Friday, February 27, 2009

Ryugyong hotel being completed?



Not PC describes it as the worst building in the world. Wikipedia tells about its abortive history. The building that looks like a shard of glass has fallen from the sky or shot itself out of the ground.

However, someone has decided to upgrade it. Egyptian company Orascom is refurbishing it to make it a tower for cellular phone service. Quite how many customers it expects for the phones or the hotels is a mystery especially since most citizens are not permitted a private phone (for obvious reasons), and tourism is rather low. So now we have pictures of it being clad in glass (right).

Scaffolding at the top presumably to allow telecommunications equipment to be installed. Although the rusty crane that has been at the top for around 20 years appears to be there (imagine the worker who was in there - and had to get down).

It has been described as the worst property investment ever by the Times. It apparently will be finished by 2012, which tells me either Orascom knows something nobody else does, or it has far too much money.

Jobs summit outcomes?

I agree with most of what Not PC has already suggested here, here and here, as an alternative view to the Jobs Summit. These are:
- Government should get out of the way;
- Government should resist pressures for protectionism (one positive thing it COULD do is lobby hard internationally to reboot the Doha Round to make the biggest push for free trade since the 1950s);
- Production drives the economy, not consumption. Precious little government does encourages production. As Government spending takes money out of the hands of the productive, there should be further tax cuts. I'd suggest simply dropping company tax to 20%. What better signal to the world to locate to NZ?
- Abandon the minimum wage;
- Cut government salaries;
- Allow malinvestments to be liquidated;
- Restrict the Reserve Bank's ability to inflate the currency;
and so on.

However, in one respect I DO digress from PC, I do NOT believe all government spending is consumption. It is possible for government to spend money and generate more wealth than it spent. However, this really only happens in two areas:

1. Spending money on capitalising SOEs to expand. A very risky endeavour indeed. Singapore does it well, but you'd question whether NZ governments ever can do it well. Air NZ and Kiwirail being Labour's greatest dud investments.

2. Spending money collected from consumers of a government service to benefit those consumers beyond the cost of the spending. I mean roads. The private sector is almost entirely shut out of providing roads, so government taxes road users and can spend that money on improving roads to reduce delays, wasted fuel, accidents etc. For example, the widening of the highway through Paremata-Plimmerton north of Wellington generated savings in travel time, fuel etc of around $5 for every $1 spent on it. The dangerous side to this is politicians get excited about roads too much, and want to spend money on the ones that DON'T do that. Transmission Gully and the Helen Clark Memorial tunnel (aka Waterview Connection) are examples of this. Japan is littered with such bridges of the sort Henry Hazlitt referred to.

In short, if anyone is advocating spend up on projects, they need a seriously rigorous piece of economic analysis. Will the project really generate wealth based on proven demand, what is the risk contingency on this. If there is a reasonable risk it wont generate at least $2 for each $1 spent over a 20 year period then it isn't worth doing. Sadly the ideas that have come out include the insane idea for a cycleway (although if the government was rational about Kiwirail it mind find it has plenty of corridors for one) and the Green Party's rather predictable favourites.

However, regardless of the economic efficiency of government spending it does not justify it morally. Theft is still theft. I undoubtedly think I can spend your money better than you can, but it hardly justifies me doing so does it?

Finally, it is tragically notable that the leftwing commentary on the Jobs Summit has been virtually nothing about substance or policy (with the exception of the Greens. The Greens played the identity politics card and then ideas), but about identity politics. The Standard showed pictures of men, said everyone has an ideology (true), damns the cycleway (but forgets that Labour started pouring money into cycleways itself) and makes a few comments about what was said. However no new ideas. Idiot Savant goes on about men, and then damns the cycleway (yet this is Green Party policy), and goes on about identity politics again. Hand Mirror thinks it shows John Key does not value women. Apparently women can't be represented by organisations that are open to them and include them.

Not enough women, not enough people of different races. Apparently if you have a vagina or differently coloured skin it means you have different ideas. Those don't come from a brain. If you don't feel represented there, then say so - it isn't because there aren't enough women, Maori, Koreans, blondes, cross-dressers, asthmatics, pianists, vegetarians, balloon fetishists, dancers, nudists or twins - it is about ideas. The truth is that if the summit was full of leftwing women, which would surely cheer many on, the ideas are unlikely to be about getting government out of the way of the productive.

Most of those at the summit were there because it showed they were wanting to work with the government, and because they wanted some booty from the rest of you.

Like I said before, the Fourth Labour Government had an economic summit conference shortly after it was elected, and promptly ignored most of what came out of it. That seems the appropriate precedent.

UPDATE: I see the whingy 23yo unemployed woman who thought the world owed her a living at the Lange Economic Summit Conference, Jane Stevens, retains her Marxist view of the world in the Herald. Given she works for an organisation partly supported by taxpayers and ratepayers, I'm hardly surprised. Shame her passion and commitment didn't teach her that the government produces nothing, and that the free market generates wealth.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Sending freedom messages to North Korea

A Japanese organisation advocating for victims of abduction by North Korea is calling for people to send spam faxes to North Korean fax numbers, in order to facilitate change and revolution.

The blog post above includes the fax numbers, suggests you send a message in Korean only with a photo of Kim Jong Il - because it is illegal to throw away images of the General Secretary. The message should not be confrontational, but be about sending factual information, making the recipient think, and it is important the faxes be individualised.

It IS an innovative approach. Takes a bit of effort to get some Korean written by those who do not know the language, and it isn't cheap. North Korea charges a lot of money to terminate any fax calls in its country (after all that's foreign currency it can earn from overseas telcos).

Imagine if you were in a totalitarian state, knew little better and received a fax from overseas that told you that some of the things your government told you were a lie. Would you tell anyone else? Would you keep it secretly? Would you send a response?

Obama's deficit, spend and tax budget

So President Obama has released his budget. If you believe the hype it would be different, well I guess it is:

- US$1.75 trillion deficit. You just can't begin to imagine how big that is. 12.3% of GDP. He's going to reduce it to US$533 billion by 2013. Wont hear him talking about mortgaging children though;
- He wants to spend US$3.6 trillion, around US$25,000 per taxpayer. However he says he doesn't believe in big government;
- He wants to spend US$634 billion on a health care reserve fund, to introduce socialised health care, though you might wonder whether if every taxpayer spent that around US$2000 a head on health insurance they would be more than covered;
- He wants to increase taxes on the rich (spit on them all of course) those earning over US$250,000 to around 40%;
- He wants to cut military spending, largely as a result of withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan;
- He wants to create a cap and trade programme for CO2 emissions that the Federal government will profit from.

Change you can believe in? Or is it just change people are left with when they and their children face this monumental debt to repay? He says he doesn't believe in big government. Who is he kidding?

£15 London-New York return plus taxes

Yep, that's where airfares have gone. Virgin Atlantic announced today it was selling seats in riff raff class at the lowest marginal price in ages. £15 is barely enough to cover the cost of loading an additional meal.

Now to be fair, another £50.30 comprise taxes and levies from the US side, and £55.30 comprises taxes and levies in the UK, plus £106 Fuel surcharge (which goes to Virgin Atlantic).

So it's really £121 fare plus taxes. Still this is a fare to simply recover costs, and let's be clear airlines don't make money on the Atlantic in economy class. A full economy class section loses money for Virgin Atlantic if it carries nearly no one in premium economy class and upper class.

So it's not just the drop in bankers flying the Atlantic.

and don't forget, landing slots at Heathrow are allocated somewhat on a "use it or lose it" provision, so Virgin has to fly the flights to hold onto the slots - which of course are worth a fortune when there isn't a recession!

Jobs Summit?

I largely loathe meetings, unless it is an occasion to tell people what I think and what to do. If I want to know what others think, I'd rather read or hear about it one on one. The bigger the meeting, the less productive it is, because the intelligent people have their time curtailed by the fools.

Having a talkshop about how to create jobs is like having any sort of meeting.

Meetings are where people talk about doing something, not actually doing it.

Imagine a reproduction summit interested in boosting the number of babies. Think how much more productive people would be simply going out and doing it.

So ask yourself this. Are the people at the Jobs Summit (and those complaining they haven't been invited) people who ever create jobs anyway? Of those handful who do (business), wouldn't they be better off being entrepreneurial, or do they see this as a nice taxpayer subsidised excuse to network with others?

I remember the fourth Labour Government, which had Summit Conferences on the economy, Maori and even railways. None of which did ANY good, except make the unproductive feel warm and fuzzy. You see after all that, David Lange, Roger Douglas and co did what was best for the economy, ignoring most of the views expressed at the Economic Summit Conference.

John Key and Bill English could do worse than just sit down with Roger Douglas and listen. They might learn something.

Dr Cullen and Air NZ

Well it is worthwhile noting both Air NZ's drop in profit and the pending retirement of Dr Cullen. Especially given it is entirely because of Dr. Cullen that you all have a share in Air NZ's future, a piece of history the left conveniently whitewashes over. You see what happened back when Air NZ was in crisis is something that SHOULD have brought Labour down in the 2002 election, but Bill English was too inept, and the mainstream media lacked sufficient journalistic talent and nouse to research it properly. Fortunately, almost all of the relevant papers are now on the Treasury website.

The pro-Labour history around this is simple:
- Air NZ made a bad investment in Ansett Australia;
- Air NZ needed a capital injection to save Ansett and expand its business;
- Two airlines offered this, Singapore Airlines and Qantas;
- As the government was considering both deals, the airline went into crisis;
- This was exacerbated by 9/11 and the global drop in air travel;
- Had Labour let things go, Air NZ would have gone into receivership, damaging tourism and resulting in the end of long haul flights with a NZ brand on them, hurting tourism further. There wouldn't have been flights to many centres in NZ;
- Dr Cullen bravely saved the airline, but required it dump the Australian liability Ansett;
- Then Dr Cullen wisely sought an international partner for the airline in the form of Qantas, because it "makes sense" to have a single South Pacific dominant carrier against the "world".

In other words, the private sector cocked up, and while the government was considering bids for investing in the airline, it was going to fold, and Dr Cullen saved the day. Much of that is nonsense.

That version of history misses out a few facts, facts that demonstrate that the whole situation came about because first the Australian then the New Zealand government stuffed up:

- Air NZ invested in Ansett Australia because the Australian government reneged on a deal for an "open skies agreement" between Australia and NZ. Air NZ originally wanted to set up its own Australian domestic operation in competition with Ansett and the then Australian Airlines. The Australian government reneged on the deal (the famous fax from Laurie Brereton to Maurice Williamson) because it feared it would reduce the price it would get for selling Qantas (which was subsequently to merge with Australian Airlines);

- The Australian government made it clear that it would far prefer Air NZ invest in an established airline - but it was not allowed to invest in Qantas. So Air NZ bought 50% of Ansett in 1996, but was not permitted managerial control at that level of investment and Ansett was required to provide various "social services" (unprofitable routes);

- Increasing frustration with the management of Ansett saw Air NZ finally decide to buy the whole thing out. However it paid too much, it outbid Singapore Airlines as it had aspirations to grow to the size of Qantas. What it found with Ansett was an airline in desperate need of restructuring and new capital;

- Singapore Airlines, which already owned 25% of Air NZ sought to increase its investment to 49% of the airline group, as a capital injection in June 2001. This was unanimously supported by the Air NZ board, but needed support from the Kiwi shareholder - the Crown. Official advice was that issues from such foreign ownership were manageable and that it appeared this was the best option, but the government needed to act promptly.

- Qantas lobbied the New Zealand and Australian governments to oppose Singapore Airlines increasing its investment in Air NZ. Obvious of course that it was seeking to kneecap its biggest competitor. Official advice in June 2001 was against the proposal on competition grounds. The Air NZ board rejected the proposal and Singapore Airlines refused to sell its shareholding, effectively making the proposal academic. Qantas continued to lobby for it;

- In July Cabinet REJECTED the option preferred by Air NZ and officials, preferring either a part state/part Singapore Airlines shareholding or a Qantas takeover;

- Air NZ wrote to Dr Cullen saying that "it would seem that the Government has embarked on a high risk and speculative course that has the danger of putting the Air New Zealand group at risk". The then Acting Chairman warned of the "grave financial risk faced by Air New Zealand Ltd as a result of the current uncertainties;

- Dr Cullen tried to pursue a half and half option allowing some Singapore Airlines investment along with some Crown investment, which was bypassed as the Crown bought out the airline.

Oh and as a side note, the economic geniuses at the Greens believed Air NZ was NOT in a dire financial straight and opposed any new foreign investment, but promoted taxpayer shareholding.

Dr Cullen helped bankrupt Air NZ, because of his peculiar pursuit of the Qantas deal, and the delays in approving the Singapore Airlines investment proposal. You might ask yourself why Dr Cullen didn't like money from Singapore, but liked it from Australia. Not xenophobia surely?

While it is all a bit more complicated than that, the truth is that the slow progress of Dr Cullen and the interference of Qantas has cost the NZ taxpayer dearly, as well as Air NZ. The Greens didn't help either. Air NZ warned that the government's approach created grave risks, and it was right.

So when Dr Cullen steps down, it is worth remembering part of his legacy - the legacy of the lecturer who couldn't make a critical business decision, and surrendered a major strategic opportunity for Air NZ to be a significant airline.

and of course don't forget the Kiwirail deal of the century!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Obama slippery when cliched

So President Obama has done another apparently "inspiring speech". Count the cliches:

- We will rebuild, we will recover;
- What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more;
- Well that day of reckoning has arrived, and the time to take charge of our future is here;
- Now is the time to act boldly and wisely – to not only revive this economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting prosperity;
- But while the cost of action will be great, I can assure you that the cost of inaction will be far greater;
- History reminds us that at every moment of economic upheaval and transformation, this nation has responded with bold action and big ideas;
- For we know that America cannot meet the threats of this century alone, but the world cannot meet them without America.;
- For in our hands lies the ability to shape our world for good or for ill;
- Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause.

Blah blah. What REALLY is he doing? Propping up state education, subsidising the alternative energy sector and "reforming" health care. THAT's his plan. He shows NO understanding of why the economic crisis has occurred, making it an excuse to pursue his statist plans for energy, education and health.

He talks drivel about how the economic crisis occurred. "We have known for decades that our survival depends on finding new sources of energy. Yet we import more oil today than ever before". So what? That didn't create the recession, the price of oil is right down again.

"The cost of health care eats up more and more of our savings each year, yet we keep delaying reform" It is also some of the best health care in the world, people don't languish on waiting lists and while it needs reform, he remains empty on what that means. It isn't going to be free for free.

"Our children will compete for jobs in a global economy that too many of our schools do not prepare them for" Indeed, but he opposes competition in the education sector.

"we still managed to spend more money and pile up more debt, both as individuals and through our government, than ever before" yes and you've cut spending and Federal debt, hang on... oh and yes all individuals are to blame aren't they, justifies anything you do.

"we have lived through an era where too often, short-term gains were prized over long-term prosperity; where we failed to look beyond the next payment, the next quarter, or the next election" You mean like when you spend a fortune of future taxpayers' money to bail out businesses and "invest" in subsidies? What's this "we"?

"Regulations were gutted for the sake of a quick profit at the expense of a healthy market" such as? Nice leftwing rhetoric and that's it.

"People bought homes they knew they couldn’t afford from banks and lenders who pushed those bad loans anyway" However you want to bail them all out from their stupidity yet you talk responsibility??

"I asked this Congress to send me a recovery plan by President’s Day that would put people back to work and put money in their pockets. Not because I believe in bigger government – I don’t" However I don't mind it at all, and don't have any other solutions.

"I called for action because the failure to do so would have cost more jobs and caused more hardships" and will do so more in the future. You're guessing.

"More than 90% of these jobs will be in the private sector – jobs rebuilding our roads and bridges; constructing wind turbines and solar panels; laying broadband and expanding mass transit" Generating what economic benefits? Yep you don't know do you?

"I have appointed a proven and aggressive Inspector General to ferret out any and all cases of waste and fraud. And we have created a new website called recovery.gov so that every American can find out how and where their money is being spent." That website is so shallow it isn't funny.

" the budget I submit will invest in the three areas that are absolutely critical to our economic future: energy, health care, and education" Unlike property rights, law and order, roads, services, manufacturing and primary production. Why these three? Nothing.

"Well I do not accept a future where the jobs and industries of tomorrow take root beyond our borders" Code for "I'm an economic nationalist who believes in picking winners with subsidies".

" I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America." China's laughing, Al Gore is wetting himself in onanistic frenzy in his mansion.

" I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it. None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward." Easy to spend other people's money to prop up a failed sunset industry AND claim to be an environmentalist doing it.

"an American who has never stopped asking what he can do for his country – Senator Edward Kennedy" I believe the phrase "his country" would be more accurate if "his" was replaced with "young" and country had only one syllable.

"In order to save our children from a future of debt, we will also end the tax breaks for the wealthiest 2% of Americans" Note the term "break". As if they get out paying less than everyone else, when they pay much much more. The use of "children" to tug at heart strings.

He promises to cut spending, yet spends more. He talks of warning of protectionism, but has been caught out promoting it, and as a Senator positively voted for it. He talks about recovery, but is seeking to support the unionised federal education system, and fails to understand that government hinders growth and investment.

It's slippery, devious and it isn't change - it is a born again Carteresque socialism that believes in spending your way out of disaster, and talks about debt, without doing anything about it. He talks about avoiding earmarks, but so much of his recovery package was about propping up many Democrat cause celebres.

Obama can make a speech sound good, can plaster it with cliches that inspire the shallow personality cult followers, but behind it all should scare people. Scare them that the President thinks the crisis is about renewable energy, upgrading government schools and healthcare reform. He's so far off the mark it isn't funny, and his collectivist rhetoric should send chills down the spines of those who DON'T believe they borrowed too much, DON'T want to commit to another year of education and DON'T believe they owe anyone anything because of their existence.

UPDATE: Mark V. rightly points out in the comments that Obama's statement implying the USA invented the automobile is false, as it was invented in Germany and credited to Karl Benz. Will the left damn Obama for being ignorant and non-worldly for this mistake, as they would have thrown at Bush, or will they forgive the messiah, like he was forgiven for referring to 57 states? Of course, it will be forgotten and anyone reminding you of it in around 3.5 year's time will be treated as racist.

The filthy war on drugs

Will de Cleene blogs on the case of a 92 year old woman killed by the Atlanta Police during a botched drugs raid. So what happened?

- An officer got a "no knock" warrant to enter this woman's house, in other words smash in to the house, based on evidence that he falsified, following a fake tipoff;
- The officers smashed their way into the house, the elderly woman shot her own gun off as a warning shot, because she thought she was suffering a home invasion;
- They then sprayed her with bullets, and left her to die;
- Marijuana was then planted in her basement, to cover up what they did.

Another victim of the war on drugs, a victim of the maniacal attempts at performance quotas for Police to catch "criminals".

However, I guess it's ok to most people, as long as she isn't your mother, grandmother, wife, sister or friend.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hell in Swat - the Taliban's province in Pakistan

I wrote a week ago about the appeasement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Now David Khattakis of the Sunday Times is the first British journalist to enter the Taliban controlled zone, and he calls it a wasteland of blood and fear. Read his article, some of what he describes are:

- one can still see the remnants of the Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation’s flagship hotel. The building was blown up by the Taliban because it was being used for “un-Islamic activities”;
- The women’s clothes markets are either closed or show banners proclaiming: “Women are banned from entering this market.”;
- Barbers have pasted hand-written posters to their shop fronts saying: “Shaving a beard is unIslamic. We have stopped shaving beards. Please don’t visit the shop for a shave";
- all girls over the age of eight are banned from lessons and, in a symbol of the Taliban’s hatred of learning, the public library in Mingora has been wrecked;
- Snooker clubs and video game arcades have also been banned.

It banned English films on the privately owned cable TV network, then music channels, then any content with music, then content in local languages before finally shutting it down.

The appeasement of the Taliban in Pakistan is deeply disturbing, for it is unlikely to stop there. The vision of a Taliban ruled Pakistan may sound far fetched to some, but so was an Islamist Iran 40 years ago. I dearly hope the Pakistan government is simply preparing itself for a solid invasion and to recapture this territory - and it would be nice if there was broad Western support for this. The Taliban is a despicably evil organisation with stone age philosophy, it's about time that all friends of a liberal modern civilisation declared unerring support for its destruction.

David Walliams finds cure for depression


His 18 year old girlfriend reports the Daily Mail.

Her name is Lauren Budd, she's a model, they've been going out for a few months, and well, he's happy. No doubt most men will think good on him, lots of women will hate him, but he's having fun, she's having fun. For a man who is clearly troubled, but is funny and is rather well off, who can be too surprised?

I happened to see him in a corner shop in Belsize Park, London a couple of years ago, although was rather furtive. Unsurprising given the stalker he had at the time!

Britain's Islamist underworld

Idiot Savant rightly praises the release of Binyam Mohamed who was allegedly tortured in Pakistan and Morocco before being sent to Guantanamo Bay. David Aaronovitch of the Times agrees with the release given the maltreatment of Mohamed, though he is sceptical about what Mohamed was doing, and is more concerned about appeasement of Islamists by the UK.

He quotes a former MI6 agent, Alastair Crooke:

Crooke's point seemed to be that we in the West could learn a lot from Islamism, since it was, in some ways, morally superior to our fly-blown, materialist, individualist societies. Islamism, as practised by Hezbollah, Hamas and President Ahmadinejad, was saying something profound “about the essence of man”. He went on: “It is not just about violence or a whimsical reaction to modernity, it is a new way of seeing our existence...” Islamists wanted “a society based on compassion and justice”.

As Aaronovitch says "Then a piece of apologia that would have impressed any old Communist: “There are many mistakes... the Iranians would admit this isn't the finished article.”"

Meanwhile, former Islamist Ed Husain is concerned that mosques in the UK are run by first generation migrants:

Britain's mosques are run by men who are physically in Britain, but psychologically in Pakistan. They retain their village rituals and sectarianism, and prevent the growth of an indigenous British Islam. And for as long as young Muslims are confused about whether they belong in Britain or elsewhere, we risk handing them over to preying extremists in our midst.

Meanwhile those training to be imams and elders are overwhelmingly in seminaries that are Islamist in outlook:

Of the 27 or so Muslim seminaries or dar ul uloom in Britain, 25 come from the austere, Deobandi tradition - the preferred school of the Taleban. So while British soldiers risk their lives in Afghanistan, in British Muslim seminaries we allow the teaching of intolerance, unequal treatment of women, religious rigidity, the banning of music and theatre, and an end to free mixing of the sexes.

So how less than dominant is moderate Islam then? Husain is concerned that UK mosques and government ignorance about them is providing an environment to foster Islamist bigotry.

The Daily Telegraph reported in the weekend that some Muslim schools in the UK teach kids to never befriend Christians and Jews, and ban music, chess and cricket.

Check out this school:

Al-Mu'min Primary School in Bradford is linked to the al-Mu'min journal, which carries material from schoolchildren. Its website teaches that Western culture is "evil", photographs are "an evil practice of the unbelievers", and that "the person who plays chess is like one who dips his hand in the blood of a swine".

But here's a sample of the Ofsted report: "Al-Mumin Primary School provides a good education for its pupils and ensures that they have good attitudes and a very good work ethic... The provision made for the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils is outstanding."

According to the local Telegraph and Argus paper in Bradford, the links have been taken down, but the school did not respond to queries. The al-Mu'min website is also down.

Of course, I firmly believe private schools can do as they wish, as long as they receive no funding or privileges from the state, but if they are fomenting treason, and promoting bigotry, shouldn't it be transparent? Shouldn't they be subject to scrutiny? After all, if the BNP wanted to set up schools that taught not to associate with non-whites, and promoted an ideology of cultural superiority (and denigration of others), you think that would be tolerated for one moment?

Let's call it a debt

So those who committed these crimes, have to pay it off. In full. As a charge upon their earnings.

For one step that could be constructively taken against criminals is suing them for compensation, and if they do not have enough assets to pay, then make it a debt upon their earnings until it is paid. This is called internalising the externalities of crime.

Imagine if the useless shits who went on their vandalism spree of NZ$30,000, split five ways, had to pay NZ$6,000 each. If they couldn't make it within 12 months they'd be charged 15% interest p.a. on whatever they paid afterwards. Up to half of their income, including benefits could be required to pay for this.

In the Shut the F Up file

Whaleoil reports on how unemployed ex.never was a Cabinet Minister, Judith Tizard, is slamming the government for delaying enactment of the Copyright Act amendment that she screwed up.

Radiolive reports Tizard saying "artists and musicians are being robbed of their livelihoods by illegal downloads"

Given that:
a. Labour and commentators across the political spectrum are damning the appalling mismanagement of this issue, essentially by her; and
b. She was part of a government that has as its raison d'etre robbing people of their livelihoods in part to pay for the livelihoods of artists and musicians who couldn't earn a living selling their art and music to willing buyers...

I think it's time for Judith to do what she said on election night, and have a quiet life.

Protection of intellectual property is very important, but Tizard has proven she doesn't have the competence to be respected on this issue. Other people are trying to fix your mess Judith. A little humility would go a long way.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Amnesty silent over Hamas encouraging child martyrs

So Amnesty International, once a proud defender of free speech, the right to a fair trial and an open liberal society is now calling for an arms embargo on Israel and Hamas. It calls the rocket attacks by Hamas, and Israel's overwhelming response both illegal and immoral.

The fact Hamas started it is, of course, besides the point.

However, what particularly grates is the political imperative behind Amnesty in making this call. It knows it will go nowhere, primarily because the US wont isolate Israel. Imagine if Israel DID suffer an arms embargo. Might that embolden Iran? Which wants Israel wiped off the map, and is developing a nuclear weapons capability. No, Amnesty is silent about that. Wouldn't Hezbollah then start attacks? No, Amnesty doesn't care about that. Idiot Savant thinks it would help. It's incredibly naive to think that. Hamas is fundamentally evil, it should send shivers through the bones of any liberal minded person in the West to think of such people gaining power - much like neo-Nazis. Sadly, the left just sees someone fighting Israel and turns a blind eye.

More importantly, has Amnesty raised concerns about how Hamas encourages children to be martyrs?



No. Amnesty KNOWS the debate wont be about isolating Hamas and Hezbollah, two organisations that if they ever got into power would be egregious violators of human rights. They would oppress non-Muslims, they would discriminate against women, and brutally suppress non-Islamist politicians, media or speech. Amnesty wont say that.

So fuck them. I'll tell the next naive student who asks me to support Amnesty that I wont as long as it refuses to campaign against Islamism, and while we are at it, it remains next to silent about North Korea's gulags which enslave children.

Farewell to the wolf in sheep's clothing

The departure of Jeanette Fitzsimons from Parliament has produced understandable fawning from the Greens, as she was an asset to that party. An asset only due to the inept vapidness of so much of the media that this earnest, hard working, but not very bright woman is seen as the most trusted politician in the country. The left are uncritical of her, and DPF hasn't a bad thing to say which Cactus Kate rightfully pulls him into line over.

While the Greens obviously love her, the way most of the media have not applied scrutiny over this MP absolutely disgusts me.

The public face of Jeanette Fitzsimons demonstrates that mental emptiness in the media, as public sector officials I knew who dealt with her found her honest in her intentions, someone who listened, but also not the sharpest knife in the kitchen. Although she could bring out the knife when she wanted to.

Her image hid the fact that she led a party that has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for initiating force. The peace and non-violence of the Greens are an absolute farce, as it is the party that most avidly promotes the state increasing the scale and extent of force it applies to people and their property.

I fisked her a while back
because of her sheer stupidity:

- She doesn't understand trade. I recall many years ago she once said how bad it was that ships went from country to country, passing each other, when people could just enjoy the things they make in their own country;
- She worships at the altar of the religion of rail. She pushed to make you subsidise long distance passenger trains that she, of course, never uses. Seen her use the Overlander from Wellington to Auckland lately?;
- She led a campaign of irrational scaremongering about genetic engineering, that is akin to saying electricity should be kept in the lab because it hasn't been proved safe yet. ;
- It is ten years since she said it was the last Christmas you could eat potatoes you could trust;
- She doesn't believe in private property rights, talking often about "our land";
- She promotes the anti-nuclear hysteria;
- She promotes hysteria over global warming and the belief that the only way to address it is through austerity, not prosperity and technology;
- She demands private companies be split up to allow competition, but state ones be made into statutory monopolies;
- She spread malicious lies that Don Brash wanted to smash Maori culture and force women to be subservient to men.

There is much more than can be laid at the feet of the wolf in sheep's clothing. She looks like and generally talks like she wouldn't hurt a fly, but the truth is that she has been a force against reason, against science, against economics, against individual rights and has happily used personal attacks when she saw fit to do so.

She is a simpering vapid scaremongerer. New Zealanders should be pleased this nice but dim woman has not been in Cabinet, and has at the most dabbled around the edges of power rather than been in control of it.

A little bit of scrutiny might have asked why someone who says:

“We want more people to share the secret of real happiness and satisfaction in life, which comes not from having more but from being more, and from being part of a society that values all its members, and values the land, the water and the other species with which we share them.

wants to use force to do this.

So farewell Jeanette, you've been very lucky. However, not as lucky as everyone else who has largely avoided the crippling irrational authoritarianism of your policies.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Another reason to avoid Ryanair

Ryanair launches in-flight mobile phone calls

Now I've never flown this airline that exists largely for the lager lout, chav, cheap weekend student and typical Brit drink/shag hedonistically weekend market (and to be fair all the eastern European workers who live in the UK and rightly prefer to fly instead of getting a bus to Romania - yes you can get a bus from London to Romania!).

Some of those using it paying bugger all moan incessantly about why they got no ground service, why Ryanair reschedules flights at times that the trains and buses from the airport stop running, they can't board because they are too late checking in when it is 90 minutes before the flight. You get what you pay for.

I've read enough about Ryanair to know that while Michael O'Leary is a business genius for running a safe cheap and nasty airline, it isn't aiming at those of us willing to pay a little more to fly from airports close to where we leave and where we are going, who have lounge access, business class checkin and luggage allowance as a right with airline alliances, and don't want to be crammed into the tightest possible seats with the demographics listed above.

Frankly when I can book weekends away with BA, Swiss, Lufthansa or other proper airlines for less than £150 return in Europe at good times, why use Ryanair? Especially when even business class within Europe (typically a huge ripoff as the seats are worse that Air NZ premium economy, but you get an empty seat beside you, and a proper meal) now can have surcharges of only £80 each way. I can check in online, choose seats, have decent baggage allowance, pay however I want, have lounge access and pay hardly any different from the likes of Ryanair. Why?

Business air traffic in Europe has collapsed, and airlines serving Heathrow know they lose their valuable slots if they don't use them after a while. So they rather fly empty planes than surrender slots that are typically worth tens of millions of pounds if they can sell the slots. So proper airlines have many cheap deals.

So why the hell do I want to sit on a plane while some onanist says "Hi i'm on the plane" at the top of his lungs like some retarded child excited about the amazing technology that allows him to talk to people far away while being 9km above the earth.

There have been phones on planes for years.

I can only hope that proper airlines resist this, especially in the front end where the money is made. I know Emirates has joined the mobile phone club, which is another reason to not use it (besides it not offering frequent flyer points for Star Alliance or One World). Most such airlines have phones at those seats as it is, which are rarely used, indicating how little demand there really is for this. An alternative is to set aside a small area for people to use to make calls, like the lounge on the Qantas A380.

One of the most annoying features of modern life are ring tones, especially the fools who don't switch off the common bog standard ones. Nokia ones are particularly bad.

So good one Ryanair, attract all the people who want to use their mobiles on planes - and help ensure the proper airlines with service, remain free of noise.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

No future for rail freight?

I'll give credit to the Green Party Frogblog for the post "The End of Kiwirail?" which shows that someone from the party at least went to hear David Heatley from the NZ Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation talk about"The Future of Rail in New Zealand". That presentation is now on Powerpoint here.

It is well worth a read.

The presentation addresses some simple myths about rail:
1. Rail network shrinked due to privatisation. Wrong. Almost all line closures were under state ownership when rail had a statutory monopoly on long haul freight!
2. Rail stopped being viable after free market reforms. Wrong, it stopped being consistently financially viable by 1945. It short pockets of profitability since then.
3. Track Maintenance was run down after privatisation. Wrong, it was already being run down in public ownership, track was run down more, but sleeper replacement under private ownership increased.
4. Rail is worth a lot as an asset. Wrong. The NZ$12 billion book value of rail on the Treasury accounts is a nonsense, equating it to all other SOEs combined (e.g. 3 power companies, Transpower, NZ Post) which all make profits. Most of the value is based on a replacement cost if it was built today, which of course would never be done. I'd argue it is probably worth 4% of that at best.
5. Rail only needed rescuing after privatisation. Wrong. It has been rescued several times before, then the commercialisation was reversed because of political pressure. It has long had serious economic viability issues.
6. Rail is good to reduce accidents, congestion and environmental problems Wrong. "the optimal level of externalities is not zero – at some point it becomes more expensive to lower them than the welfare created by their further abatement" Rail related deaths only slightly lower than truck related. No evidence that it reduces congestion. Sea freight is twice as fuel efficient than rail, but little interest in that.

Like I said before, the presentation basically says that rail is not as fuel efficient as is quoted, and that only 30% of the current network handles 70% of the freight. It suggests concentrating on the main trunk, and lines to the Bay of Plenty and the West Coast.

Sadly, Frog doesn't think the presentation answered concerns about peak oil or climate change, or if you "think trains are cool". Let's ignore that last remark as just light hearted, not a basis for sound public policy.

In the comments I have battled a bit with most others who worship the religion of rail, and give largely highly misinformed comments. One that, to be fair, I did once believe in before I did extensive work in the transport sector, because I quite like trains. However, the overwhelming evidence sadly doesn't match my personal nostalgia to keep lots of railway lines open with trains on them - as I can hardly justify making people pay for something they don't use.

If you want a bit more, check out this two part report (Part one, part two) the Treasury received a few years on the economics of rail in New Zealand. It starkly shows that compared to the US and Australia, the volumes and distances for rail in New Zealand are small, and fuel is only a small proportion of costs.

The rail religion remains a faith not a fact based initiative. I'd just like to know why environmentalists think subsidising a dairy product exporter, a coal exporter and logging companies is good? The entire West Coast railway network is dependent on exporting a dirty fossil fuel to Asia!

Hide makes a start on local government

Kiwiblog cheers on Rodney Hide's speech to Local Government NZ. Now I saw how Local Government NZ worked with the Labour government, and it was a very symbiotic relationship. Local Government NZ wanted more power, Labour gave it more power (not as much as LGNZ wanted). Local Government NZ wanted more money from central government, Labour gave it a some more money. Labour wanted Local Government NZ to support its policy initiatives in housing, transport and environment, Local Government NZ did. Labour wanted Local Government NZ to help it rewrite legislation on local government, Local Government NZ was involved in partnership to help develop the Local Government Act 2002.

So when Hide says:

"I don't represent councils.I represent the people whose hard work and savings pay the rates"

About time!

"First, I want to keep rate rises down and encourage you to focus on core activities. On the necessities, not the luxuries" So I will be pushing for councils to accept that rates rises should be capped at the rate of inflation, or less. Sure, councils for good reason may need to increase rates faster than inflation"Well I'd cap rates permanently to squeeze local government out of non core activities, and encourage a progressive disengagement. I can't think of a good reason to increase a property tax faster than inflation, especially when property values grew beyond inflation until very recently. Nevertheless, it is a better direction than the past.

"what should be the core roles of councils ...Providing public services such as rubbish removal, road maintenance, parks, libraries, and light handed-regulatory controls."

Rubbish removal can be privately done, road maintenance of local streets could eventually be privately done, parks can be privately managed, as can libraries. Regulatory controls should only be the application of private property rights. However, if all councils just did this we would all be a lot better off.

"When I look at the expanding breadth of activities that councils engage in, the answer must surely be, "Businesses should be doing this - not the council."

Indeed!

"Even if it is a job appropriate for local government, the answer may still be "No, our ratepayers can't afford it."

In fact it may better be, ratepayers shouldn't be forced to pay for it.

"Ratepayers want to know who is responsible for council decisions - and who to hold to account"

Sadly all the transparency in the world wont get back money wasted, but it should put people in fear of losing their jobs.

"I want to see respect for private property rights. I want the freedom of individual New Zealanders enhanced."

Wonderful stuff!! When did you last hear that? Will National Party Cabinet Ministers say this?

However then he talks about changes to the RMA and the Building Act, which um aren't exactly about private property rights and individual freedom.

"It's taking nine months to get a resource consent to put in a cable car ... so that an elderly lady can get to her house easily up a steep cliff from the street."

Exactly. Sheer nonsense.

So I expect Local Government NZ is scared, fearful its members are about to get their hands tied, their petty fascist ways over and the age of nanny cities and nanny districts is over. It wont be, but it sure sounds like the tide is changing.

Now read the speech by Sandra Lee, the first Minister of Local Government when the Labour/Alliance coalition was elected in 1999.

"I believe our communities are, overall, very well served by their local authority elected members. I have yet to meet a district, city or regional councillor, or community board member, who was not deeply committed to the service of his or her local community."

Well she was one, she'd wouldn't want to say there is always some deadwood out there and blithering idiots.

"I agree with your President that the powers it (new Local Government Act) contains should, in general, be more enabling and empowering rather than just an updated version of the prescription contained in the current legislation"

Do more not less!

"One of the more unusual aspects of our work as elected representatives is that we get to spend other people's money"

Shock! Really? Unusual is it? I thought that was state socialism par excellence. Indeed the nonsense of accountability through local democracy is palpable, as most local body consultation responses are from vested interest groups wanting the loudest voice - not the average ratepayer fed up with being fleeced and pushed around.

The change in attitude is to be welcomed. If only Hide can do as he says it will help, as a first step. It is time to roll back the creeping hands of local government, and no Labour style partnership with local government will enable that. Rodney is going to have to get legislation drafted to not only cap rates, but cap what local authorities do.

The report at No Minister about how the ARC wasted $1.7 million of Auckland ratepayers' money on the David Beckham exhibition soccer game is only the latest example of why the "power of general competence" of local authorities is to many ratepayers a rather sick joke. They have the power, but how often do they have to show rank incompetence?

State predatory pricing kills business

and that means private schools.

Cactus Kate points out that if private schools fail because parents can't afford to pay for a private education, then the state sector couldn't handle the numbers.

She's right, but the solution is not to fix the state sector. The solution is to end the unfair competition of state schools, which everyone is forced to pay for, against private schools which get funding only from those using them. State schools are the French farms of the education sector, bloated, inefficient, heavily subsidised, and their output has guaranteed markets because of protectionism.

Parents sending their kids to private school pay twice. The PPTA socialists don't give a damn about that. They are ideologically opposed to competition in education, and opposed to their members ever being accountable for their performance. The PPTA would only be happy if there were monopoly state schools everywhere, centrally managed and perpetual pay increases for teachers above inflation. The PPTA thinks what parents want is not as important, after all the workers always know what's best for the consumer don't they? Lockwood Smith's biggest political mistake was not to confront this bullying labour cartel when he had the chance, and remove decisions on teacher salaries from central bargaining.

So the appropriate solution to save private schools is NOT a "bail out", but something more sophisticated than that. End paying twice for education. It can be done different ways. I'd say just give parents back their education taxes and let them spend it. That's Libertarianz policy. In fact, just letting them opt out of taxpayer funded education would do the job. They could always pay directly for a state school if they change their minds.

However, there are other approaches:
- Parents who choose private education could simply have the proportion of their income tax taken for education refunded;
- A standard amount could be refunded to reflecting the average cost of a state secondary education per student; or
- ACT's policy of allowing funding to follow the student. Private schools then get the same funding as state schools.

Whatever it is, it is crying out for radical reform. The Nats wont want to be seen to be propping up private schools, but having either a tax credit or letting funding follow students would make a positive difference to schools.

After all, education is the sector most desperately in need of reform so that those paying for it actually can exercise the power of consumers, and those wanting to provide it can make their own decisions.

Expect the left to fight it tooth and nail though, after all, without the teaching labour cartels, the Labour Party would lose a key source of funding, membership and candidates, and the Greens, who sometimes fight monopolies, embrace them when Nanny State is in charge.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Obama subsidises home owners

CNN reports that the Obama Administration is going to spend US$75 billion to rescue property speculators whose mortgages are worth more than the value of their homes. Those who didn't enter the property market, or entered it more wisely, are subsidising those who were foolish, who thought the market would ever increase. Those who didn't take out mortgage repayment insurance will be subsidised by those who did.

The Obama administration is rewarding irresponsibility and poor decisionmaking by fleecing the children of those taxpayers. Moreso, he is inflating the property market, making it yet harder for new entrants to it. An administration that ostensibly cares about the cost of housing is pushing prices up for new home owners.

Change who can believe in?

President Obama said that those who would qualify are people the bank are not interested in - which of course, makes it ok to take from the general public to help them out. He said "no sale will return your investment". Well of course not, bad investments SHOULDN'T return you anything. Governments using their fiat money have supported the inflation of the property market as a ghost prosperity allowing people to borrow against their homes, and to encourage speculation for those wanting to make gains. It caused the problem and is unwilling to let the housing market deflate to its rightful level. It is willing to offer even more credit, so presumably people can engage in subsidised bargain hunting.

So Obamaphiles, hope your children are grateful they are paying more in taxes to pay the debt of property speculators. No humour in that is there?

Even more of your money on "infrastructure"

Yep the Nats are going to spend more, following on from last week's US$484 million of "fast tracked" projects, according to Stuff.

It's your money to be used to subsidise these projects, and it basically means money to subsidise the internet, roads (given all fuel tax is already dedicated to other projects), prisons, schools and to insulate state houses.

So what to think of that?

$1.5 billion for broadband. Given that the private sector has so far built three national mobile phone networks without a cent of taxpayers’ money, why should you be forced to pay to subsidise other people’s internet access, just because they don’t live in Wellington or Christchurch (where there are parallel networks). How about removing barriers to investment in telecommunications infrastructure? How about cutting company tax to make returns more lucrative? No – pork for the relatively well heeled. The talk of broadband facilitating business is usually not shared with the fact that broadband is also extensively used for entertainment. THIS is National's new Think Big - and those who rejected the last one are happily cheering this on - without seeing the irony that destroying Telecom's property rights under Labour probably hindered development of new telecommunications infrastructure more than any other recent government measure.

$200-300 million for a new prison? Well at that cost it better be good, especially when you have a 50% range on the price! This is core state business, but I do wonder how much capacity could be saved by addressing victimless crimes.

Waikato expressway? Basically, there are seven segments of the expressway that haven’t been built. Of them, three are definitely worth progressing, the others aren’t.
- Longswamp to Te Kauwhata is partly complete, and isn't a safety or congestion concern.
- Rangiriri bypass is worth building to remove through traffic from that village.
- Huntly bypass is exhorbitantly expensive, over $400 million for a steep hilly highway over Taupiri Hill. Not worth building at present.
- Ngaruawahia bypass is well worth building, as it shortens distance, journey time, improves safety and can link with the improvements at Te Rapa and west of Hamilton.
- Hamilton (east) bypass is over half a billion dollars and hardly worth building at present, when much needs to be spent on the existing Hamilton (west) bypass. Last segment that should be built.
- Tamahere to Cambridge four laning is worth building to improve safety between Cambridge and Hamilton.
- Cambridge bypass is well worth building as a two lane highway with passing lanes for now, to relieve the rather nice town of Cambridge from heavy traffic

Central Tauranga Corridor? Good project, Tauranga has significant congestion on roads ill equipped to perform arterial functions, though again why general taxpayers should pay is beyond me.

More school building? Well let’s pour money into infrastructure for a centrally planned, bureaucratically driven system then. The core problem is simply ignored.

Insulation of state houses? Assuming they are sold, it would be fine, if it would recover more in rent. However, we all know this is a subsidy for those with housing provided by nanny. Market rentals would help, but we know THAT wont happen.

Yes we can!

As US comedians find it hard to parody the new personality cult President, it is unclear exactly why other than sympathy, fear of being called racist or just not being imaginative.

Tim Blair in the Sydney Morning Herald asks why this is the case. However he did also find that the Japanese are laughing at him - though, admittedly, if you know Japanese this will be funnier for more than 30 seconds.





(Hat Tip: Tim Blair)

Aviation security call unnecessary

I'm hardly surprised at the report in the Dominion Post of a recommendation to introduce security screening of all domestic passenger flights. The Police and Aviation Security Service have strong vested interests in expanding any security operation, even regardless of the miniscule risk.

The report says there is a "very low threat from terrorists, moderate risk from acutely disaffected people drunks, those suffering mental disorder or irrational grudges".

Yes seriously, there is a bigger threat from car bombs in built up areas. However, I don't notice security screening of private cars in built up areas. A similar threat for bombing trains and buses, because there is NO screening of who people are before trains and buses are boarded.

The "moderate risk" from acutely disaffected people, drunks, those suffering mental disorder or irrational grudges, is something that might be picked up on check in, and frankly "moderate" is nonsense. According to the report 3.7 events per year happen.

The review is entirely because of the case of Asha Ali Abdille who took knives on a Beech 1900 light and attacked the crew. This sort of risk could be better addressed by having lockable doors on the plane, instead of subjecting hundreds of thousands of travellers every day to a search. Don't forget that all aircraft above 19 seats have at least one member of cabin crew. Better yet, sue this mad woman for the cost she imposed on all of the passengers and the airline.

You see, the sense of perspective about security and terrorism is completely skewed by the narrow minded attitude of those only working in aviation. Has the report analysed the cost in delay, frustration and additional costs for making purchases at destinations for toiletries etc, because of the ridiculous restrictions on hand luggage? What are the costs to business and travellers of this? Those in security care next to nothing about that, remember how they goose stepped everyone into only carrying toiletries in little containers. These are on the same flights that have hot beverages, glass, shoes, belts, rope and any other kind of potential weapon.

To take a clear example - it's remarkable how in the UK iIwas always screened for flying on 50 seat regional flights, but those boarding trains going at 125mph from Euston, Kings Cross or Paddington (or arriving there) faced absolutely nothing. Much like those catching the tube or buses, because they couldn't function with the restrictions. Instead, there is the use of CCTV, the physical presence of security staff and the use of intelligence to monitor security.

Of course you wont 100% ensure there are no incidents. After all, there was security at US domestic airports before 9/11. There could still be incidents, but it is like other human activities. Driving is risky, walking in the street it risky, life is risky. It's about time that the endless call to impose delays, inconvenience and cost upon the 99% of those who fly, in a country with next to no risk of terrorist attack, be resisted. International flights obviously must face security screening, given the profile and realistic danger of terrorism. Domestic jet flights are barely understandable, given the speeds and fuel carried, but provincial flights?

The truth is that you are at far more danger walking around the streets of Whakatane, Wanganui, Kaitaia and Timaru at night, than you are risking boarding a plane at the airports there with someone who will kill you.

The government should demand a full benefit/cost assessment, taking into account the costs imposed on travellers (not the NZ$4.66 but the delay, stress and related costs of not carrying what you need in hand luggage) - and compare it to other risks, and propose other options.

What privatisation can do

Remember the Ministry of Works? Built roads and dams, maintained them too. The stereotype of an expensive, not very clever, lazy organisation.

It became Workscorp under Roger Douglas, you know that man that terrifies National and Labour so much with all those policies he implemented that neither have reversed. In 1996 the Nats sold the consultancy arm to a Malaysian firm, which invested in it Now it is one of New Zealand's most successful companies exporting services under the name Opus. Its head office is in Wellington, still.

The NZ Herald notes:

"Infrastructure consultant Opus International Consultants has exceeded expectations with increased revenue and profits, up around 25 per cent for 2008.

Revenue was $371.5 million, up 25.4 per cent on 2007, and the net surplus after tax was $17.5 million, up 23.4 per cent, for the year ended December 31, 2008, the company announced to the stock market today"

"Business acquisitions in the United Kingdom and in Canada increased Opus' total staff from 2236 to 2563, and it now operated from 81 offices world-wide."

Could you have seen Workscorp doing that, let alone the Ministry of Works?

Hardly.

Given some SOEs are world class in their field (e.g. Airways Corporation, NZ Post) you might wonder how, with private investment, some of our constrained state owned enterprises might perform if let off the leash. Ironically, with the money governments are pouring into infrastructure, as a panacea to recession, Opus is probably a company in one of the best places to grow from strength to strength.

Good job Roger Douglas ignored Jim Anderton. Good job Jim Bolger ignored Helen Clark, Winston Peters and Jim Anderton - and frankly the majority of you out there.

Yes, it is Malaysian owned, but almost its entire management is New Zealand based, and much of its staff are New Zealanders.

Oh the humanity!

So the left thinks the world will come to an end because the Nats are looking to trim small numbers of people that taxpayers are forced to pay for.

It is most bizarre that the left talk of economic illiteracy from the likes of Roger Kerr, when they seem to think it's ok to keep plundering taxpayers in a recession so that large numbers of effectively unproductive people can remain employed.

Let's make it clear, there are three types of people working for the state:

1. Those undertaking productive activity in enterprises or institutions that could be operated privately. e.g. electricity SOEs, roads, schools, hospitals.
2. Those undertaking core state activities that are necessary for a functioning liberal capitalist economy. e.g. Police, courts, prisons, defence, justice.
3. Everyone else. Who range from regulators to advisors to inspectors.

The first lot could probably do with an efficiency drive, which really only comes most effectively through privatisation, although the SOEs aren't a bad stepping stone to that.

The second lot definitely need a reallocation and focus on protecting citizens, rather than telling them what to do. However, given dissatisfaction over crime, there is more scope to move those people around rather than cut them.

The third lot would mostly be looking for something else to do under a Libertarianz government. There may be a tiny handful of advisors to handle the likes of diplomatic relations with other countries and treaties, and advice on law, justice reform and the like, but the rest? Either sit in the private sector advising private entities or become productive.

The trimming of the Nats will be minor compared to the bloating of the state sector under Labour - something that all taxpayers should be concerned about. I suspect more than few on the left worry because no one else is likely to employ them!

Imagine if, for example, a cost benefit analysis was done for every state sector employee as to whether they generated more net benefits than taxpayers would if you gave them the money back. That is the type of thinking ACT likes.

I just think theft is theft, and you are either honest that you believe in large scale legalised theft or you're not or you disagree with it.

An amendment for three strikes

Here's a thought.

Besides amending three strikes and you're out to being weighted to different crimes, how about excluding it when any crime does not have a specified victim?

That means:
- Consumption of drugs;
- Censorship violations that didn't involve recordings of people being victims;
- All traffic offences when no harm was caused, or likely threat;
- Blasphemy;
- Sex crimes that don't include force or minors;

Or how about simply saying it applies whenever force or fraud is applied to people's bodies or property?

Go on ACT - be the liberal party.

Want to be a journalist in North Korea?

Then you better know how to write the right copy for the Korean Central News Agency about General Secretary Kim Jong Il on his birthday:

Like this

"the DPRK is holding you, an illustrious commander born of Heaven and a peerlessly great man in history, in high esteem as the sun of the nation and the dignity and national power of Kim Il Sung's nation are being demonstrated on the highest level."

or:

"You are a peerlessly brilliant commander of Songun who has performed immortal exploits before the country and nation, the times and history by leading the Juche revolutionary cause to victory for half a century and a peerlessly great man who enjoys boundless and absolute trust of progressive mankind.

or:

"You have performed exploits by building a prospering socialist land of bliss on this land through gigantic creations and changes and opening a new chapter in the confrontation with the U.S. and the cause of the country's reunification with your preeminent strategy and matchless courage and they are recorded in the human history to shed rays all over the world"

or:

"his extraordinary wisdom, outstanding leadership and matchless grit and pluck"

or:

"The Egypt-Korea Friendship Association released its bulletin titled "Kim Jong Il and his extraordinary leadership art" on Feb. 8, which said that Kim Jong Il is a person possessed of rare leadership art. His leadership art is characterized by the ability to combine politics and military affairs organically before anything else and then by the persistent power of execution to carry through something determined to do, it added.

The politics of creation to solve everything in a unique way without adherence to the existing formula and usage, the brilliant flexible politics--this is another important aspect of Kim Jong Il's leadership art, the bulletin stressed."

Certainly not adhering to the existing formula, but flexible?

Sad dictatorship of the month- Equatorial Guinea


Most will not have heard of Macias Nguema, I knew little of him until recently. Macias Nguema was the first President of Equatorial Guinea. President from 1968 to 1979. With some healthy competition, Nguema is, I believe, the most brutal and insane dictator that Africa has ever had.

Equatorial Guinea was a Spanish colony granted independence following strong domestic pressure in the colony, and from the UN. Oddly, none of Equatorial Guinea lies on the equator. Macias Nguema was elected in 1968 as President, having previously been a member of the territorial parliament. Following his election, he rallied against Spain (which, given rule by the fascist Franco, was understandable), which extended to harassment of Spanish nationals and Spanish owned businesses, which started to flee. He then proceeded to create a one-party state (the in thing at the time). He arrested his election rival and started rounding up political opponents to be imprisoned and executed. By 1972 he declared himself President for life. However, it wasn't just being a dictator, harassing imprisoning and killing political opponents that made him different, nor the rampant corruption and installation of relatives into positions of power.

No, Equatorial Guinea was about to be referred to as the Dachau of Africa.

Some of the most notable events under his rule were:
- Virtually all of the (tiny) resources of the government were put into internal security. Maintenance of electricity, water, roads and hospitals dried up, resulting in the progressive breakdown of the entire economy;
- The use of the word "intellectual" was banned. It is believed that this is because Nguema three times failed the Spanish civil service exam in his youth. He began a Khmer Rouge style purge of intellectuals, anyone wearing glasses was rounded up and taken away. Owning books was seen to be a sign of being suspicious;
- A drug addict, he had himself called "Unique Miracle" and "Grand Master of Education, Science and Culture". He increasingly believed he had magic powers;
- These "powers" saw him demand that lubricating oil for Malabo's (capital city) power station stop being purchased, as he thought he could lubricate it with his magic. The power station exploded within days, and Malabo was without electricity for the next few years;
- In 1973 he replaced the Constitution with one granting him absolute power with his political party, explicitly;
- His monetary policy was simple. He had the Central Bank governor executed and took the entire contents of the bank himself to his rural home;
- He demanded that churches end their services with "Forward with Macias. Always with Macias. Never without Macias". Priests who refused faced imprisonment or execution;
- Executions were carried out at the capital's stadium to the song "Those Were the Days" by Mary Hopkins (you know the song) blaring over loudspeakers. 150 at a time would face the firing squads. You'll never think of that song the same way again;
- In 1975 he banned all schools. He regarded education to be subversive;
- Fishing was banned, and all boats destroyed to stop people fleeing the country (the capital is on an island);
- In 1977 all churches were closed, by now Franco had fallen and Spain stopped hiding the excesses of the regime (as little news reached the outside world before then) and broke diplomatic relations;
- In 1978 the national motto was changed to "There is no other God than Macias Nguema"
- He banned foreign travel.

In conclusion, a third of the population fled the country, and 80,000 were killed. Macias Nguema was deposed after he shot members of his own family, who visited him for money. His nephew arrested, tried and executed him, and became President of Equatorial Guinea. Allegedly the reason why news of Equatorial Guinea stayed away from the world was because most Africa watchers and analysts are Anglophone or Francophone, not Spanish speaking.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is still President of Equatorial Guinea. You wont hear about what he did when his uncle was President, but he participated extensively in the arrests, tortures and executions of that period. He released political prisoners, and stop running the country as a terror camp - but he did not stop oppressing opponents, and maintains an iron grip on power. Maps are hard to come by, because they are not permitted of the capital. The media is owned entirely by the state or relatives of the President. Newsagents do not exist, with only a very limited circulation of newspapers and magazines, largely not for domestic consumption.

The difference is Equatorial Guinea now has oil - third biggest oil exporter in Africa. The big oil companies have set up, and have their own compounds near the capital which are self contained. They have to be, as Malabo still has almost no reticulated water or sewage, yet Equatorial Guinea has the highest GDP per capita in Africa, akin to that of the Czech Republic and South Korea. The private wealth of the President is estimated to be around US$600 million, and he has designated his son his heir apparent. His son has bought properties in LA, Paris and Cape Town.

You may now know why Mark Thatcher, and a bunch of others, attempted a mercenary style coup against this regime. You also know why Condoleeza Rice called President Obiang a "good friend". Good friend of ChevronTexaco and ExxonMobil. Will Barack Obama treat him as a good friend too?

Bizarrely, Macias Nguema's daughter lives in the USA now, and defends him. She have birth to 19 children, starting at age 13. She went from a life of luxury, to being raped and tortured, to having to flee leaving most of her children behind. She has no contact with the country.

You just can't make half of this stuff up.

Sources: Daily Telegraph, Afrofiles

UPDATE: Seems some people are annoyed, so they tried to overthrow the President yesterday. The Daily Telegraph reports here. Though why you'd duplicate part of the story of Frederick Forsythe's "The Dogs of War", particularly when the President wasn't even in town, shows ridiculous incompetence.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bye bye EFA, now for the Copyright Act

Not PC pretty much describes my view on the repeal of the Electoral Finance Act. Good on National for repealing this nasty piece of legislation, and even Phil Goff for realising that Labour was wrong. The Greens on the other hand much prefer managed democracy. I'll let you draw your own conclusions about what those on the left who supported the EFA, but whose parties are now opposing it.

He also describes my opposition to the amended Copyright Act. Indeed it has some similarities to the ridiculous attempt by Trevor Rogers in the mid 1990s to make telcos guilty if people downloaded or uploaded child pornography using their networks. The intention, to address the criminal production and distribution of child pornography was fine - the application was to make telco's guilty of something they could never know.

So I too will be joining the blackout

Pakistan's appeasement of Islamists

The Pakistani government has effectively surrendered control of the North West Frontier Province to the Taliban, indirectly, by recognising the Taliban's interpretation of Sharia law as applying to the Province. This is in exchange for a ceasefire with the Taliban.

What this means, effectively, is the Taliban has won. It is like Poland setting up a government that recognises Nazi laws, in exchange for the Nazis not invading.

The Taliban has already destroyed girls schools in the province in the areas that it controls, and so in effect the sort of brutal, heartless, inhumane rule that it once applied to all of Afghanistan is now to rule part of Pakistan.

CNN reports on a Pakistani woman from the province who fears the spread of the Taliban's influence with this capitulation:

"The whole point is, if it's not contained to Swat, it's going to spill all over in Pakistan and the West also doesn't realize the seriousness of the situation," Bibi said. "Probably your next 9/11 is going to be from Swat."

Dean Nelson, in the Daily Telegraph, who knows the region writes with despair:

"in the new democratic Pakistan, and in an area 'ruled' by a secular party, terror is about to be announced the victor, and will now enjoy the spoils. The local Taliban's demand of Sharia Law has been agreed and the hope of justice among the families of those butchered for buying a video, singing a song, or governing in accordance with their secular mandate, has been killed too."

As Ayn Rand once said, when there is a compromise between the good and the evil, it is a triumph of evil. Islamists will now effectively have a safe haven in a province of a nuclear armed state. One can only hope it is temporary at best, contained to that province and that it does not spread. Pity the women and girls in the North West Frontier Province, who are about to see their lives get worse.

After all, this is a country which has as a Cabinet Minister a man who defended the murder of girls and women who dared seek to choose their husbands. Then again, the Minister of Education presided over an illegal tribal court which saw five infants handed over for marriage in exchange for a murder.

The difference between Iran and Pakistan looks more like Pakistan is apparently on our side.

There are Pakistanis against this
, sadly their voices are not being heard enough.

My question is what does the new US administration think. Does it want to help Pakistan smash the Islamists? Or is this, as some have suggested, part of the Obama's administration's "smart power"?

Kids having kids?

The Press is reporting that more boys under 15 are becoming dads.

That means either:
- There is a bubble of boys of the pubescent-15 demographic, so it is a statistical blip; OR
- Boys are hornier and more capable of seduction than they used to be; AND
- Girls are hornier and more willing now than they used to be; AND
- Both are getting more stupid and irresponsible.

However while Social Development Minister Paula Bennett expresses concern that:

Children having sex under the age of 16 aren't emotionally or physically ready, and they certainly aren't emotionally or physically ready to be having babies

She's half wrong. While not being emotionally ready is in most cases correct, if they weren't physically ready there presumably wouldn't be a problem would there?

It's just that the creation of childhood and education in the past century and a half (and the vast extension of life expectancy) has delayed when it is generally seen as best to have children. However, the physical capability to breed hasn't been delayed. If anything, improvements in nutrition have been accelerating it!