatics than an interest in the commercial and individual needs of transport users and producers. I'd gently suggest that anyone thinking about spending NZ$140 on the book noted in this article in Stuff, consider how much better off they would be going here and downloading this study, which will tell more about transport for free than the writings of academics who are ignored by those who provide transport and (hopefully still) by those who advise government on it. Frankly Kissling needs to do some basic economics, and perhaps get some help. The claims of the future sound like the ramblings of an enthusiastic 12 year old - but remember, your taxes pay for this guy to teach!
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Let's take the Stuff article to test some of what they say:
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"The driverless, or electronically chauffeured, car is already being tested on designated roads in California. Kissling expects it to be carrying commuters in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch by the 2030s...Kissling says the retro-fitting of cables for broadband internet has shown the system could be applied at any time." Well driverless cars for motorways are indeed feasible, but retrofitting highways to allow it is some way off. If he really did follow this he'd look at the Vehicle Infrastructure Integration project involving US vehicle manufacturers and the US Federal Government, which is about installing intelligent equipment on new vehicles, it is not about "using wires laid under the roads". Why do you need that when there is GPS?
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"within 25 years, he hopes to see a light-rail commuter system operating in Christchurch. This will include the use of existing rail corridors from Dunsandel and Rangiora....trains will bring commuters as far as suburban transfer stations, where passengers will switch to buses which will run on dedicated road lanes to the city centre. Smooth transfers and speedy travel will entice commuters away from their cars. Kissling says big spending will be necessary to establish such systems but "private motoring as we do it now is unsustainable". Oh dear. Why? What's wrong with efficient low emission buses, or does it justify paying the enormous premium of light rail over buses? Since when did transferring modes "entice" people away from cars? Why is private motoring unsustainable? Assertions with no evidence, like a Green Party wishlist with the taxpayer paying for something they wont use.
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"Another 25-year scenario is the development of "smart" clothes. These could incorporate miniature computers which would open doors on command and steer people around hazardous places" Yes, the decades of infrared detectors and electric treadle mats with electronic doors must have escaped him at Lincoln University. Nothing like being "steered" by your clothes is there? Now I'm worried, is this guy sane?
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"Kissling does not discount "smart" clothing incorporating wings that will allow people to "fly" above busy streets -- but that is beyond his 25-year outlook." Well add another zero to 25 years. Why would you even mention Daedalus and Icarus type ideas?
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"His 25-year outlook includes computer-controlled carparking systems which remove the need for drivers to carry cash. Kerb-mounted devices will scan the number plates of cars as they park, calculate the time spent parked and charge the cost to the vehicles' owners." Well done, but not 25 years. Go to baa.com and you too can do this today, in the UK, at airport car parks.
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"Kissling objects to aspects of Christchurch's parking system. The "early bird" provision, charging a lower rate for parking all day in a parking building, while giving access to the best parks at ground-floor level, is contrary to transport policy, he says. The lack of integration between civic and privately owned parking buildings in signage telling motorists of spaces available is confusing to visitors, he says." So they should be nationalised should they? Contrary to transport policy, well we should fix that shouldn't we? So Kissling is a bit of a fascist, if you own property and get best use charging people low prices for all day usage, it shouldn't be allowed. Actually his concern is congestion - which is about how roads are managed, not parking. However, he seems to never mention road pricing - funny that.
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"His 25-year view includes electronic check-in with "a walk-through portal in front of a camera lens" that scans passengers." Visited an airport lately? Electronic checkin is the norm, and the IRIS system at many UK airports bypasses immigration checks. Hardly revolutionary.
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"Kissling's wish-list for transport in New Zealand includes "serious investment" in railways, to broaden curves, smooth gradients and widen tunnels. Only then could trains run at speeds to challenge road haulage, he says." Go on Kissling, "invest". Explain why people who don't use railways should do this? By what insane economic analysis does this make sense?
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"There is a place for swift rail (like Japan's bullet trains) in New Zealand, from Auckland to Hamilton and perhaps Tauranga." Cost? Business case? Thought not. Utterings from a train fanatic with no basis in economic reality.
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"He says coastal shipping suffers from unequal competition with international shipping lines, while trucking benefits from paying an inadequate amount towards highway building and maintenance." However users benefit from the cheap cost of sea freight cabotage using ships that are already moving between domestic ports, which he ignores. Where does he get that trucks pay an "inadequate amount" towards highway building and maintenance? If he is true, why not increase those charges? No, let's pour billions into railways!
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"Kissling's and Tiffin's new book has been greeted in other countries for presenting a global context for transport and analysing many issues involved." Well the Observer in the UK has reviewed it glowingly (idiots), and that has noted some more mad ideas:
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"Pilotless planes would be flown closer together, automatically rerouted to avoid bad weather, and would be less vulnerable to hijackers. · Passengers would be given sleeping pills and stacked horizontally on beds" Great! Because pilots don't reroute planes around bad weather already, and because pilotless planes can't be hijacked, and we all want to take drugs and travel like freight. Funny how he isn't predicting low emissions carbon fibre planes, oh sorry that's real.
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but surely the best is this "Virtual reality technology would allow people to meet in cyberspace, saving travel for more personal occasions"
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Amazing, a book written in 2007 predicting video conferencing and.. the internet.
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So if you are planning on studying transport at Lincoln University I'd suggest, gently, don't. If the Professor engages in flights of fancy that are either economic nonsense, technical nonsense or... already existing, then you really don't want to spoil your CV by looking like you've had your head filled with such adolescence.