Sunday, August 30, 2009

Give up the aspirin if you're healthy

It does more harm than good, according to a study by the Wolfson Unit for Prevention of Peripheral Vascular Disease in Edinburgh, according to the Sunday Telegraph.

"More than 3,000 men were randomly assigned to receive a daily dose of aspirin or a dummy pill and were followed up for an average of eight years.

There was no difference in the rate of heart attacks or stroke between the two groups and deaths from any cause were similar.

However there were 34 major bleeds in people taking aspirin, or two per cent, compared with 20 or 1.2 per cent of those on the placebo.
"

So aspirin is for headaches or prescription.... that's it...

UPDATE: Yes bollocks to my grammatical error, that I would give other people hell for... thank you Opinionated Mummy.

Japanese voters create history

Japan has spent almost all of its post war history governed by the Liberal Democrat Party (LDP). For many year it ensured stability and importantly, during the Cold War, resisted the early communism of post-war Japan. The almost continuous improvement in prosperity and living standards, including environmental clean ups in the 1960s-1980s, were under the LDP. The then Socialist Party frightened some, because of Japan's proximity to the USSR and North Korea, besides why change when everything was going so well?

Don't forget Japan has the world's second largest economy, with China only now rivalling that.

However, the LDP has long been beholden to many special interests. Japan's agricultural sector has long been the most heavily subsidised and protected. The construction sector in particular has benefited from ongoing massive state spending on roads, bridges, dams and other infrastructure, so much so that Japan has many grossly underused roads and railways. In addition, the state sector has remained immune from restructuring, and a regulatory environment that is supportive of incumbents, putting significant barriers in the way of new entrepreneurs who seek to challenge.

There was a brief period of 11 months in 1993 when the LDP lost power, as two factions brokeaway from the party and formed a short lived coalition. However, beyond that it has held on. Junichiro Koizumi helped revitalise the party briefly, and ensured the party's re-election in 2005, but since then it has gone through 3 leaders and so its reputation is in tatters. Constantly borrowing and spending money on infrastructure has failed to revitalise the stagnant Japanese economy. Japanese voters know they have not had it so bad for decades.

So now the former socialists, the Democratic Party have won 308 out of 440 seats in the House of Representatives. It will likely form a coalition with the leftwing SDP and the liberal centrist People's New Party. It's policy agenda is mixed, including cuts to the public sector, increases in some subsidies, cuts in fuel and sales taxes, hiking the minimum wage. However, I suspect it will be able to confront some of Japan's big economic demons - and will have little choice but to slash spending and confront the massive state debt.

Japan's economic is tied up in all sorts of regulation and discriminatory treatment of businesses based on favours and preferences. For example, Japan is one of the few countries left which Air NZ needs explicit approval for any new airfares it wants to set for flights from it.

Some on the left are encouraged by the socialist origins of the DP, as it talks of being less beholden to US foreign policy, and international capitalism, but I am not convinced it will make a material difference in those areas. It will learn very quickly how little it can change, how little room there is to move.

Japan is a country that is always difficult for outsiders to read, being one of the most insular societies in the world - but it is one of the economic powerhouses, and has long needed to break away from the monopoly of political power the LDP has increasingly mishandled.

Let's hope the DP takes a chance to be brave and make some tough decisions - Japan badly needs it.

Miscellaneous kiwi news bits

Compulsorily funded Radio NZ is bemoaning budget cuts. Oh dear how sad, even though private broadcasters have faced cuts due to advertising, the stations you all have to pay for, whether you listen to them or not, doesn't like facing getting less of the money you are forced to pay to it. Of course nothing stops people donating to RNZ. Funnily enough I notice Culture & Heritage commissioned a study into RNZ by KPMG, which as anyone who has dealt with the big 4 knows, is going to give you pretty much the result you wanted. Ever since broadcasting policy left MED and went to Culture and Heritage, it has become about how the state can do more, not less.

Of course my answer to Radio NZ is simple - start attracting donations, sponsorship, and learn to ask people for money.

Tukuroirangi Morgan, one of the most high profile parasites on the public tit in recent years thinks his opinion deserves some respect. He talks bollocks about denying Maori a voice on the Auckland council, when he means "denying people like me who need a separate Maori seat to get a job because I can't do it on my own merits". This supercilious nobody will forever be remembered as the man who claimed expenses for luxurious underwear, and was a one term wonder. He was defeated by Nanaia Mahuta (and a NZ First candidate, having defected to tough man Tau's Mauri Pacific party) in the 1999 election. Of course the Mauri Pacific party has the record of getting less party votes than Libertarianz in 1999. He is sad that even with Maori seats, he so disgraced himself few wanted him to represent them. Of course, it's been a while since he had a job that wasn't about his race - but just about his skills and abilities.

Paul Holmes thinks we can learn a lot from wild animals. He is of course dreaming when he is talking about species which engage in rational reactions for their own survival, that of the tribe and offspring. There's nothing special about it, except some animals get anthropomorphised by people who think they are cute. The thing is, animals are driven largely by instinct, not reason, and compassion is linked to reproduction and pack instincts for survival. He can romanticise as much as he likes, but I would've thought he could learn more from reading than from animals.

Jeanette's economic illiteracy

Unsurprisingly, the Green Party doesn't understand why the government has abandoned setting minimum fuel efficiency standards for imported vehicles. Quite simply, it would be counterproductive.

Such standards will restrict new and used vehicle imports - that puts up the price of buying a car. So people with existing old less efficient cars would pay up to $1,500 more if such fuel efficiency standards existed than if not. So it is better to just let people pay the market price, then they are more likely to get more efficient vehicles.

This goes way over the head of Jeanette Fitzsimons who clearly thinks "if we regulate so people can only buy fuel efficient cars, they will". Not thinking that reducing the supply of a good puts up the price. It isn't the EU Jeanette, this isn't a huge market and in fact New Zealand remains so poor that a large number of imported vehicles are secondhand.

So take it slowly Jeanette:
1. There is pretty much a free market today for vehicle imports. This means demand and supply are at equilibrium keeping pressure on prices.
2. Imported vehicles are typically newer and more fuel efficient than the ones they replace.
3. Restricting the imports to only vehicles of a certain standard bans certain ones from entering the market, restricting the ability of some to buy a replacement vehicle (which while not meeting your standard is bound to be an improvement). So such people keep older vehicles for longer.
4. The remaining vehicles imported face demand but less supply, so retailers can put the price up.

The analysis demonstrated your policy was wrong.

A new low on Kennedy

Mary Jo Kopechne might have thought her death by drowning was "worth it", given the career of Ted Kennedy.

So says Melissa Lafsky in the Huffington Post.

Given she said "Disabled? Poor? A member of any minority group? Then chances are your life is at least somewhat better because of Ted Kennedy." Yes, you all owe him so much, because he wanted to take more of your taxes and regulate the world so people like you had a chance, because without the services of a wealthy morally bankrupt politician, your life wouldn't have been so good.

Is it not so disgustingly evil to think you might speak on behalf of a dead woman to say her death at the hands of a drunken lech was worth it because of what he did with his life?

Should Melissa now offer herself on the altar of some politician so she can be left to die somewhere and someone else speak on her behalf and say "never mind, she'll think it was worth it given what the guy who left her to die did with his life".

Beyond smacking

Sadly, the terms of the debate on this issue have been very binary focused. One side arguing against the state interfering in how parents raise children, another said saying it needs laws on the use of force to stop horrendous cases of abuse. Neither particularly enlightens about how to raise children. Some will be aware of debate and disagreement among some objectivists about this issue.

I've written here, here, here, here, and here about my hesitancy about both sides on this issue. I despise Sue Bradford's desire to nationalise parenting, as epitomised by her embrace of Cindy Kiro's Orwellian proposals, but also despise the minority in the "pro-smacking" camp who embraced corporal punishment. Notwithstanding that, I believe most parents don't like smacking kids, but also they want to have the option without the Police treating them as abusers. Most parents would do virtually anything for their kids - it is the ones who treat their kids as a nuisance that are the problem.

So what ARE good parenting techniques? Not PC has lifted the debate, and produced an excellent post with many links (and comments) which is worthy of a read by any parent or prospective parent.

So if you don't think the best way to raise kids is to fill them with shivering fear of your violent punishment of them, OR that kids should be allowed to do whatever they like with no boundaries or guidance (except Nanny State), then go have a good read. It's called taking an issue beyond the banality of politics.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

James Murdoch: libertarian hero?

Authoritarianism

That's how he describes the British broadcasting regulatory environment in the MacTaggart lecture he gave to the British television industry.

and he's right. A system that coerces all people with a TV set to pay up under threat of prosecution to fund a non-commercial broadcaster that is ever expanding its TV channels and radio stations, and which pays enormous salaries to attract popular stars from going to commercial TV - but thinks it is special and always demands to force the public to give it more money. The BBC. He decries the "land grab" this compulsorily funded state broadcaster has made to be everything to everyone, whilst the private broadcasting sector has strained to compete. Indeed, the decline of regional news on commercial TV whilst the BBC well funds its own equivalent is telling. Meanwhile, many do not know that Lonely Planet is now owned by the BBC - at what point should the state own a travel publishing operation?

Meanwhile, commercial broadcasting is heavily regulated as to the amount and types of advertising, so much that one channel cannot show an Indian show because of product placement of a company that doesn't operate in the UK.

In a brilliant speech he attacks OfCom, the UK's broadcasting and telecommunications regulator, effectively implying it is useless by deciding whether it is ok to describe Middlesbrough as the worst place to live in England, or this brilliant piece of sarcasm about how Ofcom published:

"the no doubt vital guide on ‘How to Download’, which teenagers across the land could barely have survived without."

He decries how the state is more concerned with throttling capitalism and spreads fear of its influence whilst "Nearly all local authorities already publish their own newspapers with flattering accounts of their doings. Over 60% of these pocket-Pravdas carry advertising, weakening the local presence of more critical voices". This, he argues, undermines independent journalism in towns and cities struggling to make a living which CAN impartially report on how local government operates.

He argues that people should be trusted to make good choices:

"People are very good at making choices: choices about what media to consume; whether to pay for it and how much; what they think is acceptable to watch, read and hear; and the result of their billions of choices is that good companies survive, prosper, and proliferate.

That is a great story and it has been powerfully positive for our society.

But we are not learning from that. Governments and regulators are wonderfully crafted machines for mission creep. For them, the abolition of media boundaries is a trumpet call to expansion: to do more, regulate more, control more"

Furthermore he decries the idea that independent balanced news comes from a state broadcaster:

"On the contrary, independence is characterised by the absence of the apparatus of supervision and dependency.

Independence of faction, industrial or political.

Independence of subsidy, gift and patronage.

Independence is sustained by true accountability – the accountability owed to customers. People who buy the newspapers, open the application, decide to take out the television subscription – people who deliberately and willingly choose a service which they value"

You see public broadcasters have only accountability to politicians who decide whether to force the public to fund them - that's it. It is time that there was a proper debate about the role of the state in broadcasting in the UK.

However, that debate rarely happens, and one reason is because the chief beneficiary of the status quo dominates the entire broadcasting sector - the BBC. The BBC can't be trusted to impartially engage a debate about its future, if it risks coming to the answer that the BBC is unnecessary, or should be a fraction of its current size. However, it is up to politicians and the rest of the media - the media that rises or falls on attracting audiences, customers and advertisers - to hold that debate.

For otherwise, the broadcaster that runs seven TV channels and ten national radio networks (plus numerous regional stations) will continue to say it is good for us, and please can it make us pay it more.

So James Murdoch is the libertarian hero of the day - confronting the authoritarian regulatory structure of broadcasting in the UK, which stifles the private sector, whilst allowing the BBC to be an ever growing leviathan of unaccountability. The BBC isn't good for us, just because it is convinced that it is, and makes us pay for the privilege of seeing and hearing it say so.

UPDATE: Amanda Andrews in the Sunday Telegraph says the BBC budget should be cut by a third. A good first step, I'd sell all BBC regional radio, BBC Asian Network. Radio 5 and 5xtra, Radio 1, 1 xtra, Radio 2 and CBBC. Cbeebies and BBC3.

Friday, August 28, 2009

For those want to "invest" in public transport

You believe the price of petrol is going to go sky high. As a result people will drive a lot less and want a cheaper alternative.

Really?

So here's a way you can do it, without force.

Take your savings, in fact set up a company, and speculate on oil futures. Buy as much as you can. It must be a safe investment, and watch your capital grow.

From the massive windfall profits you make from this, use it to invest (you always say invest) in public transport. Hybrid buses or indeed new trains. By then peak oil will be so obvious, that you could have borrowed from the bank to do so. People will be gagging for public transport so much, you'll get many investors willing to join you. New Zealand has a free market in public transport, just set up a bus company and go for it. In fact, the government may be happy for you to buy trains and run them on its track.

Run services, charging fares to cover costs (you're not into profits), so that people get the alternative you care so much about. Yes the trains may take longer, but surely with the empty roads you predict, the hybrid buses will operate with ease, quickly and efficiently, full of eager fare paying passengers.

Not willing to put your money where your mouths are? Well keep your hypocritical hands off of everyone else's.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

So what's the transport funding about?

The NZ Transport Agency (yes it used to be Land Transport New Zealand, and before that Transfund) has announced its three year funding programme for roads and public transport. It used to be an annual announcement, so it is a positive change to announce three years worth of spending, which given the length of transport project makes some sense. Bear in mind that the whole legal and bureaucratic arrangements are ones set up under the previous government.

The government's announcements are telling. There has been a boost for roads compared to public transport, but nothing like what the opposition are saying. Given virtually all of the money being spent comes from road users it should hardly be a big deal to have most of it going on roads or services related to roads. Steven Joyce's press release lists a number of projects that are to be progressed, none of which are bad projects, though I note that Transmission Gully has no additional construction funding. The programme itself lists the construction costs of Transmission Gully at over NZ$1.4 billion. A ridiculous sum when upgrading the existing road would be unlikely to cost NZ$1 billion. Steven Joyce himself appears to be warming up the public to Transmission Gully being dumped. Good.

Anyway, so what is worth noting?

The proportion of spending on state highways is 59% up from 51% under Labour. There are big new projects, like committing money to build the Waterview Connection in Auckland, over the property rights of locals, the Te Rapa Bypass north of Hamilton and the Tauranga Eastern motorway (which will be tolled to pay part of the cost). Most of the rest of the spending is on already committed projects and maintenance. Notably, funding for Police enforcement of traffic laws is not increasing beyond inflation. I expect better performance will be sought under THAT contract. No, the Police don't get revenue from traffic fines either.

Money to subsidise public transport is becoming more focused, on projects that actually reduce traffic congestion, optimise service operation (?) and improve fare recovery from passengers (in other words wean services off of subsidies). 57% of public transport money is spent in Auckland, although 48% of public transport usage is there. Think about whether that's working.

From my perspective it is largely business as usual. The good thing is that all taxes from motorists are now spent through this, although it was Labour that introduced that, after National campaigned on it in 2005. It is also good that roads now get more of the money, 86% of spending is on roads or road related activities (planning roads, operating and policing them). However, this bureaucratic system still doesn't provide a link between users and the supply of roads. How do we know the projects are worth building? From a bureaucratic cost/benefit exercise and judgment. The fact remains all the money from road users goes into a pool and it is spent based on how users are perceived to "benefit" from the spending, not whether the money raised in an area or on a road is spent on that road or nearby network. There are huge cross subsidies, users in some areas undoubtedly pay too little, others pay too much, and demand isn't influenced by price - for example, it should be very cheap to use roads at the quietest times, but expensive when they reach capacity.

However, as long as government builds things, most people are happy. For now. Also, to be fair, New Zealand does this bureaucratic funding of roads far far less politically and more objectively than most countries. Bridges don't collapse due to lack of maintenance, and big new roads to nowhere don't get built, anymore. It's just the railway that's the biggest drain of pointless spending now, but most of the money on that comes from taxpayers directly, not motorists.

Other comments?

Darren Hughes says local roads will suffer, as they get no real additional money. The reason given is because councils have to increase rates for government to match more spending on roads. There is a serious issue here, but it would be better fixed by allowing councils to set charges for using their roads and replace rates funding with property access levies on roads where charges don't pay enough for maintenance. Hughes is talking nonsense on public transport though. Surely if public transport patronage rises, higher fare revenue should mean lower subsidies, although Labour's subsidy scheme encourages the opposite. The truth is Labour can criticise little, since National has largely continued Labour's funding allocation process. All it has done is scrap the pointless rail and sea freight spending and directed that and some public transport funding allocations to state highways.

Sue Kedgley of course talks mindless nonsense about the announcement:
- More than half of the NLTP budget ALWAYS went into state highways Sue, but then half the money came from motorists USING state highways.
- Yes every $7 spent on roads (including maintenance) $1 is spent on public transport, forgetting that another $1 is spent by ratepayers and yet another $2 is spent by the fare paying public. You see Sue, with one exception, roads aren't tolled. Oh by the way, for every person riding public transport, another 18 or so are driving or riding in a car.
- "It is especially disturbing to see almost no funding going into rail and sea freight - we have to shift our freight to these modes or else risk serious damage to our economy when the price of oil rises" What do you call subsidising Kiwirail from taxpayers Sue, and do you think Queenstown, which has no rail or sea freight at all, has been seriously damaged as a result?

The economic illiteracy and complete factual evasion of the Greens continues to astound.

ARC Chairman Mike Lee is cheering it on, proving it still has too much money for public transport.

ex. ACT MP and Rodney Mayor Penny Webster is upset that the dog of a project, the Penlink bridge, wont be getting special subsidies. So it either stands on tolls and property levies or wont be built. Good.

So let's not get too excited because reporters just report on press releases. Be grateful your motoring taxes are mostly going on roads, and if you are interested look here for your region to see what you'll be getting or not getting. Don't get excited if you're in Invercargill though, move along, nothing to see here (quite right too).

High speed rail not environmentally friendly

It's curious that the government backed private company that runs Britain's rail infrastructure - Network Rail - is promoting an extremely grand plan to make taxpayers pay for a high speed rail line from London to Edinburgh. £34 billion is the cost of a line from London to Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. It would cut travel time from London to Edinburgh by rail to 2 hours 9 minutes.

See according to the Guardian, a consultancy report 2 years ago said there would be similar CO2 emissions from building and operating a high speed railway between London and Manchester as there would be to fly the route. The difference being that aviation on the route needs no subsidy. It would be better to improve capacity on the existing line through removing bottlenecks and improved signalling.

So the environmental advantages are at best dubious, and the economic costs are enormous. A massive transfer from taxpayers to business users of trains.

If there is congestion on the current rail network, that simply means fares are too low at busy times, so they should be raised so overcrowding can be reduced and revenue raised to put in extra capacity as it is needed. New lines when existing lines have ample capacity most of the day are unlikely to be particularly a good choice.

Of course the fetish for the moment is that flying is evil, as is driving, despite people continuing to choose those options. The truth is flying is largely a commercially run private business. Road transport involves privately provided vehicles paying excessive taxes to use roads managed bureaucratically. Railways involve a mix of commercial and subsidised services on subsidised tracks. Maybe of the highways were privatised, and charged commercial tolls reflecting demand, the excuses to subsidise railways would start to evaporate?

Daily Telegraph columns of the day

Janet Daley on the Kennedy legacy, the truth behind the higher profile Kennedy men that seemed to go largely ignored, how one could have a private life of intense shallowness, whilst opining the highest moral standards publicly. Political hypocrisy came of age, was known and ignored.

Philip Johnston on the failure to address welfare. Instead of tackling the problems of an underclass dependent on the welfare state, Labour tinkled "From 1999 onwards, the government – ie the Treasury – abolished family credit, introduced working families' tax credit, introduced the disabled person's tax credit, introduced a childcare tax credit, introduced an employment credit, abolished the married couple's tax allowance, introduced the children's tax credit, introduced a baby tax credit, abolished the working families' tax credit, abolished the disabled person's tax credit, abolished the children's tax credit, abolished the baby tax credit, introduced a child tax credit, abolished the employment credit and introduced a working tax credit" so that "five per cent of British men aged under 50 are still classified as ill or disabled – three times higher than in Germany".

Doesn't matter, people on welfare all vote Labour anyway don't they?

Call to privatise UK motorways

Yes, the RAC Foundation has suggested that the English Highways Agency be privatised, which would raise as much as £85 billion, as a way of both improving road management and providing a hefty injection of funds to help repay public debt.

I wouldn't care whether individual motorways are sold, or the whole network, but it could make an enormous difference. The key though, is how it would be paid for.

You see British motorists pay fuel tax and annual vehicle ownership taxes (road tax), and none of the money is dedicated to roads. Of that revenue raised, only a quarter of that amount is spent on roads, almost as much as railways. So a key first step would be to dedicate a portion of that tax to the privatised road companies, who would get money on a per vehicle km basis. Then the company could raise tolls to replace such taxes, moving people towards user pays.

Of course it still leaves local authority roads, but they could be the next step.

Professor Stephen Glaister made this presentation about how poorly transport policy in the UK responds to the road sector.

Sadly most respondents to this issue on the Daily Telegraph website are more friends of Marx than the market. Whinging about the roads and how they are managed, but terrified of the market providing solutions.

30 years ago today: Mountbatten murdered

Today, 30 years ago, a bomb went off in a boat off the coast of County Sligo in Ireland. On board was Louis Mountbatten, Nicolas Knatchbull (his 14 year old grandson), Paul Maxwell (a boy of 15) and Baroness Brabourne (the 83yo mother in law of Mountbatten's daughter Patricia). All would die as a result of that bombing, by the IRA.

The IRA called it an act of war, brave little men that they are. The man who planted the bomb, Thomas McMahon, is today living free, as part of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mountbatten's life was a full one. He had a distinguished naval career that took him into World War 2, although the military disaster at Dieppe, with particularly heavy casualties for Canadian forces would be a minor blot on his career. He oversaw the recapture of Burma from the Japanese and the surrender of Japanese forces in Singapore.

However, it is perhaps for his role as last Viceroy and first Governor General of India that he may be best remembered. He accepted early that India would have to be granted independence swiftly, and although he argued strongly for a united independent India, he faced the dogged determination of Muhammed Ali Jinnah, who pushed for partition. That partition, which Gandhi equally doggedly resisted, would see unforeseen bloodshed and dislocation. Whether Mountbatten could have insisted on a unified non religious India is a matter of conjecture, but his promotion of Indian independence saw him fall out with Winston Churchill at the time. Yes he was ambitious, and yes he was vain, but he was a significant figure in history - who fought for freedom against Japanese imperialism, and the rolling back of British colonialism in India.

The anniversary of the murder of Mountbatten will, of course, largely go unnoticed.

Zuma tells Mugabe off

Now I have no sympathies for Jacob Zuma, South Africa is very badly served by its politicians who have lied about HIV, interfered with the judiciary to save themselves, and used the state to enrich themselves and their families on a substantial scale.

However, he deserves credit for criticising Robert Mugabe. Zuma may be a step ahead of the odious and gutless Thabo Mbeki in that respect. According to The Times Zuma said Mugabe must curb deviant behaviour and work with the coalition government. In other words, power-sharing must be real and not just the appearance of reality.

Zimbabwe meanwhile remains a woeful place, although the shops are full, it is still not a place to safely own a business. The best that can be said is that things have stopped getting worse, but there remains significant restrictions on freedom of speech, and the cronies of Zanu-PF still profit from the state theft of land and businesses. It is at least positive that Jacob Zuma appears to have grown weary of South Africa propping up the disaster next door. News that Mugabe has been getting medical treatment may be the best news though, for the death of the murderous Mugabe would be the greatest leap forward for Zimbabwe in a generation.

British link to North Korean slave labour

The BBC reports on the Russian Timber Group, a company founded by a British businessman with a Russian business partner using North Korean slave labour - workers who work every day except 2 days a year off.

It remains remarkable at the lack of international attention this slave state gets, and its Nazi like treatment of most of its population. It remains a disgusting shame that human rights groups don't treat this place as the number one priority in the world.

However, Kim Jong Il will die soon, so there may hope for positive change...

Another reason to avoid Cadbury

Not only has it always been a sweet masquerading as chocolate, Opinionated Mummy shares my views on this, but is now pandering the the fatuous Fairtrade fad.

Let's not forget what Fairtrade is, a branded payment of more than the market price of a product to engage in a transfer to those who sell the product.

Yes people can choose Fairtrade, but with fair trade comes one assertion, one assumption and one deception.

The assertion is fair trade is good for people in developing countries. Paying people more than the market price for something is good for them. This of course encourages them to produce more, putting more pressure on the market price. You see, the market price is a signal of demand compared to supply. Interfering with that means overproduction, further distorting what people produce. It's basic economics, but it is hardly surprising the do-gooding left don't understand that.

The assumption is that free trade is bad. Of course free trade is comparatively rare in agricultural commodities. You can blame the EU first, US second, Japan third and others, but whilst attention is taken away from liberalising trade in agriculture with the Fair Trade trend, it means the gross distortions and subsidies seen in global trade in agricultural commodities continues. These are distortions that increased due to Barack Obama and which the EU shows precious little sign of confronting, largely because of the parasitical French.

The grotesque fraud is Fair Trade diverts attention from trade barriers that impoverish farmers in developing countries, but the economic illiteracy of the left continues to support this nonsense.

So what is the deception? That the premium paid for Fair Trade all goes to the poor farmers. Nonsense. Much of the premium is skimmed off, because Fair Trade products attract people who are less price sensitive, so everyone from retailer back can skim a little more off. It's a nice way of ripping you off under the guise of helping the poor.

You want to know more? Read this IEA report, which exposes Fair trade as being an wholly inappropriate way of helping the poor. Notably 50% of the revenue from Fair Trade levies is spent on the Fair Trade corporate brand itself on self promotion.

"50% of this income was spent on so-called educational activities and most of the remainder was spent on certification, licensing and product development. In fact, the educational activities involve campaigning and promoting the Fairtrade brand through Fairtrade fortnight, promoting Fairtrade schools etc. These are all activities that effectively promote Fairtrade’s own brand....It is most unusual for a charitable foundation whose objectives are to help the poor in under-developed countries to use such a large proportion of its revenues on activities simply designed to increase its own size. It would be surprising if Fairtrade customers were aware of this."

The Adam Smith Institute found that 10% of the Fair Trade premium actually got to the producer.

Indeed. If you want to help people in poorer countries you might do two things:
- Support campaigns for free trade, oppose politicians and lobbyists who oppose it; and
- Donate to charities with sound reputations for high quality development projects. Note, none have the initials UN attached to them.

Meanwhile, Cadbury now sells overpriced poor quality chocolate flavoured candy. I will be even less likely to buy it now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Anger management?

Idiot Savant

First he claims the referendum on smacking was about legalising punching your kids.

Now a man who often proclaims how important democracy is, has a hissy fit when it doesn’t go his way.

Let's all just say "fuck you" when we don't get our own way. It shines with reason.

He describes those who support legalised smacking as monsters, how the old law was legal cover for extreme violence and gets progressively more agree. He accuses those who organised the referendum as “hard core child beaters”, which is potentially defamatory (not that he’s stereotyping mind you), calls them believers in “faeries or devils”, but never commented on this case. He calls on the state to protect the children of the referendum holders, and then says “there's an awful lot of you monsters out there. Fortunately, you're dying out. And our country will be a much better place for children when you are gone”.

Do you think he has some issues with anger that he loses perspective?

I've made my distaste about corporal punishment clear, I don't like it, but I don't think very mild use of force should be criminal. That isn't a matter for the state.

By no means do I think most people who voted "no" are monsters. I think they are largely reasonable parents who fear the state taking their kids off them for using mild force that isn't about punching, kicking or thrashing their kids. When the primary argument you have against those you disagree with is abuse and vile accusations with no substance behind them, then you've done nothing for your case - it just looks like sour grapes. Particularly when someone who vents often about civil rights demands the state effectively take the children of the referendum organisers off them.

You can see how liberal he really is. On the bright side, maybe he will learn that democracy isn't a totem to worship - particularly when you think the majority vote for the immoral. Because when you worship democracy and it goes against you, you can either say those who voted "incorrectly" were stupid and "bought" in some way, or say "fuck you".

Killer and former sponsor of terrorism dies

Yep, as Not PC puts it, there is nothing good to say about Ted Kennedy. Had he died sooner then more people would be alive today. He was the senior member of one of the most overhyped familial personality cults in recent US history. His wealthy family went on about poverty so much, because they didn't have any as children, and constantly sought the growth of government interference and influence in people's lives. Chappaquiddick was a disgrace, that should have send him humbly into a quiet life, but no. He helped raise money for the IRA in the 1970s.

For all of the bile thrown at the last Bush Administration, you can see no further example of hypocrisy from Democrats, and the US left, than the fawning adulation for this misogynistic lying fraud and sponsor of killers.

I said before: "Ted Kennedy exemplifies the worst of politics in the United States - a fraud, a thieving conniving pork barrel peddling image merchant who has supported murder and violence. A nasty piece of work if ever there was one."

May his kind never be seen again.

Oh by the way, you can judge people by the company they keep, and so now watch the roll of dishonour:

Of course the Demogoguecrats will compete for who can do the best KCNA type sycophancy about the man. Kim Il Sung would have been proud of the official statement reported by the BBC.

BBC notes Time Magazine called him one of the Ten Best Senators, which either is appalling misjudgment or a grand indictment on the corrupt unprincipled vileness of Senators from both parties.

Of course the BBC in noting Chappaquiddick ignored that he left Mary Jo Kopechne to die, she drowned in the car than the coward fled.

Gordon Brown said "I am proud to have counted him as a friend".

Politicians stand together as rogues. Ask yourself if Ted Kennedy hadn't been a Kennedy, whether he would have had any hope of a political career after Chappaquiddick?

UPDATE: Oh he cheated at Harvard and was expelled as well, (got someone else to do his Spanish exam), but no doubt the family connections helped him return. The Daily Telegraph's obituary tells more details than most and is least fawning. His ongoing misogyny of course is par for the course for the Kennedys, but the feminists of the Democratic Party forgive him, like they forgave Bill Clinton.

President Obama is "heartbroken"
, hardly a surprise really, being politically closely aligned.

UPDATE 2: Skeptical Eye has a helpful view on how to treat the death of politicians. "I have had it with all the airports, museums and roads named after politicians, as if there's anything "noble" about what these little Eichmanns do for a living. Politicians are the most worthless group of hacks, weasels, liars, thieves and murderers in existence on the planet. They contribute absolutely nothing whatsoever to society. When they start dropping like flies, it's more tempting to celebrate than mourn." Though some DID fight for freedom, it is hard to find any like that in the US.


UPDATE 3: It appears both CNN and the Times are only posting comments on their websites that are glowing with praise about the man.

UPDATE 4: The Daily Mail isn't so anal about disrespecting the disrespectful.

UPDATE 5: "As the progressive humankind unanimously praises, Ted Kennedy is the unprecedented great man and the everlasting sun of humankind who was possessed of all characters and qualifications needed for a great man on the loftiest level, glorified his life as the great thinker and theoretician, great statesman and revolutionary, and performed epoch-making exploits shining forever in the era and history" Who's going to run with this?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moral question of the week: drugs during pregnancy

Having witnessed this myself a couple of days ago...

Should it be a criminal offence for a pregnant woman (assume she knows she is pregnant or should reasonably know she is pregnant and isn't insane) to smoke, take narcotics or alcohol?

FOR: Pregnancy is preventable. Once it occurs, termination on demand is legal up to a certain gestation period. Beyond that it is a fair assumption that the choice has been made to be a parent or to carry the foetus to term to give up for adoption. In such circumstances, reasonable care would be expected of the mother (and both parents after birth) to provide the necessary care and material needs for the child. Emphasis being reasonable. A mother ingesting any toxic substance effectively supplies that substance to the foetus. The dangers of foetal alcohol syndrome are well established and known, as are the dangers of substantial damage to the foetus from smoking or ingestion of hallucinogenics. The foetus is unable to consent to such consumption, and is at its most vulnerable state of growth during gestation. It is, in effect, little different from injecting the child directly. The rights of the child are held in trust by the parents, who are expected to take reasonable steps to protect those rights. Ingesting toxic substances deliberately during gestation does not do this, and is deliberately damaging and harmful to the child. It is an initiation of force.

AGAINST: The mother's body comes ahead of the foetus. With abortion rights, the foetus always comes second to the mother, this includes the mother having the right to ingest whatever she chooses. Risk such a law could be extended to diet, to anorexia, to prohibiting giving children alcohol to taste as they grow up. Many survive unaffected by maternal ingestion of alcohol, drugs or tobacco.

Expected positions?
Feminists: Women first, foetus has no rights.
Conservatives: Yes, prosecute the mother, foetus has more rights than mother.
Marxists: Don't prosecute the mother, she's probably poor, had bad education and doesn't know better.

Criminalising it means the foetus has rights (protected by the state) that can override the mother, the question is when do these rights appear? Not criminalising it means the foetus has no rights at all, and abortion on demand up to birth can surely be legal?

I lean towards criminalisation, admitting there are difficulties, but quite simply deliberate ingestion of drugs during pregnancy is a reckless disregard for the health of a baby that a mother intends to give birth to.

Discuss...

Iran's terrorist defence Minister

Iran's military coup leader, "President" Ahmadinejad has selected his Defence Minister. A man wanted by Interpol for planning the attack on a Jewish centre in Buenos Aires in 1994 that killed 85 people.

Christopher Hitchens has some damning words for the Iranian regime and calls upon the Obama Administration, quick to express disappointment at the release of the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, to freeze the overseas bank accounts of the theocratic thugocracy, to deny visas for their politicians to travel and to express disappoinment at the appointment.

After all, Libya once was a major sponsor of terrorism, and now only engages in terrorising its own citizens. Iran on the other hand terrorises its own citizens, those of its neighbours and is pursuing a nuclear programme in full defiance of the IAEA and its members. Perhaps the US Administration will learn that trying to be everyone's friend wont necessarily be returned in kind, and that who it should really be engaging with are the brave Iranian who have fought, been arrested and killed by this illegitimate gangster state of religious thugs.

Iran's future and the security of the region depends on it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Money to be wasted on a road?

with the ridiculously expensive Weiti Crossing bridge for the Whangaparaoa peninsula according to the NZ Herald.

The road would cost $217 million, of which $125.6 million is sought from your fuel taxes and road user charges, when it isn't even a very good project. Yes the remainder comes from tolls and levies on properties that will see improved values, but frankly unless the project ranks well sa being a good investment for other road users, why should it be progressed?

An appropriate assessment would be to estimate the fuel tax and road user charges that would be paid by those using the road. This is called "shadow tolling", where the money collected through motoring taxes is calculated and dedicated to the project. If that revenue can't be committed to the road, and the private sector borrow to build it based on that, the tolls and the property levy, then the road is a waste of money, and is being subsidised by others.

Lockwood Smith, the local MP, says "it has to go ahead".

Rodney Mayor and former ACT MP Penny Webster said Steven Joyce "promised" it would go ahead.

So, if tolls wont be enough, along with a property levy, and "shadow tolls" wont be enough, then it proves those who want it aren't prepared to pay for it - so it shouldn't be built.

Sadly it appear more than one National and ACT politicians are unwilling to apply user pays, when it is something they like.

Child abusers need to be bribed

So is the philosophy of leftwing columnist John Minto. After bemoaning child abuse figures in his Stuff blog, he has found a magic solution for it - give them more unearned money. Yes that's right, people rape, batter, torture, abuse, belittle and ignore their kids because the state hasn't handed them more money taken from everyone else. Like some sort of sick mafia racket, that means "give us more money or we'll hurt our kids".

Of course it's nonsense. Plenty of poorer families don't abuse their kids, and there is a share of middle income families who do. However, what really is abusive is Minto's malignant view of society and capitalism.

He doesn't conceal his hardened Marxism by saying: "we need economic policies which redistribute wealth from those who haven't earned it to those who do the work"

Those who "haven't earned it". Who are they John? Farmers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs and others who have spent time either managing something productive or applying their specialist skills to people willing to pay for it? (unlike Minto who has precious little to offer other than getting people like himself to chant in unison and moan how the world is unfair). Apparently if you pillage the people with ideas, who take risks and own property, all will be well - they wont flee with their money and skills and say "bye bye" will they? Or maybe John Minto wants a Berlin Wall type arrangement, to keep these people in NZ so they don't leave?

How about "those who do the work"? They don't get paid enough of course, John failing to note there always seems to be a lot of people willing to do the work for what they are paid, which suggests there is no need to pay them more. Labour shortages mean pay increases, but there is never a shortage at the bottom for people with next to no skills and experience.

Minto is in his heart of hearts a Marxist thief - he wants to steal from the rich to give to the poor, he wants the state to shove its jackboot in the face of those who get in his way.

He says "Taxes on capital gains (on all but the family home) and heavy death duties are the logical place to start. A financial transaction tax should follow and GST should be abolished"

"Tax and income policy should be based around what is needed for a breadwinner to maintain his or her family at a decent standard of living after a 40-hour working week based on sociable hours."

oh and if you actually earn less than that, don't bother trying, John Minto will make sure the state steals from the more productive so you can get a "decent" standards of living, with sociable hours. Delightful that. You wont bash up your son or rape your daughter now you don't have to work so hard for a living someone else has earnt.

THAT is how you reduce child abuse if you're a Marxist, you steal money from those who don't abuse their kids and give it to those who do - because when you're poor, you beat up and rape your kids (after all the anger's got to go somewhere doesn't it?).

Good job John Minto is far from poor then, or else his kids would be in for a hiding wouldn't they?

UPDATED: Opinionated Mummy agrees saying what Minto is promoting is damaging "The lessons you are teaching the young and impressionable people who may have (unfortunately) read your column are damaging, disrespectful, and (you won't care about this) economically unsustainable."

Auckland's railevangelists getting worried

You see the government hasn't yet robbed you to pay for trains 99% of you will never ride on, and which will likely run at a loss throughout their operating lives. The ARC wants brand new ones to move people who currently happily commute in some aging diesel trains (which still have life in them) or by bus. The government is looking at ways to minimise the cost, and Brian Rudman has heard rumours that this means reusing secondhand trains. Given all of Auckland's currently (and apparently "very successful") trains are secondhand, that isn't necessarily a bad thing - unless you worship the twin ribbons of steel and ache for a new train to get excited about.

There are 121 carriages of one form or another available to run existing Auckland passenger train services. About two thirds lie unused for most of the day, as the focus is on peak services. So if you only buy 75, it will be plenty for growth and to sustain off peak services, with the existing carriages capable of handling peaks. Bear in mind those using it aren't paying for more than one third of the operating costs so they shouldn't expect something brand new.

Outgoing ARC chairman Mike Lee is apoplectic with the lack of enthusiasm by the government to spend other people's money as much as he likes "We're fed up with second-best for Auckland. We've had it since the 1950s, and this is going to be the end of it. We're not going to meekly bow down and accept it". We? Mike, Aucklanders buy the cars and houses they want with the money they have, they have not bought a train set, they never voted for anyone to make them pay for a train set, so why should New Zealanders across the country pay for one for Auckland?

Take the waste of money involved in revitalising the Onehunga branch line, closed to passenger service in 1973. Railways are high density pieces of infrastructure, only superior to roads when very high volumes of people or good are being moved point to point. However, the ARC is spending your money on the Onehunga branch for a half hourly service - at peak times!! Find a road in Auckland that has NO traffic for half an hour at peak times. At best the trains might be 4 carriages long, so we are talking about buses every 7 or 8 minutes being replaced by a train. Getting 100 people excited in a meeting does not a railway make. A reasonable rule of thumb is a passenger train ought to carry, on average, three busloads to make it marginally more efficient than a bus - assuming the line itself has its fixed costs spread over many freight trains. NZ$15 million, plus ongoing subsidies, and money for new trains, to run a half hourly service, wont make any real difference to congestion on roads.

Auckland doesn't need an electric trainset. Given the huge amount of money spent (and written off, you wont get the money back if you sell it) in upgrading the Auckland rail network, it would be a waste to close it down - but the existing trains should be run into the ground with fares charged to recover operating costs and maintenance at least. Aucklanders should be given a chance to buy shares in a new private Auckland rail system, and see if they are willing to put their money where Rudman's mouth is. Of course if it means that the whole system winds down when trains need replacing, then some intelligent questions can be asked about how much of Auckland's rail network is worth saving

In other words, if you support Auckland's existing trainset, maybe it's about time you coughed up some money yourself.

Rodney stopped something bad getting worse

No race based seats in the Auckland supercity so says the NZ Herald.

The reasons given?

- Inconsistent with National Party policy on the parliamentary Maori seats (remember that? Remember when National believed the state should be colourblind?)
- It would be wrong to have such seats "just in Auckland" (slightly concerning point, but he hasn't announced spreading them nationwide);
- 2 Maori seats wouldn't give Maori an effective voice (one could argue it discourages Maori from standing in general seats and would only attract those of a certain political persuasion).

So a board will be set up to consult. Apparently the consultation processes that already exist for everyone else aren't enough, and of course the fact Maori can vote for everyone else on the council means they are no more shut out of it than anyone else.

However, nevertheless, it is a minor victory for commonsense. Yet don't get too excited Rodney. You stopped something being worse than what it is. The supercity still remains a bad idea. The only point to a supercity for me is if it has drastically reduced powers and responsibilities. What's the odds of that then?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Explaining the US healthcare system

and not defending it, is Lawrence Lindsay in the Sunday Times.

He was a former advisor to George W. Bush, so many on the left will shut their eyes anyway. However, he makes many valuable points about the US system. Does it ration by price? No...

"Medicare is an entitlement. This means it isn’t subject to an appropriation by Congress — the spending is automatic and unconstrained. Whatever bills Medicare’s beneficiaries run up, the government will pay without so much as a by-your-leave by Congress."

"So the real issue in America is not that we ration by price — by and large we do not. Our bigger long-term problem is that we effectively do not ration at all"

what do you get?

"First, there is much less queueing. Any insured American can get an appointment with his or her physician at a mutually agreed time with almost no waiting.
Americans have much better cancer survival rates. A study of cancer survival rates in 31 countries published last year in The Lancet bears this out. America was consistently in the top three for both men and women in the four different kinds of cancer studied. Britain tended to rank about 20th. First, Americans are more likely to get tested, thanks to the lack of rationing, and therefore the cancers are likely to be diagnosed sooner. This naturally makes them more curable. Second, unrationed American healthcare throws a ton of money at cancer, relative to Britain.
The third main service obtained from the higher cost of the American system is “extra spending at the end of life
”.

He doesn't say this is all necessarily good, but it is what Americans might lose from an NHS based system, which rations more by regulation.

Have a read, it is one of the most balanced articles I have seen yet about the two systems. It should destroy the myth that the US system is about the free market, but also explains some of the reasons why it is more expensive as a proportion of GDP compared to the NHS.

Sadly, the debate on health care in both countries has been driven by largescale support of systems that are both fundamentally flawed.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Herald on Sunday's patronising racism

How much nonsense can be packed into an editorial?

"Rodney Hide, who has vowed to resign as Local Government Minister if National agrees to Maori representation on the Super-City Auckland Council. He believes an advisory board should provide the voice for Maori, and says he intends to stand by that"

No. It isn't for the government to decide on Maori representation, it is for voters. Voters in a liberal democracy decide who they want to represent them, they choose councillors. It isn't and shouldn't be for the government to decide that some of them must be of one certain race. Hide doesn't believe an advisory board should provide the voice for Maori, he isn't taking away the votes of Maori. Who represents non-Maori if they don't have advisory boards?

"Ever since the rush-of-blood decision to exclude Maori, Mr Key has, quite correctly, been seeking to fashion a compromise."

How are Maori excluded by having one person one vote and candidacy open to all? Are Maori less likely to vote, are Aucklanders (your customers) racist and wont vote for Maori councillors? The government is not planning to exclude Maori from the council, they aren't excluded now.

"Mr Hide's absence would allow a more reasoned analysis, notably of the Royal Commission on Auckland Governance's recommendation in favour of Maori seats. Maori, a community of distinctive character and interest, should be represented on the Auckland Council."

The Royal Commission was called by a government that was voted out. Are Samoans of a distinctive character and interest? Are gay and lesbian Aucklanders? How about the young? How about the elderly? How about entrepreneurs? How about Chinese Aucklanders? Do you believe in liberal democracy or in collectivised sectarian democracy? Do Maori share the same view on politics? Noticed they all vote for what party? Reasoned analysis? Oh please.

"Dedicated seats, preferably two in number and elected by Auckland residents on the rolls of the Maori parliamentary electorates covering the Super City, are the obvious means of ensuring this." Because Maori wont vote for Maori councillors, but most of all neither will Aucklanders - apparently you think without some 19th century era patronising, Aucklanders wont elect Maori. Indeed, if they don't think Maori representation is important, you want to legislate over them.

So the Herald believes Maori are more important as a group, than anyone else in Auckland, more importantly, that Aucklanders are too racist to elect any Maori councillors (or that if they don't do so, the judgment of voters that the Maori candidates are not good enough should be overriden by reserving seats).

The supercity is a dog of an idea, conceived by a Royal Commission born of a government that believes local government should do whatever councillors think it should. The almost complete absence of any policy from this government on the role of local government is the real damning indictment of the supercity.

If Maori seats are created for Auckland, what's to stop the Maori political gravytrain seekers wanting the same for all councils?

The Greens and the Khmer Rouge Part 2

So the Greens got their history wrong and engaged in a bit of USA bashing, so what, they aren’t like the Khmer Rouge are they? I mean, you’d struggle to find the Khmer Rouge spirit and philosophy in most Green party member wouldn’t you? Well, yes probably.

However, the difference between the Greens and the Khmer Rouge is not as plain and obvious as that. Both apply the same philosophical principles, both have some similar political goals and indeed both use the same fundamental methodology, the difference is one of degree.

It is one that sadly the Greens can’t see in themselves, for to admit that would be truly horrifying.

Frogblog statedevery political and religious creed that has allowed any form of violence to be part of its agenda or methodology has at times created the sort of madness that Pol Pot let loose

Indeed, although I doubt the Greens acknowledge that they themselves have violence at the centre of their methodology. I have said this before many times, but the fundamental means the Greens use to their ends is state violence. The rhetoric of “peace” is wrapped in the fist of the state, the state that the Greens want to ban products they don’t approve of, because of what they are, what they contain, who made them or where they are from. The same state the Greens want to compel, prohibit and regulate, all with the threat of force against those who disobey. The same state the Greens want to force people to pay more, again with the threat of confiscation of property and imprisonment if you refuse. The Greens want to increase the role of the state, which has as its sole difference from every other institution the monopoly right to initiate force against others. In short, the Greens want more violence, yet cannot see that they are on a continuum of political parties advocating more violence – the Khmer Rouge are different by a matter of degree.

Then Frogblog stated
The real underlying human attribute that set the Killing Fields, and the Holocaust, and Inquisition, and 9-11 and Abu Ghraib et al in action, is certainty, certainty on a scale that will impose its will through violence.” Note the selection of targets. Two mass murders by politicians, a torture/murder spree by religious fanatics, an act of terrorism by religious fanatics, and then… a prison run by the US government that saw some working there commit abuses of… humiliation and torture, on a tiny scale in comparison. Again, had to find something the US did, not Stalin, Mao, Hussein, Ceausescu etc.

However, Frog is curious about talking of certainty. For the environmental movement is full of the same philosophy. Certainty that man made climate change is happening, means Armageddon if CO2 emissions are not drastically cut back, and that can only happen by curtailing fossil fuel based industries and transport, and not using nuclear power, and primarily in developed countries. Organic food good, GE food bad. Natural good, manmade bad. Train good, car bad. Recycling good, mining bad. Local good, foreign bad. State owned good, private and commercial bad. You can go on and on. Attacking these points of view can easily get slander and abuse, as if you are attacking a fundamentalist religion. Criticising climate change science means you are called a denier, terminology used to describe those who deny the historical fact of the Holocaust. Of course, the Greens will happily impose their will through violence. It has supporters who happily use violence to break into property and destroy it, or use it to threaten people at protests, and naturally it still believes in state violence to achieve its goals.

However, there is a more fundamental point. The Khmer Rouge expounded a number of political goals that are not that different from what the Greens espouse.

Yes the Greens do not want to engage in mass murder of any group. Yes the Greens approve of education, admittedly state monopoly education. Yes, the Greens wouldn’t abolish liberal democracy, but how many of them believe money is the root of all evil? How many would think doing away with money isn’t a bad thing?

The Khmer Rouge rejected foreign culture, technology and influences, the Greens rabidly back protection from imports, local content quotas and subsidies on media and rage vehemently against foreign investment or foreign ownership of “our” land and assets. The Greens are xenophobic or rather just nationalistic, the difference is the Khmer Rouge were fanatically so. The difference, is a matter of degree.

The Khmer Rouge embraced subsistence, basic agriculture, labour and self sufficiency. All very environmentally friendly, all for one and one for all. Everyone worked in the fields, everyone got fed, everyone was housed. It was organic, it was healthy, it wasn’t commercialized, and notwithstanding the slave labour conditions and insufficient rations to keep people alive – the principle was everyone had a job, everyone had subsistence, everyone ate healthily and nobody got rich. The difference, is a matter of degree.

Certainly, the carbon footprint would have been tiny. The Greens welcome old fashioned agriculture, self sufficiency and reject commercialization of just about everything. Cars had been banned, indeed aviation had virtually be shut down (though so had the railways so, hmmm a bit mixed). No fossil fuel burning power stations, little use of imported oil, so nobody who went through that period could have been accused of “harming the planet”. The Greens would regard any new power station, car or plane to have been a step backwards then. The difference, is a matter of degree.

The Khmer Rouge abolished money, the Greens are against free trade and extremely suspicious of capitalism. They seek to nationalize, regulate and prohibit various business activities. The difference is a matter of degree.

The Khmer Rouge took children from their parents, placed them in state schools so they would learn the official dogma, and to spy on adults. The Greens welcomed Cindy Kiro’s proposal to monitor children from cradle to grave, to prosecute parents who apply a mild smack to their children, the Greens oppose competition in education, oppose alternative ideas being taught from their dogma on the environment, and happily call on children to get parents to recycle. The difference is a matter of degree.

Philosophically, the only core differences between the Khmer Rouge and the Greens are the willingness of the Khmer Rouge to use violence to dispatch opponents, and the degree to which the Greens would go in using force to implement a future of less capitalism, less industry, more egalitarianism and more nationalism.

You see the Greens don’t believe that your body is yours, the Greens don’t believe parents should be responsible to pay for their children (or decide their education, diet, healthcare or media) , the Greens don’t believe businesses and consumers should trade freely, the Greens don’t believe that all adult interaction should be voluntary, the Greens classify people into groups (Maori, women, GLBT, foreign investors, businesspeople, students, disabled, elderly, the “rich”, the “poor”) and regard collective action to be more valuable than individual achievement.

The Khmer Rouge didn’t believe your body was yours, they didn’t believe parents were responsible for their children, they didn’t believe in business, they didn’t believe in voluntary adult interaction and classified people into groups, and regarded individuals as a means to an end.

Be very clear. I believe that most Green party members are light years away from having the intent or desire to do anything on the scale of bloodshed of the Khmer Rouge. However, philosophically, the differences are only one of degree – not principle. The Khmer Rouge believed in a pure Cambodian society without any foreign influences and no individualism. The Greens believe in a pre-industrial NZ society with all that is foreign being carefully selected, and individualism being under the watchful eye of an ever maternal state that directs collective and democratic decision making about much of your life.

Is it any wonder Keith Locke once looked upon the “liberation” of Phnom Penh fondly?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ready to punch your kids?

Presumably the vote on the badly worded smacking referendum means that New Zealanders predominantly want it to be legal to punch your kids in the face or smack them over the head with concrete - that's what you voted for, right? With this sort of nonsense from the child nationalisation lobby is it any wonder so many voted the way they did.

I didn't vote, partly because by the time the ballot paper got to the UK, I had little time to respond and think about how I would do so. I also believed a bad sign would be sent by voting to endorse legal smacking, as too many parents use corporal punishment frequently ("you'll get a hiding" being the apt phrase), and don't need further encouragement.

I don't like the law as it stands, but I don't believe smacking is part of good parental correction - nor do I enjoy seeing the likes of Family First gloating about something that, in my view, is a practice that should go.

As I have said before, I don't believe smacking should be a crime, but I also don't endorse it. I reject Sue Bradford's agenda of nationalising children, but also the agenda of some conservatives approving of violence to teach kids "a lesson". The law should protect children from force that causes damage or which is sadistic, repeated and terrorising. It should not protect them from force to remove them from danger or restrain them from doing violence to others. There was little evidence the old law presented problems for prosecuting real abuse, that should be the focus of tweaking criminal law -and let reform of parental discipline that is NOT abuse, be a matter for debate, discussion and dialogue.

There is now a mandate to review the law - that review should aim at only criminalising behaviour which is clearly abusive - but that legalising that which is not, is NOT endorsing it.

After all, group sex is legal, but the absence of a law against doesn't mean the state endorses it.

Libya greets killer as a hero

Abdul Baset Ali al-Megrahi has been returned to Libya to be given a hero's welcome by Muammar Gaddafi. His part in blowing up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie was not enough for him to be held in prison while he dies of prostate cancer - so he is feted by the Libyan dictatorship (which is now thought of as friendly, because Gaddafi doesn't play with terrorism anymore, and has a lot of oil).

Of course the disgrace of his release lies with the Scottish Justice Secretary, Kenny MacAskill. The power lay with him to release al-Megrahi as it is devolved to the loony leftwing Scottish government. MacAskill's decision has been damned by the Obama Administration and David Cameron (the British government has been rather quiet). However, it is hardly surprising, MacAskill is on the left of the Scottish National Party (which itself is more leftwing than Labour or the Lib Dems), so he probably has had more sympathy for the hardened socialist Gaddafi than most.

Of course those people who died on that Pan Am flight don't get a few months to spend with family before they died...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Temporary break

Mum's very ill, so being a polemicist isn't very important for now.

UPDATE: Stable and somewhat optimistic now, a scare, so here is hoping echocardiogram produces positive results. It appears a viral infection put the body under extreme stress, causing heart failure.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Greens and the Khmer Rouge Part 1

Frogblog has posted about the evidence given by Rob Hamill at the trial of Duch, who operated the Tuol Sleng torture and murder prison in Cambodia. A chance, of course, to reflect simply upon the horrors of the Khmer rouge era. Estimates of numbers executed and starved to death by this regime range from 1.2 to 2.2 million people, between a quarter and a third of the population.

The easy target is to throw stones at Keith Locke. It is fairly well known that in his naïve youth he cheered on the Khmer Rouge victory in Phnom Penh as a liberation. Of course he was not the only one, the Lon Nol military dictatorship that had been overthrown was corrupt and brutal. Nobody missed it at the time, it was hoped things could only get better. Few paid any attention to stories coming out of Khmer Rouge occupied territory of the Maoist autarchy imposed on the local population, although images from the early 1970s showed the uniformity and order that they had imposed (ironically published approvingly by a Chinese state propaganda pictorial magazine).

However, my concern is not Keith Locke. He was young and naïve, better to forgive that and his statements about nuclear power only being safe under socialism, and cheering on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, than to dwell a quarter of a century or more later. My concern is also not Sue Bradford, who was cheerleading on Maoist China in the early 1970s, the Khmer Rouge’s chief source of funds, arms and ideology. Imagine if a senior National MP had cheered on Pinochet, Franco or Salazar in his youth and how that would be treated by the Greens, but I digress.

It is this statement

“For us in the West what we have to get our heads around is that the Khmer Rouge learnt their ideology in Paris and were able to seize power because Richard Nixon personally ordered a secret bombing campaign that killed half a million. And that US foreign policy, in particular their determination to never forgive anyone that drives them off, allowed the Khmer Rouge to occupy Cambodia’s UN seat until 1993 rather than the government installed by the Vietnamese invasion that ended their rule.”

This statement evades certain facts, and would make you think that it is all the fault of the West and the US that the Khmer Rouge came to power. This is, at best, a side effect of failed policies, and there are others who can carry far more blame.

Yes the Khmer Rouge learnt their ideology in Paris, at the Sorbonne, along with many other Marxists. Radical Maoism was de riguer among many academics, vile as it always has been. However, the Khmer Rouge was active before the US bombings. Why did the US bomb Cambodia in the first place? Because it was being used by the North Vietnamese as a bypass route to infiltrate South Vietnam. “Neutral” Cambodia was a staging ground for invasions of South Vietnam. The US response was to use bombing and then invasion to close the borders, and buy time. The bombing killed between 100,000 and 600,000 (half a million is a high estimate), and certainly gave the Khmer Rouge propaganda to attract illiterate peasants to fight for them. The US backed the overthrow of Prince Norodom Sihanouk (a very slimy long time friend of Kim Il Sung) and supported a corrupt and brutal strongman called Lon Nol. His antics also helped fuel support for the Khmer Rouge. However he achieved the primary goal, securing the borders of Cambodia and wiping out North Vietnamese forces in Cambodia.

The Khmer Rouge was backed solidly by Mao, China supplying explicit financial and material support. The USSR was more interested in Vietnam. So it was China that enabled the Khmer Rouge to fight against Lon Nol. However, it was Lon Nol himself who was so corrupt, incompetent and cruel that caused many Cambodians to join the fight against him. Note that Prince Sihanouk himself backed the Khmer Rouge as well – the “neutral” Prince backing radical Maoists so he could continue to enjoy the trappings of power. The US did not back the Khmer Rouge, it unfortunately backed its hopelessly incompetent and immoral opponents.

So the US was guilty of foolishness in Cambodia, because its goal in Vietnam propelled victims of its actions (and its friend’s actions) to support the Khmer Rouge. However, to say Nixon enabled the Khmer Rouge to seize power is evading two key points:

1. Had the Khmer Rouge not had Chinese support, it may well have failed to takeover, avoiding the massive loss of life its regime caused.
2. The US from 1970 to 1975 armed, funded and backed the Lon Nol military regime, which whilst bad, fought the Khmer Rouge. Had Lon Nol remained in power, it would have been corrupt, and far from free, but would not have been as murderous. A similar analogy is Korea, where South Korean dictatorships and military regimes ran the country from 1953 through to 1988, but which was far less deadly than North Korea for its people.

The truth is that China provided succour to the Khmer Rouge, the US lamely fought against it, but the biggest supporters of the Khmer Rouge were often Western academics.

The Greens skirt over the Khmer Rouge years. The years when umpteen Western academics embraced the Khmer Rouge, including the fool Malcolm Caldwell who decided to go visit them, and got murdered as a result. The years when leftwing pinup Noam Chomsky declared stories of mass murder and starvation from Democratic Kampuchea as CIA propaganda (the man has slithered in evasion of this statement ever since). This thesis talks of the "Standard Total Academic View on Cambodia" being "Democratic Kampuchea symbolized their wildest hopes and dreams. From the classroom to the politburo, the new Kampuchea was, to these scholars, theory becoming reality" says Sophal Ear.

You see the Khmer Rouge represented the idealistic vision of so many on the left. More on that in Part 2.

Vietnam invaded Cambodia for various reasons, including a border incident, concern over the Khmer Rouge treatment of ethnic Vietnamese (Vietnam knew only too well what was going on there), Soviet support for Vietnamese expansionism (as Vietnam was not backed by China – as was seen in a brief border war between the two in 1979).

You may find it odd that a party that opposed the US overthrowing the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, overthrowing the Taliban dictatorship and includes many who opposed the US kicking Iraq out of Kuwait, so warmly receives (or at least glosses over) Vietnam invading Cambodia.

Let me be clear, the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia was moral, purely because it ended the Khmer Rouge horror, even though nobody could dare claim that the Socialist Republic of Vietnam was free or respected individual rights, it fell short of the mass executions of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge had been brutal to Vietnamese on both sides of the border. However, overthrowing the Khmer Rouge does not fit well with Green Party rhetoric against imperialism and war, particularly since the government installed by Hanoi was little more than an extension of its own.

The Greens claim the US allowed the Khmer Rouge to occupy the UN seat of Cambodia rather than the Vietnamese installed regime because of a fit of pique at losing the Vietnam War. This is an element of truth evading several facts and with the wrong motive.

The seat at the UN was held by the Coalition Government of Democratic Kampuchea, shared by the Khmer Rouge, FUNCINPEC and the KPNLF, the latter two being royalist and anti-communist. This was maintained because China and the US both vetoed Soviet and Vietnamese requests for the seat to be taken up by the Hanoi led government. Of course when the Cold War ended, all of this fell away. Vietnam had withdrawn from Cambodia, and the pro-Vietnamese government engaged in a coalition with FUNCINPEC and the KPNLF, whilst the Khmer Rouge tried to continue fighting.

So why the history lesson? Well it is understandable to write about Rob Hamill testifying at Duch’s trial. It is a tragic NZ element to one of the most vile events of the 20th century. Indeed so vile it demonstrates that what is worse than war is government turning on its own people. However, the Greens couldn’t use the occasion to simply deplore the Khmer Rouge, deplore Maoism and condemn totalitarianism and communism. No. It was used to blame the United States, by selective use of the facts and evading the fundamental blame for the Khmer Rouge – Marxist scholars, Chinese Maoists and the embrace of the ideology that individuals only exist for the greater good.

The Greens implicitly endorse the Vietnamese invasion and conquest of Cambodia, because it overthrew a murderous tyranny, but don’t support the US doing the same in Afghanistan and Iraq.

So, why would the Greens selectively report history to bash the US? Why not bash China for providing the greater succuour to the Khmer Rouge? Why not bash communism generally? Why ignore the US backing of the Khmer Rouge's opponents over sustained periods? Why not slam the apologists of the regime from leftwing academia (which included your own)? Why not criticise Norodom Sihanouk for letting Cambodia be a vehicle for Vietnamese communist insurgency (attracting US attention), and then being a vehicle for the Khmer Rouge to have legitimacy?

Or better yet, why not shut the hell up about a party and government that represented an idealised vision of a society without any capitalism (money was abolished), without carbon based energy, where everyone was equal, there were no possessions, where peasantry had been raised to the highest level, where everyone was meant to get what they needed, and nobody was rich. Then ask yourself, before the consequences of this vision were obvious, would you too have supported it?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Protecting Aucklanders' assets

Labour’s latest leftwing pinup MP Phil Twyford has introduced a bill to require a referendum for any privatisation of Auckland local government owned assets. He talks of protecting “our assets”.

I fully agree that ratepayers’ assets should be protected, the biggest risk to them is local government. Local government spends their money on their behalf buying assets that end up being worth less than what they were paid for, without consent from those whose money they spent.

So I propose that the Local Government (Protection of Auckland Assets) Bill be amended to be the Local Government (Protection of Aucklanders Assets) Bill, and it have a new Section 5:

The following section is inserted after section 63:
“63A Acquisition of Auckland local authority assets
• “(1) No Auckland local authority shall—
o “(a) buy or otherwise acquire, or purchase any equity securities, shares or title in any property; unless
o (b) the finances used to make the purchase have been acquired with the express consent of those who have contributed.
(2) No Auckland local authority shall—
(a) levy rates on those liable for rates within the territory of Auckland local authorities without the express written authority of those it seeks to levy rates against;
(b) levy any other taxes whatsoever.

Now whose assets was Phil Twyford interested in? The ones that are taken from those who actually pay for councils, or the ones his mates control?

Key's simpering apology for torture

Sorry John, you got it all wrong. In fact, the NZ Herald report of John Key's siding with Justice Simon France on the "Makutu" case while not surprising (it being a very big deal for any Prime Minister to criticise a High Court judge), it is disappointing. He could have simply kept his mouth shut.

Apparently John thinks being "misguided and not malicious" should mitigate any sentence someone gets for sustained acts of torture.

So the next time a sadist is up on charging of whipping his son within an inch of his life, and kills him accidentally, because he believed Satan had taken him over, then John will be sympathetic if this violent child abuser gets a community sentence.

The next time this lot have a go at getting rid of a Makutu, and ring the ambulance after whipping, burning or whatever other method of torture they wish to use against the 14yo cousin (who was next in line for their "exorcism"), then John Key and Simon France wont think they are a danger to society.

A man can molest a child and get an injunction against being near children to protect them, but a group of middle aged Maori men and women can threaten to torture someone because of sincerely held religious beliefs, and well let's not worry about that.

Oswald Bastable notes the Crown wont appeal the sentence.

So the next victim of this Dark Ages practice can point fingers squarely at Simon France, the Crown Prosecutor, and of course the PM now, for thinking this sort of precedence doesn't send a signal that "you can torture and get away with it using the "Makutu" defence".

Indeed, if there is one by someone of another religion, I look forward to the appeal on someone's sentence, on the basis that the High Court has now set a sentencing precedence.

Monday, August 17, 2009

You can assist people by choice

One Idiot Savant doesn’t understand. When referring to huge families on welfare he says:

those children exist, and their need is real… If we want them to have any chance of a decent life (rather than creating or perpetuating multi-generational poverty), they need to be provided for.”

Why do these children exist? Who is primarily responsible for meeting their needs? Why should people who choose not to have children or to have few children be forced to fund a decent life because some parents ARE feckless? Why should people currently on welfare get more welfare if they breed more? Why is the money forcibly taken from others, a right?

However, his lack of imagination, the fundamental failure of morality shared by virtually all on the left is this statement here:

What exactly are the right proposing here? Denying assistance to those whose need is greatest? Leaving people to starve?

Who is leaving who to starve? Who denies assistance? Who is stopping anyone from providing assistance? Is Idiot Savant suggesting that if the beloved state doesn’t pilfer taxes from him, pay bureaucrats in the process then hand it out in welfare, that he wouldn’t help people in need?

Why are taxes, a tax collection bureaucracy and a money handout bureaucracy a sign you care, but charity – something you choose to give, through people who want to help – an anathema?

In other words – why do you need to be forced to care?

Furthermore, why is it ok to bash the people who are forced to pay welfare, but not to demand accountability and appreciation from those who get it?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

McCarten's usual non-analysis on healthcare

It is pretty damned obvious that more often than not I'm going to disagree with Matt McCarten, this week using smears and distortions to spread the typical leftwing lie of American healthcare bad, socialised healthcare good. Simple concept. I'm sure it's one that the vast majority of New Zealanders agree with. Most have heard the propaganda about Americans dying in the streets without healthcare, turned away from hospitals and being ruined because of the high cost. Most of it is nonsense of course, but it suits the vested interests who profit from a state controlled and taxpayer funded system. What? Profit? Yes. You see that's one of the many points Matt gets very wrong. So what did he say?

"You only have to look at the United States to see what a nightmare it is when you mix profiteering with healthcare
" Really Matt? So when healthcare worker unions go on strike demanding more pay from people who are unable to choose whether or not to take their money and go elsewhere, that isn't profiteering? Or is it ok for employees to engage in rent seeking from taxpayers? Perhaps you could look at Singapore, Australia, the Netherlands or others that have significant private sector involvement? Oh no, doesn't fit with your binary view of private sector untrustworthy, bad, rips people off vs public sector, benevolent, efficient, kindly, does it?

"Given that tens of millions of American citizens have no healthcare" Really? Nearly 85% of Americans have health insurance. Of the 15%, over a third live in relatively wealthy households (US$50,000 per annum plus), so prefer to pay for healthcare directly rather than through insurance. Let's bear in mind that all of the elderly and the very poor are covered.

So 10% of Americans have no healthcare. Bear in mind that in New Zealand (and the UK), healthcare is not always available when you need it too. Matt somehow thinks a majority will throw away what they have, but he forgets, a majority of Americans don't trust the government like he does.

"Seemingly ordinary people are mobilising noisily to oppose reform and keep their overpriced, inaccessible, ruthless health system. None of this universal, open-access health coverage for them. Apparently that's socialism" Yes Matt, maybe they know something you don't? Maybe the fact that this high price happens to deliver some of the best health professionals, leading edge procedures and technology in the world? Maybe because there isn't queuing?

Yes Matt, forcing everyone to pay for a monopoly state provider than you cannot demand service from IS socialism. You embrace socialism, are you scared of the word?

He says it is because "they've never known anything else so they can't imagine what it might be like not to live under a fear-based system". Of course Matt hasn't either, ignorant he just assumes the people campaigning are stupid. He also forgets that there is a fear based system in New Zealand as well, such as fearing when you'll get the operation you are queuing up for, when you are in pain or it is life threatening. No, forget that.

Then he completely misrepresents capitalism, describing democracy instead "a good chunk of Congress has been bought and paid for by the interests that stand to lose the most if Americans were to change their system. So it's not madness at all, it's just capitalism doing what it does best - fighting hard, and dirty, to protect its interests" Capitalism doesn't involve using the state to give privilege, no that's rent seekers, moochers, seeking state force to get what they can't get from persuasion.

However, Matt isn't into persuasion, he is into using state force to promote interests. Yes, the greatest corruption of government ARE those who use state force to get their interests - hardly surprising that health providers would do it. They do it in New Zealand, through monopoly associations and unions, but Matt thinks that's just fine.

Now he is right that some claim Obama's socialist ideas are about compulsory abortion or euthanasia, yes there are some wingnuts, but he uses that to smear the lot.

"US is becoming more a negative than a positive role model. And we can learn a lot from it, about things like keeping corporate money out of politics, about defending what we have and opposing the encroachment of the private profit-makers into matters that involve the public good." Well of course it's ok to have union money in politics, and confiscating private money for so called "public good". He loves the public good, but when it fails individuals they should just shut up and stop being selfish - I mean it's only health right?

"There's an argument that another even less savoury element underlies the screaming and yelling in America - racism. The mad-dog "birthers" who deny Obama is a natural-born citizen are its most obvious face, with those who labelled the new Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor a racist." Yes the birthers are mad, but Sotomayer DID make a racist comment, but in the world of leftwing doublespeak a Hispanic woman saying someone of her race can make better decisions than a white man - but if it was the other way round, McCarten would shout racism.

However, in the end Matt offers nothing of substance. Nothing to suggest what is wrong with the US other than it isn't government provided for all - he can't even conceive that it isn't a free market because he thinks businesses rip people off, but unions and governments are benevolent and always give good service to those who pay.

You see there is reason to have concern about costs in the US system, there are enormous distortions that privilege employer provided insurance over individually purchased insurance, costs through litigation that has become increasingly non objectively based, and the government provided medicaid and medicare systems are facing significant inflation. However, Matt has an ideological opposition to private provided healthcare, or insurance based models, even though many universal systems are dominated by private providers and insurance. Have a quick look at wiki, Singapore for example is virtually entirely private, with the government only topping up care for the poor.

Though you wouldn't expect a former Alliance Party President to spread that sort of information would you?