Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

No contingency for Auckland rail…again

March 5, 2009

Yet again, transport policy setter ARC, transport policy implementer ARTA and rail operator Veolia are caught with their trousers round their ankles! When will they start to put in place adequate contingency plans for a variety of potential system’s failures? Hell, or any contingency plan beyond ‘dither for 2 hours, then get all passengers a taxi chit or hope they go away’.

Accident’s and equipment failures happen. The real beef I have is how poorly ARC, ARTA and Veolia respond – every time! They should list every kind of outage they can realistically expect (from Auckland’s volcanos erupting to signals loss to points jamming or derailments) and what measures they will take to rectify and keep passengers informed and moving.

Instead, another ludicrous mega-billion plan to disrupt the services in pursuit of an unachievable utopia.

Did the Remuera Rd rail overbridge naturally crack the other day, or was it caused by the Newmarket rail station upgrade (bozo with bulldozer?). Why was the bridge not physically inspected during the station upgrade planning process? (what are those project managers paid for, hmmm? will there be a penalty for them for this oversight?).

Interesting that in the Remuera Rd bridge article linked to above, no answer was given by Ontrack to the obvious question by Newmarket Business Assoc. ceo Cameron Brewer; namely, why did no-one working under this bridge spot the cracks earlier?

Passenger growth is badly hurt by the perpetual ‘incremental improvements over 20 years’ mentality pervasive in ARTA. These risk averse bunnies should be axed – give the implementation of public transport planning back to ARC and save on paper pushers.

Gaddafi stadium grief

March 4, 2009

As many will have heard, the Sri Lankan cricket teamwas attacked as they went to Gaddafi stadium in Lahore to play the 3rd day of their test against Pakistan. 5 players were wounded but have been treated, and several Pakistani security staff and the team bus driver it seems are dead. The Sri Lankan team are being evacuated by a chartered plane back home.

3 things jump out at me from this:

  1. Hopefully the imbeciles who blithely say ‘sport and politics don’t mix’ now understand that you cannot separate the political situation in a country from the sports that take place in that country. Either the sports are directly related to the politics (apartheid teams in South Africa) or the sports are used as a target for political groups to ‘make their point’. Either way, sports must always consider how they relate to political situations, and whether the sport is helping or hurting the political situation (no suggestion of that in this attack).
  2. The weapons & explosives makers should be held responsible. The companies that make the weapons that can be traced back as being used in this (and all) attacks should have to pay for the costs – compensation and medical/funeral costs to families of the dead & wounded, rebuilding property damaged, etc. It is abundantly clear that weapons makers are complicit in selling their tools of death to those willing to use them unjustly, so the cost of these weapons being used – the externality – should be charged to those profiting from the sale of the weapons. These weapons don’t just pop into the hands of those willing to shoot up a cricket team!
  3. The International Cricket Council (ICC) needs to sensibly review it’s criteria for touring countries. Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India have all had terrorist attacks, so we should not have to have the Prime Minister (as we just did in NZ) saying he ‘does not want’ the cricketers to tour a country (Zimbabwe over human rights abuses) deemed unsafe/undesirable to tour for political reasons. Set safety criteria and human rights criteria. If a country fails safety criteria, play in a neutral venue and pay the revenue to the ‘host’ nation you could not visit. If a country fails the human rights criteria, play in a neutral venue and pay nothing to the ‘host’ country, to put pressure on that nation’s government to get up to international standards of human behaviour.

If we look at these points above, amidst our sorrow at the attack on the Sri Lankan team, then cricket and sport in general may be part of the solution to human rights & political problems. After all, can we really play sport as relaxation & amusement when whole societies are suffering so much it is expressed in these attacks?

Oh, and this kind of witless, dribbling nonsense from a Pakistani cabinet minister is extremely unhelpful.

Nats to ban Black Caps Zimbabwe tour?

February 16, 2009

Woohoo! Good news, from the National government, of all people. Prime Minister John Key has strongly hinted that the Nats will ‘order’ the Black Caps to not tour Zimbabwe this July. If so, this would let NZ Cricket off the hook for potentially millions in default fees, under ICC rules that block a nation cancelling a tour for political reasons. Essentially, the ICC recognise that if the NZ government ban the Kiwi cricketers from touring Mugabe’s land, then the decision is taken out of the hands of NZ Cricket CEO Justin Vaughan.

This can only help Zimbabwe’s quest for human rights; despot Mugabe is a known cricket fan, so it will hopefully send him a clear message that respecting human rights in Zimbabwe is more important to the world than a cricket tour (much as we like the latter).

NZ left-wing govt elected…or not

November 22, 2008

Grrrr – the desire to let vent with a righteous “I told you so” is incredible about now. The Chief Electoral Office has just released the final NZ 2008 election results, and the National-Act-Dunne government stands.

Total MPs are:

  • National 58, Act 5, United 1
  • Maori 5
  • Labour 43, Anderton 1, Greens 9

News and opinions are up at NZ Herald and Stuff (both based on a NZ Press Association article, which incorrectly equates a 0.32% party vote gain for the Greens as 70,000 party votes – it is actually a rise of 22,991 votes), and National party activist blog Kiwiblog (who notes how close Labour came to pinching another MP off National).

Update: The Greens now have their views up on the final result.

But it should have been close, and wasn’t. Why?

Because the arrogant left-wing parties that used to form the government refused to even consider the desperate need to remove the 5% threshold gerrymander (it was raised informally with them regularly over the last 5 years). Without any threshold (and with no rounding up of partial MPs), a Labour-Anderton-Greens-Maori-NZFirst government was possible. It would even have been able to be formed if we took the ‘natural’ 0.83% threshold (equating to earning 1 list MP) and rounded. Sigh.

No-threshold results (meaning no discarded votes) would have been:

  • National 53, Act 4, United 1
  • Maori 5
  • Labour 40, Anderton 1, Greens 8, NZ First 4

giving a total of 116 with a majority of 58 (including speaker) to Labour-Greens-NZFirst (the lower total seats is despite the 2 overhang seats of the Maori Party, and is caused by rounding all parties partial MPs down – they have to earn the full MP to get them).

Taking the ‘natural’ 0.83% threshold and rounding up or down partial MPs would have given:

  • National 55, Act 4, United 1
  • Maori 5
  • Labour 42, Anderton 1, Greens 8, NZ First 5

giving a total of 122 MPs with majority (including speaker) of 61 to Labour.

Of course, that assumes people would still have voted the same way, which they almost certainly would not have if they knew the threshold was changed or not there at all. One assumes voters would be less inclined to tick the ‘media stunt’ Bill & Ben Party, and that voters would be more likely to vote for minor parties like Family Party, Kiwi Party, NZ Pacific Party as they had a more realistic chance of getting the roughly 12,500 or 17,000 votes (depending on whether you round or not) required to EARN a list MP.

An interesting sidepoint is that with a 0.83% threshold¬† – or better still with none – the annoying “win 1 electorate and get all your party vote, even if under 5%” rule would be unnecessary, simplifying the rules nicely.

Incidentally, all other variations of threshold and ’rounding vs truncation’ would give a National-led government, sometimes with 1 MP each to the (supposedly) Christian fundamentalist Kiwi Party and to the Bill & Ben Party. But if people want those parties to represent their views in Parliament, so be it – that’s democracy. What is not democracy is the stupid Labour-Greens MPs and party workers sitting on their hands complacently, wondering why they are now in opposition for the next 3 years! And the NZ public have had 153,461 of their votes ignored…

The Essential Qualities of Marriage

November 19, 2008

It is hard to express how gob-smacking and insulting this French appeals court ruling on a marriage is. Tragic for the couple involved, but even more so for France, if a handful of witless ‘feminists’ and judges can overturn global human understandings of what a marriage is.

Summary of events – Islamic husband rejects wife on wedding night when he discovers she is not a virgin. She agreed the next day to his request for annulment of the marriage. Lower court annuls marriage, but ‘feminists’ howl, so gutless minister forces state to appeal, and appeal court overturns ruling. Meaning the marriage still stands, despute niether husband nor wife considering their marriage valid, and dishonesty of 1 party to the marriage going into it.

Stunning. At the heart of this decision is what the court accepts to be the ‘essential qualities’ of a marriage, breach of which are grounds for annulment. The French appeal court claims that a spouse lying, and misrepresenting their sexual history do not undermine the trust and love necessary for marriage. Which makes you wonder what French appellate judges consider marriage to be? I wouldn’t trust a business partner who lied to me, let alone misrepresented their business history to me; how much more important to be upfront in an intimate relationship like marriage?

Article 16 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights states:

Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

How can the a spouse give ‘free and full consent’ if that consent is undermined by lies by the other contracting partner? Quite apart from trust, it is a legal nonsense.

And the court appears to have overlooked the implications – the most obvious of which is that they have come within a hair’s breadth of legalising adultery, and nullifying millions of divorces! After all, adultery involves a spouse lying about their sexual activity – same as this wife – but about sexual activity after the marriage takes place rather than before (as for the wife in this case).

But if sexual history and honesty about that history are not ‘essential qualities’ of marriage, a strong case can be made that post-marital adultery is no more a breach of marriage than ‘pre-marital adultery’ (fornication). With adultery being the sole grounds for a huge proportion of divorces, the Douai appeals court may have rendered such divorces void. Which would make for a really awkward Christmas, to say the least…

Sadly, a large part of the reaction against the initial annulment that led to this crackpot appellate ruling, seems to have been anti-Muslim bigotry. References to virginity having no place in marriage in this ‘democratic and secular’ France reveal nothing about the state of the claimed marriage, but a lot about the attitudes of those pushing the annulment overturn. Notice these hypocritical ‘feminists’ have not been howling over the woman who ‘divorced’ her husband over his ‘Second Life’ computer game adultery

Get a brain ‘feminists’ & French courts – no spouse (male or female) has a ‘human right’ to cheat on their husband or wife before or after the marriage. Lying about it certainly undermines the whole basis of marriage – the two people becoming one in love.

Scrap undemocratic thresholds!

November 10, 2008

New Zealand has voted in a new government, and this outcome would not be altered by variations on the current 5% MMP threshold, but…

The 5% threshold is nothing more than a disgraceful Labour & National gerrymander designed to inhibit the number & size of the minor parties that get elected, and consequently keep the 2 big parties entrenched (alternately) in power. A truly shameful and undemocratic farce. No Right Turn and Graeme Edgeler have both blogged on this already (update: and so has National party activist David Farrar at Kiwiblog and a more rational post by Green party member Ari at g.blog).

Tiddler parties find it relatively easy to get the 500 voters they need signed up as party members, so they can register their party and have it appear on the list of parties (so they can get a share of the party vote). But the hurdle is then enormous to get enough party votes to cross the ‘5%¬† of the party vote’ threshold to actually get MP’s allocated to their party (roughly 110,000 votes). So ‘conservative Christian’ Kiwi Party and ‘single-issue’ Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party parties register, but with only 11,659 and 7,589 votes respectively, they have no chance of passing the 5% threshold.

There is a backdoor way of avoiding the 5% threshold – get 1 or more electorate MP’s elected, and any amount of party vote your party has is counted. For example, Jim Anderton keeps winning Wigram electorate, so his 0.93% of the party vote is counted (though it is not high enough to get him a second list MP).

But what would the NZ election outcome look like if there was no 5% threshold? Depending on round-off, NZ First would have gained 5 list MP’s, and the Kiwi Party and The Bill & Ben Party would have got 1 list MP each, at the expense of 1 ACT, 2 Labour and 4 National list MP’s. Of course, if the voting public knew they had no threshold, the chances of the ‘joke’ Bill & Ben Party getting that many votes is far lower.

With 120 MP’s (unless there is an overhang, caused by a party winning more electorate seats than their proportion of the party vote would have given them), there is a ‘natural’ threshold of 0.83% of the party vote – every time a party wins 0.83% of the party vote, they get another list MP.

So having no threshold means a party either wins electorate seats or gets chunks of 0.83% of the party vote to get each list MP. This then gets complicated by the problem of what to do with the tiny proportions of party vote that aren’t enough to get that party another list MP. That is, if a party gets 2.7% of the party vote, that entitles them to 3 list MP’s (3 x 0.83% = 2.5%) but leaves 0.2% of the vote ‘wasted’ – not enough to get another MP.

So the Chief Electoral Officer junks the party votes that don’t earn another MP, or don’t give enough votes for a party to get even 1 list MP (assuming that party didn’t win an electorate seat). They then recalculate the party vote share based on this new, slightly smaller ‘pie’ of 120 MP’s, and allocate enough list MP’s to add with each parties electorate MP’s to get their total ‘slice of the pie’.

Removing the threshold altogether does run the risk of ‘extreme’ or ‘joke’ parties winn ing a list MP, but that is democracy – if people vote that party in, they should get the representative of their choice. And the prospect of joke MP’s is lower when people know there is a lower threshold. But even if such ‘extreme’ or ‘joke’ parties get an MP, they would have little impact. Peter Dunne & Jim Anderton have next to no impact on laws, with just 1 MP each.

But a large part of that is because party vote is rounded up or down to make whole list MP’s (instead of 1/4 a list MP, say). Truncating party vote means parties have to actually earn every vote to make up 0.83% of the party vote to get each list MP. Meaning the Kiwi Party, with 0.56% of the party vote would not get any MP’s, instead of having their 0.56% rounded up to 0.83% and get 1 list MP (and have Taito Phillip Field’s NZ Pacific Party – on 0.33% of the party vote – get rounded down to nothing).

Time to junk the 5% threshold – it is undemocratic, totalatarian nonsense. Of course, scrapping the 5% threshold just makes MMP more democratic – there is a whole other debate on why a party-based electoral system like MMP is nowhere near as democratic as it should be… (think MP’s ignoring overwhelming public opinion on issues that they hope will go away before the next election).

All hail the Obamessiah!

November 5, 2008

US Republican presidential candidate John McCain just conceded, and liberals all over the States have gone berserk, weeping and falling to the ground to worship the new President. It really is that stomach churning. And I’m not exactly a Republican kinda guy…

What is interesting is that in NZ’s Scoop website coverage, the first thing Gordon Campbell wrote about after the announcement of Obama’s presumed election (always wait for the official result – remember 2004?), was abortion. Namely, the US President’s ability to appoint new Supreme Court judges, and the impact Obama would have on the Roe vs Wade abortion legalisation decision.

Obama is rumoured to want a Freedom of Choice Act, similar to the legalisation moves recently passed in Victoria, Australia; removing all reference to abortion being the taking of a human life (current laws allow that unborn child’s life to be taken, but claim it is justifiable, so makes it legal). Will Obama listen to the pro-life voices, or will he trample on human rights of the most vulnerable?

Freedom of religion? Not in Victoria!

September 25, 2008

Update: Sadly, this ‘abortion as a human right’ bill has been passed by the State of Victoria in Australia. Abortion is now considered to be an entirely legal action – no longer even considered the ‘acceptable’ taking of a life, it is not even deemed the taking of a life anymore. It seems some Australians think unborn children not worthy of recognition as humans. Which begs the question – what do Victorians consider the point where life begins, and why?

—————

I shouldn’t be surprised, but am, at how venal the anti-life bigots are. The state of Victoria in Australia has passed (in its Lower House; they also have an Upper House) a draconian pro-abortion law that actually forces doctors & nurses to perform an abortion – even if abortion is against their religion – if the mother’s life is “at risk”. What is deemed “at risk” is subjective, of course.

(3) Despite any conscientious objection to abortion, a registered medical practitioner is under a duty to perform an abortion in an emergency where the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.
(4) Despite any conscientious objection to abortion, a registered nurse is under a duty to assist a registered medical practitioner in performing an abortion in an emergency where the abortion is necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant woman.

Interesting to note that the law itself revises the Crimes Act to change the definition of ‘serious injury’ to include:

15(2)(b) the destruction, other than in the course of a medical procedure, of the foetus of a pregnant woman, whether or not the woman suffers any other harm;”.

So, you’re guilty of causing serious injury if you destroy an unborn child, but not if you kill the child by aborting them… And causing serious injury to who? The Crimes Act is all about injuring people – this is a tacit admission the unborn child is human – just not one we are too concerned about when the mother doesn’t want them, but concerned if the mum does want to keep her/him. Nice.

The stunning thing is the vile stream of verbal vomit that spouts forth from those anti-life campaigners. No Right Turn posits this is Catholics somehow ‘killing’ a mother whose life is at risk from the continued pregnancy or birth of her child. Total lies!

Any doctor & nurse has a duty – which no religion opposes – to try and save both mother and child. What anti-lifers want is for Catholic hospitals, doctors & nurses to be forced to kill the unborn child to ‘save’ the mother’s life, while ignoring the option of trying to save both lives.

Pure bigotry – the anti-life campaign is openly stating that freedom of religion is now ‘trumped’ by their imposed standard of the ‘wishes of the mother’, i.e. the convenience of the mother.

While the tiny proportion of mothers who genuinely face risk to their life from continued pregnancy or birth are in an unenviable position (which includes a friend of mine), I support the medical staff who uphold the Hippocratic Oath and do everything in their power to save the lives of both mother and child.

Otherwise, the logical corollary is for those getting treatment for cancer caused by passive smoking, say, to force the doctors to kill their smoker family members who ‘posed the risk’ to the patients life (by causing the cancer, and probably continuing to smoke and pose the risk). Crazy? Yep, and that’s the anti-life position.

I hope the Victorian Upper House has the brains, courage and compassion to vote down this evil law for ‘abortion on demand’ that tries to overrule our long established human rights freedoms – the right not to be killed, and the right not to be forced to break our religious beliefs.

Will the anti-life religious police crucify doctors & nurses who won’t obey? Or just throw them in jail to rot? What humanitarians…

Le Boom, Boom – Le Spy, Spy

September 6, 2008

Having recovered from the embarrassment of being caught blowing up the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior 1, and killing a crew member in the process, the French spy agencies are at it again.

Only this time, their own citizens are the target! On 1st July, the French government decreed a new spy database, called Edvige, be set up. The decree spells out that the aim of the database is:

to centralize and analyze data on people aged 13 or above who are active in politics or labour unions, who play a significant institutional, economic, social or religious role, or who are “likely to breach public order.”

Lovely! I’m sure NZ’s domestic SIS and GCSB spy agencies are salivating at the thought of a database network to spy on their own citizens. Oh wait, they already share one with the US, UK, Canada and Australia – it’s called Echelon, and includes the spy satellite dish at Waihopai (near Blenheim) that had it’s direction-obscuring balloon deflated (see also my earlier post) a little while back by Catholic Worker peace activists. I bet they made the database already!

Time to junk these Keystone Cops spys. Save NZ $80m a year. The French government should ditch their Edvige before it bites them too.

Taxpayers subsidise dodgy boss

August 29, 2008

Wait! Let me get this straight.

The NZ government sets up a dubious immigration scheme to bring in foreign (mostly Pacific) seasonal workers to help farmers get staff at wages Kiwis won’t work for (because they can’t live on what the farmers want to pay).

A dodgy farmer boss hires 70+ Kiribati workers, but crams them in 20 to a house, and charges them for the privilege. From what were already low wages. Basically, after all the ‘deductions’ by the boss, the staff have to fly back to their home (having borrowed to fly here in the first place) without their wages.

And the Dept of Labour – generous souls that they are – think the Kiwi taxpayer should pay these Kiribati workers their wages BECAUSE THE DODGY BOSS WON’T!!! Why the heck can’t the Labour Dept. pay the wages in the interim, and sue the living cr*p out of this filthy boss?

The victims here are the Kiribati workers, and they should be helped. But giving a gift to the shonky boss just makes NZ taxpayers victims too. Shameful, Dept of Labour. Truly shameful.