Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Tui of the week

Image stolen from Scoop, who have some commentary on the whole Holmes affair, as well as an informal survey. Why not send them your opinion as well?

New Fisk

A lesson in obfuscation. Just don't mention the oil. Or ask about the victims


The American blogs seem to be all busy this morning commenting on whether the Bush administration leaked the name of a CIA agent. For those who haven't been following the story, it goes something like this:

  • The CIA sends former ambassador Joseph Wilson to Nigeria to check out claims that Saddam is trying to buy Uranium. He concludes that "it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had taken place".
  • Bush uses the Nigeria claim in his State of the Union address anyway.
  • Wilson publicly says the Nigeria claims are false.
  • Columnist Robert Novak reports that Wilson's wife "is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report".

(I guess I should point out that exposing an undercover agent carries serious criminal penalties in the United States).

The story has simmered away for the past two months, then suddenly hit the news in the last few days when the Justice department announced an investigation. Meanwhile, all those American pundits who were so quick to call "TREASON!" on those who opposed the war are making excuses as to why this isn't a big deal...

For more commentary see Mark Kleiman, CalPundit, Crooked Timber or Atrios.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Looking for pickled people?

If you've come from Damian Christie's blog in search of pickled people, try here

New Fisk

Missiles Strike At Heart Of US Occupation
Lies, Mischief And The Myth Of Western Intelligence Services

Why I hate HR proles

Because they advertise a position seeking a maths or stats degree, and then reject you saying they were after "National travel certisicates [sic] level 3 & 4".

This raises a number of issues. Firstly, given that HR professionals are supposedly paid to manage the recruitment process and ensure that the candidates they get are a good match for the position, you'd expect them to at least advertise it correctly so as to avoid wasting everybody's time. And secondly, I'm shocked that anyone can charge $2000 and take 23 weeks to teach this bullshit.

What next? People will actually be paying to get a Bronze Swimming Certificate?

Meteorite wrecks houses in India

Fortunately it was only a small one; a bigger rock would have done a lot more than merely injure twenty people.

Saturday, September 27, 2003


US soldiers have killed another four civilians in Fallujah And they wonder why people hate them...

New Fisk

Bomb destroys the media's illusions and claims another nameless victim
Palestinian, intellectual, and fighter, Edward Said rails against Arafat and Sharon to his dying breath

Friday, September 26, 2003

Double jeopardy

US prosecutors plan to dismiss charges against Zacarias Moussaoui (the alleged "20th hijacker"). The BBC says that this is part of a legal ploy to appeal both the dismissal and the judge's ruling that Moussaoui be allowed to call witnesses in his defence (in particular, witnesses the US government has disappeared and is interrogating - like Khalid Shaykh Mohammed). But the real ploy is that if the US court system does its job and stands up for the rights of the defendent, the prosecution will accept the dismissal, and then promptly put Moussaoui before a military tribunal - where they can sentence him to death, without having to worry about those pesky technicalities like standards of evidence or impartial juries.

This is double jeopardy of the worst sort, and a perfect illustration of how far America has sunk since september 11th.

New Fisk

Brutal reality that fans the flames of hatred in Iraq

Monkey business

Something for the phil of biology / phil of mind / evolutionary ethics geeks: a recent experiment seems to indicate that monkeys have a sense of fairness

Individuals were drawn from two large, well-established social groups of captive brown capuchins from colonies at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and paired with a partner. Pairs were placed next to each other and trained to exchange with human handlers a small granite rock within 60 seconds to receive a reward, in most cases, a piece of cucumber.


Partners of capuchins who made the swap either received the same reward (a cucumber slice), or a better reward (a grape, a more desirable food), for the same amount of work or, in some cases, for performing no work at all.

Brosnan said the response to the unequal treatment was astonishing: Capuchins who witnessed unfair treatment and failed to benefit from it often refused to conduct future exchanges with human researchers, would not eat the cucumbers they received for their labors, and in some cases, hurled food rewards at human researchers.

Those actions were significant. They confirmed that not only did capuchins expect fair treatment, but that the human desire for equity has an evolutionary basis.

It's easy to see how reciprocal altruism would create evolutionary pressure for both "cheater detectors" (for which there is apparantly some evidence) and mechanisms to ensure you're not getting a crap deal and being played for a sucker (of which the above is a great example). And the existence of such detectors in monkeys would suggest that they evolved fairly early on (though we'd need further experiments with other primates to confirm that).

Of course, we can't draw any sort of moral conclusion from this (that would violate Hume's principle of "no ought from is"). But what it is useful for is

  • adding more evidence to the growing pile that suggests that humans are not rational utility maximisers, as presupposed by economists; and
  • pointing out that unfairness makes people unhappy. If we independently value happiness in our moral scheme, then this gives us added reason to value equity.

Crooked Timber has some typically thoughtful comments as well.

People don't want to work with a racist

Samoan on Holmes team quits

Thursday, September 25, 2003

What an actual live Iraqi thinks of the sale of Iraq.

DPF Responds

DPF has responded to my post on Holmes. And to be honest, I'm perfectly satisfied with his consistency on the matter. The real target of my ire is NZPundit, who through his response to the Corkery affair set himself the standard that grossly offensive broadcasters must be fired - and is now spectacularly failing to apply it.


A group of Israeli pilots is joining the refuseniks and refusing to fly assassination missions.

It's good to see members of the military listening to their consciences rather than giving in and following immoral orders.

Vileness continued

So, Holmes has apologised. NZPundit, in the meantime, accuses me of "moral relativity" for

[seeing] no difference between a broadcaster joking about the Secretary of the UN being a 'darkie' and a broadcaster joking about a victim of terror being mailed back to his family in pieces.

I think that - and the repeated jibes on his site today about very cheeky and uppity "darkies" - provides an answer to yesterday's question. NZPundit finds such blatant racism perfectly acceptable, at least when it is directed at his political enemies. But then, did we really expect anything different from someone who supports ethnic clensing?

Meanwhile, DPF has called the comments "stupid" and speculated on Holmes' sobriety. Possibly, but I find Damian Christie's emailed speculation that the whole thing was a ratings stunt cooked up months in advance to be more compelling. Though if true, it would make the whole incident doubly despicable. Racism is not something that should be pursued as a business strategy.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

This is scary

Bush doesn't read the papers. Instead, he gets the news from his aides. Who of course never tell him what he wants to hear...

No wonder US policy is so fucked up. They have an illiterate moron who is fundamentally uninterested in having his preconceived notions contradicted at the helm. No wonder he seems like he's on another planet half the time...

New Fisk

Iraqi broadcasters risk being closed if they put Saddam's voice on air

How absolutely vile

On his show on Newstalk ZB, Paul Holmes repeatedly referred to Kofi Annan as a "cheeky darkie":

"That Kofi Annan, I have got to say to you, he has been a very cheeky darkie overnight," Holmes said.

"It is all very well giving a darkie that secretary general's job. We will only take so much, I am sorry. We will only take so much. We are not going to be told how to live by a Ghanaian."

I'm appalled that Newstalk ZB would tolerate this sort of racist display on air. Worse, as he works for a state-owned broadcaster, Holmes' position will be interpreted as the NZ Government's position overseas.

Holmes must be made to resign or he should be fired - immediately.

Observant readers will by now have figured out that I'm taking the piss out of DPF and NZPundit's hysterical reaction to recent comments by Pam Corkery. Still, it does raise several questions - like why DPF hasn't condemned this disgusting display by another of our TV personalities, or why NZPundit's reaction is of amusement rather than howls for blood. Could it be that they find such racism acceptable? Or is it simply something they're willing to ignore as an "unnecessarily gratuitous insult :)" [sic] because Holmes is slagging off the UN?

I'd like to see the pair of them front up and explain why Paul Holmes's being grossly offensive merits amusement, while Pam Corkery's got moral outrage. But somehow, I doubt they will.

Oh, and if anyone actually wants to emulate the right and complain to TVNZ about something Holmes said on the radio, then DPF has a great letter of complaint you can steal and rework...

Pickled People

Damian Christie says that he's been trying to find an image of a "pickled person" - which he says are

people made out of stuffed stockings, the features sewn in. They look a lot like Brian Edwards.

Well, I don't have any pictures of those, but I do have one of an actual, pickled person: Jeremy Bentham, the father of Utilitarianism:

He's kept in a cupboard at University College, London, and let out once a year for a dinner in his honour. Apparantly he also sits on their College Council... and even votes occasionally.

But I don't think he looks anything like Brian Edwards.

Another ice-shelf breaks up

This time it's the Ward-Hunt Ice Shelf, on the northern coast of Ellesmere Island (that's the big blob right up the top of Canada, for the geographically challenged). Not as spectacular as last year's breakup of the Larson B shelf in Antarctica, but still notable.

So, how many times does this have to happen before the global-warming deniers pull their heads out of their arses and face reality?

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Bringing freedom to Iraq...

Today's advance in the democratisation of Iraq: the US-appointed governing council decided to ban arab TV-stations al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya for "inciting violence". I guess the "freedom" the Americans are bringing doesn't include freedom of the press...

According to the BBC, both stations have "defended themselves against charges of bias, saying they present the views of all sides". But somehow, I suspect that's precisely the problem.

New Fisk

An Italian diplomat, his translator and another Iraqi tragedy
Another day in the bloody death of Iraq

Monday, September 22, 2003

Indeed he does

In a post entitled "Oh? I got your racism right 'here'!", KiwiPete says that reports of racism towards asians in New Zealand are "BULLSHIT!!". He then goes on to say

Try sitting through a 3 hour tutorial where the tutor talks to the class like they're little children because 70% of the students happen to be asian and generally have poor english.

Thus providing a perfect example of the attitudes asians are complaining about.

The systematic pillaging of an entire nation

Iraq is now up for sale. The US-appointed governing council has announced a program of mass-privatisation, allowing foreign investors total ownership with no limits on the repatriation of profits. The only industry excluded is oil. Taxes have been reduced to an absurdly low level, with a tax-holiday until the end of the year.

This capitalist wet-dream removes any pretence that Iraq will be run for the benefit of Iraqis. Instead, the ground rules have been set to allow multinationals to buy essential services and screw monopoly profits out of impoverished Iraqis. It's the systematic pillaging of an entire nation...

I guess the Iraqi Resistance just got a really good reason to start blowing shit up and murdering foreign businessmen.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Goodbye Galileo

At 6:57 this morning, the Galileo probe will burn up in Jupiter's atmosphere. It's lasted 14 years, and sent us back some spectacular pictures - including some of us. And it will be sending back scientific data right up until the end...

So, raise a glass to Galileo, and remember how much poorer our understanding of our tiny local patch of the universe would be without it.

It just gets worse and worse...

Ahmed Zaoui has been imprisoned for ten months now. He has been kept in solitary confinement for nine of those months on the basis of a threat assessment carried out by the New Zealand police - who got their information from an internet conspiracy website run by Lyndon LaRouche.

What the fuck were the police thinking? That nobody would read it? Or are they seriously unable to differentiate between a credible source and an obvious raving nutbar? Or did they just plug Zaoui's name into Google and take whatever unfavourable "evidence" came up?

This whole sorry saga just gets worse and worse, and the more we hear of the "evidence" against Zaoui, the more it stinks. If that's the best our police and security services can do, it's a severe indictment - not of Zaoui, but of them, for imprisoning a man on the basis of such bullshit. It's absolutely outrageous that someone has been kept in solitary confinement for nine fucking months because of crap like this. The officers responsible should have their careers terminated now, since they so obviously lack the judgement required to be in the police.

It's not just housing that's a problem

The Herald had another article yesterday which detailed some of the consequences of the lack of affordable housing in Auckland - overcrowding, poor health, kids moving schools four times a year and slipping between the cracks... more compelling reasons for the government to invest more in state housing so that people don't have to live like this. But the bit that got me was the lead-in:

The single mother with a BA in psychology and education earns $44,000 as service co-ordinator for the Waipareira Trust's wrap-around programme, while raising her two teenagers and one-year-old, and looking after a whanau member who stays with them.

Her income means she doesn't qualify for an accommodation supplement to help meet private sector housing costs. Nor can she get a childcare subsidy. And with 7000 Aucklanders on the waiting list, she wouldn't get near a state house of her own.

But after paying the rent, childcare costs and student loan repayments, Henare has less to come and go on than even her worst-off clients - $60 a week for food, clothing and bills.

"I look at how much I earn and think I should be well off, but I'm on the poverty line."

The problem here isn't so much housing as childcare, which consumes roughly half her after-tax income. And it's not just a problem limited to solo-mothers - the move to a two-income family model over the past twenty years means that ordinary New Zealand families are affected as well. Being able to have one partner stay home and care for the kids full time has become a luxury rather than the norm...

The obvious way the government can help is by making childcare subsidies more widely available. This has drawbacks - it does nothing to assist those who are taking care of their own children, and it is too obviously funelling money to the pockets of private childcare providers - but it's probably the most achievable option. The Greens' plan of re-introducing a universal family benefit would also help, though the levels suggested are too low. What we really need is an extension of the welfare state to recognise the value of parenting and provide the affordable childcare that people need.

New Fisk

Americans draw a veil of secrecy as casualties grow

New Fisk

Another Day, Another Death-Trap For The US

Friday, September 19, 2003

Just imagine this thing terrorising Tokyo

Paleontologists have pieced together the fossil remains of a giant, 700kg Guinea Pig - or "Guinea-zilla" for short. The Japanese are notoriously fond of cute little rodents - but what would they make of one this size?

New Fisk

Democracy Now has another interview with Robert Fisk

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Deeply conflicted

Let's get this straight - I hate the idea of a sex offenders register. Not because I'm particularly fond of sex offenders (though no doubt somebody will try and claim that I am), but because I think that in order for there to be any chance of rehabilitatation, punishment has to end sometime. If it doesn't, then there's no buy-in to non-criminal behaviour. If you are still punished whether you re-offend or not, well, you might as well earn it.

That said, I find myself in the same boat as NZPundit in having very little sympathy for the "broomstick boys". This is almost entirely due to the attitude of their defenders that they're not real sex offenders, like those scumbags who rape and kill children. They're Nice Kids, who went to a Good School. They don't deserve to be punished in this (or any other) way for what were essentially teenage hijinks.

Fuck that. They raped a guy with a broomstick. That's a bit beyond "teenage hijinks".

I'm annoyed that Coddington published another edition and perpetuated the culture of publicly hounding sex offenders. But I would also be annoyed if she had published but left the broomstick boys out of it, because it would seem too much like supporting the above snobbery and excusing their behaviour.

Nandor on Kim Hill

It's good to see Kim Hill getting back to interviewing politicians, rather than the nobodies she's been talking to for the past few weeks. It's also good to see Nandor getting some airtime - he comes across as intelligent and articulate, and he knows his arguments inside out. Plus he pokes Peter Dunne by claiming a Biblical mandate for smoking pot.

He could however benefit from watching a few episodes of South Park. In particular, next time someone asks him what you should tell teenagers about smoking cannabis, he should respond "there's a time and a place for it, and it's called college"...

New Fisk

Saddam's vilest prison has been swept clean, but questions remain

CalPundit has an interview with Paul Krugman.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

New Fisk

Powell draws a veil over killings as he tours Iraq
Secret slaughter by night, lies and blind eyes by day

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Ahmed Zaoui update

Despite being granted refugee status last month by the Refugee Status Apeals Authority, Ahmed Zaoui is still in prison, his fate entirely at the whim of the Minister of Immigration. She doesn't seem to be in any hurry to make up its mind (what's a few more months of arbitrary imprisonment anyway?) - maybe she's hoping we'll all forget about it?

Amnesty International is still pushing for Zaoui to be released, and you can sign their online petition here.

New Fisk

Powell's Baghdad Briefing Ignores High Price Of Failure

More on state housing

National's response to the shortage of state housing is to "think outside the square" and sell some houses off. Apart from being a classic case of managementspeak ("thinking outside the square" apparantly meaning "conforming to tired ideology"), it also makes little sense. Yes, the government could sell some houses to free up capital to build more - or it could use its ability to issue cheap credit to build without having to decrease its existing stock. It's not as if mortgages are completely unknown in the housing industry...

Their other suggestion - that Housing New Zealand should lease homes from private owners - seems simply to be a way of funneling public money into private pockets, and hopefully will be treated with the contempt it deserves.

Monday, September 15, 2003

A compelling argument for state housing

One News on friday or saturday had the story of a family who were living in a caravan after moving from Northland to Auckland in search of work - and paying $230 a week for the privilege. They'd been living like that for over six months, most of their money going on substandard accomodation due to a lack of affordable housing.

This both provides a compelling argument for state provision of low-cost housing and highlights the flaws in the government's "jobs jolt" programme.

On the housing front, no decent society should allow its members to live like this - it's as simple as that. We have a moral imperitive to ensure that everyone has a decent roof over their heads. The market works fine for most people, but for those at the bottom end - those without the savings to even pay bond on a flat, let alone make the downpayment on a house of their own - the State needs to intervene. This means building houses, and providing them at low cost to the people who need them. Yes, this distorts the rental housing market (in particular by letting the government effectively set rents at the low end), but I'm not that hung up on market purity - especially when the cost of purity is people living in caravans.

As for the "jobs jolt", there's absolutely no point forcing people to move from somewhere they can afford to live to somewhere they can't, unless a) there is a guaranteed job waiting at the other end, and b) moving to that job will actually make them better off. WINZ isn't willing to deal with either of these problems, and so is going to end up condemning people to working destitution rather than simple unemployed poverty. As someone interested in human welfare (as opposed to market purity), this is simply obscene.

A fork in the road for Israel

Avraham Burg, a former speaker of Israel's Knesset, thinks that Israel is reaching a crisis point where it must choose between Jewish racism or democracy...

Cancun: the rich say "fuck the poor"

The WTO talks at Cancun have collpased due to the unwillingness of the US and EU to give any ground on agriculture. Rather than allowing developing and least developed nations achieve better living standards through trade, they have said "fuck the poor" and condemned them to more years of dependence and poverty. Which is pretty much what I expected, but its still disappointing.

New Fisk

A hail of bullets, a trail of dead, and a mystery the US is in no hurry to resolve

Of course the British are complete amatuers when it comes to jack-booting over civil liberties. Latest plans for turning America into a police state...er...I mean combatting terrorists include:

  • Allowing federal agents to demand private records and compel testimony without the approval of a judge or even a federal prosecutor (I imagine future amendments will be made to allow them to be the executioner as well as the judge and jury).
  • Expanding the use of the death penalty in crimes like terrorist financing (objections to the death penalty aside, you'd better be damned sure about their definition of terrorism before you post that donation off to Greenpeace).
  • Requiring judges to presume that defendants in terrorism-related offences should not be allowed out on bail, unless the defense can persuade the judge otherwise. (Future amendments will no doubt require judges to presume that they are guilty until proven innocent).

Advisors have said that "even though the administration is confident that the United States is winning the war on terrorism, they have run into legal obstacles that need to be addressed." The legal obstacles that are referring to seem to be things like "due process" and "checks and balances" but hey, who needs them anyway?

I predicted at the time that there would be a massive roll back of basic freedoms as a consequence of September 11th but it doesn't really give me much pleasure saying "I told you so," particularly given that the next step will be for the Americans to pressure other governments into adopting similar restrictive laws (Hi Helen).

Saturday, September 13, 2003

The innocent have nothing to hide...

The British government is reviving plans to track everyone's communications. They are introducing a "voluntary" (meaning "backed by the threat of legislation") code of practice, under which phone companies and ISPs have to retain traffic data for up to a year. This includes customer names and addresses, calls and emails sent and received, web sites visited, and which cell your cellphone was in (i.e. where you've been, accurate to a hundred meters). And of course the data will be accessible by numerous government agencies, some of which won't even require warrants. All in the name of "fighting terrorism", of course.

Cancun: the poor are revolting

It's good to see the US, EU and Japan on the back foot at Cancun. Rather than spouting the "free trade is good, free trade is great" mantra, the media are focusing on the festering sore at the heart of the WTO: the lack of reciprocation by rich countries.

The primary purpose of the WTO is to bring about free trade by the elimination of trade barriers. The underlying assumption is that such elimination will be reciprocal - "I'll get rid of mine if you get rid of yours". In practice, however, the poor countries (who even the World Bank agrees need some protection to establish industries) have been strongarmed into doing their bit, while the US, EU and Japan maintain strict protectionist regimes. As a result, industries in poor nations have been devastated, unable to compete either domesticly or internationally due to subsidised dumping and high tariffs.

Every WTO round the poor countries demand that the rich ones reciprocate, and extract a promise from them to lower their trade barriers. And every time the rich countries extract further concesssions from the poor in exchange for doing what they'd already agreed to do - then renege on their end of the deal.

But now the scam is up. After years of sitting around the table, bending over and getting nothing in return, the poor countries have have clubbed together to do something about it. Their chief weapon is a threat to prevent any progress (or even the start of negotiations) on "new issues" (things the rich countries care about - intellectual property, trade in services, and the elimination of state provided healthcare and education) until there is actual tangible progress on agriculture. And an even poorer group of countries is not just calling for the elimination of US subsidies on cotton, but demanding compensation as well.

In short, the poor are finally revolting - and it's about fucking time.

Militants flex their muscles - New Zealand Herald
Time for transformation - George Monbiot
The global benefits of equality - Joseph Stiglitz
Kick all agricultural subsidies (kickAAS)

Reasons not to join the Iraqi police

  1. Your family will kill you for being a collaborator.
  2. The Americans will kill you when you're trying to do your job.

No wonder Iraqis aren't exactly falling over themselves to help out the occupation.

Friday, September 12, 2003

New Fisk

Folly taken to a scale we haven't seen since WWII

Stupid dumb bastards

The Israeli cabinet has decided to expel Yasser Arafat. They are stupid dumb bastards. Do they really think they can destroy an entire people's aspirations towards freedom by exiling or killing one man?

Whatever next?

New Zealand First has issued a press release condemning racism. Whatever next? One from ACT condemning selfishness?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

The legacy of September 11th

In the wake of September 11th, governments around the world rushed to toughen anti-terrorism legislation and grant police and intelligence agencies wider powers to detain and spy upon their citizens. Now, the British police are using those powers against demonstrators at an arms fair.

This is the true legacy of September 11th - a decrease in the very civil liberties which made our societies worth living in. Osama bin-Laden would be proud.

New Fisk

Britain has to follow Bush's lead

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Things to think about

Crooked Timber has a link to Distributive Justice. This is one of those internet political quizzes, but focussed specifically on the question of who gets what in society. It also has a "society builder", where you get to distribute various social goods and see how your preferences compare to everybody else's - predictably, I prefer a welfare state. Plus there's a questionnaire, with questions about both your perceived position in the social pecking order (I bet those answers will be interesting), and countries with "good social policy" (Sweden came out tops on this, followed by the Netherlands).

Part of the questionnaire was about your perception of how socio-economic categories are distributed in your society (i.e. what percentage are upper class, upper middle, lower middle and lower class). And I have to confess that I don't really know - I know we're supposed to have a large middle class here, but I also suspect that this is one of those comforting national myths (like the one the Americans have about anyone being able to be President). I guess I'll have to trawl through Statistics New Zealand sometime and find out.

Other commenters have criticised the lack of nuance, and I'd have to agree, but OTOH it's a bit more thought provoking than the other ones I've seen.


The government is disappointed at the ACCC's decision to prevent the Air New Zealand - Qanatas merger. But I'm not. In fact, I'm surprised such a grossly anticompetitive deal got this far...

Monday, September 08, 2003

Steve Gilliard has a good fisking of Bush's speech.

ACT: old-fashioned conservatives

More evidence that ACT - the party which promotes itself as "liberal" - are really just old-fashioned conservatives: Dr Muriel Newman is claiming that the government's social policies will "damage New Zealand" because they promote "family diversity" and ignore the traditional institution of marriage:

With two new family law Bills in front of Parliament - the Bill to set up a Family Commission and the Guardianship Act replacement - Labour clearly intends to replace the married family in our statutes with `family diversity'.

But, by lessening marriage's status, and promoting other family types - sole parents, cohabiting and same sex relationships - Labour is sending a signal that marriage is neither special nor important. This is despite overwhelming evidence that children in traditional married families generally do better

This shows the lie behind ACT's "party of freedom" rhetoric. A true party of freedom would promote neutral laws, which left individuals free to choose how they wanted to live. But instead ACT is backing using the law to perpetuate existing injustices and force people to pursue traditional relationships. And they accuse other parties of social engineering?

There is one good thing in Newman's press release though: an encouragement to make a submission on the Care of Children bill. ACT has put it online, and instructions on how to make a submission can be found here.

More civilians murdered in Iraq

Another harrowing story of civilians murdered by US troops. It seems that this is happening so frequently now that the soldiers no longer bother to report it. Who cares about a few more dead ragheads anyway?

Killing civilians by gross negligence is a war crime, and these soldiers should be prosecuted for it.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

New Fisk

Don't say we were not warned about this chaos.

Lowering the bar

Actually, what really frightens me about the US's latest pretext is that it sets the bar ridiculously low. US government research has shown that almost any physics PhD student has the capability to build a nuclear weapon. If we take Bolton seriously, then the existence of a (half-decent) university or scientific institution within a country is justification for an American invasion.

Moving the goalposts

Over the past few months, we've seen the justification for invading iraq move from "Saddam has WMDs" to "Saddam sought WMDs" to "Saddam was seeking WMDs". And the latest version?

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was justified in part because Saddam Hussein retained scientists capable of building nuclear weapons, Washington's top arms control official said Thursday.

What was Saddam supposed to do? Kill them?

Friday, September 05, 2003

Europe's revenge

Having had their opinions ignored by the US before the war, France and Germany are now exacting their revenge by refusing to send their soldiers to die in the place of Americans. And can you really blame them for it?

Back in February I pointed out that the cost of acting unilaterally when you feel like it is having to act unilaterally when you don't feel like it too. I present the above as a case in point.

Sticking your head in the sand

As expected, NZPundit responds to the "fart tax" by denying that global warming exists.

Meanwhile, Gary Taylor has an excellent opinion piece in the Herald: Belch tax lets farmers off far too lightly.

Update: Sorry, I'm obviously not up with fashion in the global-warming-denier camp. Rather than denying that it exists, they now deny that humans are responsible, or that we can do anything about it if we were. Piffle. They're still sticking their head in the sand, and the government should not allow itself to be disuaded from taxing emissions by a bunch of people who fail to accept reality.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Fuck the farmers

So, the farmers marched on parliament today to defend their "right" to externalise their costs. Fuck them and the cow they rode in on. The rest of us are going to have to pay the true cost of our pollution via carbon taxes on petrol and thermally-generated electricty; why the fuck should we allow a tiny minority who generate over 50% of our greenhouse emissions a free ride?

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Underlying premises

The article NZPundit linked to contained this wonderful example of the principles the Elon plan is founded on:

The world has now reached the understanding that there is no peace in bi-national countries, and that there is an urgent need for separation.

NZPundit thinks the Elon Plan is a good idea. Does he likewise approve of the underlying premises? If so, would he want to see them applied to New Zealand?

New Fisk

Another fine mess
Unless the White House abandons its fantasies, civil war will consume the Iraqi nation

Supporting ethnic clensing

In response to my request for clarification, NZPundit says:

Simply put peace in the middle east will only come once the fantasy of an independent palestinian state on the west bank is dropped and many terrorists killed. There is already an independent state for the Palestinian people, created out of the original British partition of Mandatory Palestine (acting under the San Remo resolution).

It is of course Jordan with a 65% Palestinian population.

The Elon plan captures the essentials.

Following the links turns up the following:

Named for Benny Elon, the relatively small Moledet Party's leader and a member of the Knesset, the new peace plan calls for transferring Arabs from the West Bank and other areas to what Elon calls the "existing state of Palestine" – the nation of Jordan.

"Transfer" being a polite euphemism for ethnic clensing.

Excuse me. I have this sudden feeling of having trodden in something icky.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Clarification required

In a post about Israel, NZPundit makes this throwaway remark:

Two state solution required. Jordan and Israel.

I very much doubt he's suggesting that Israel offload the "Palestinian problem" onto Jordon by giving back what the land it took in 1967... so what exactly is he suggesting?

Everyone's talking about it

Everyone seems to be talking about the PM's attack on the Greens. Russell Brown asks WTF?, while DPF has a few words on Helen's imperial delusions (yes, talking about yourself in the third person is a sign of derangement - Simon Upton excepted). KiwiPundit has some wonderful scathing sarcasm about her arrogance as well (but ruins it with a comparisom with Hitler), and NZPundit is waiting for the day when the public gets sick of it.

Actually, I'm sick of it already. Helen needs to learn a little humility. And OTOH, I'll take her arrogance over the ghastly prospect of a Bill English / Richard Prebble combo any day.

As for the talk of the Greens "ruling themselves out as a potential coalition partner", I'll agree with John Armstrong (and disagree with DPF) in thinking that its not serious. Sure, Helen can threaten, but under MMP she is highly unlikely to be able to govern alone (in fact, last election shows that the public prefer to have some constraint on the governing party). When she's thrown United Future away like used kleenex, who else is she going to turn to? Winston Peters?

The Greens are a convenient scapegoat for the government today, but when the chips are down, they will both be cooperating to keep National out of power.

Good article

I don't normally do this but have to confess that I shamelessly stole this link off Ken Macleod's blog -The Early Days of a Better Nation.

Tariq Ali - Liars couldn't expect flowers after bombs and occupation

Flashmob hits Auckland

And in the process, left Burger King a bit out of pocket. Tee-hee.

Monday, September 01, 2003

Bad Tenants

Idiot posted something on this a while back and I thought I’d better throw in my ten cents. The government does need to fix the problem of bad tenants but having WINZ give away people's private information is not the way to do it, for all the reasons that Idiot has already mentioned. What they should do is empower the Tenancy Tribunal to set up a register of bad tenants and for that matter, bad landlords.

Also, they should have WINZ pay landlords directly and thus make sure that these people's rent is always paid. That means they can’t get into arrears and it also means that the tax we pay for social welfare is actually being spent on what it is supposed to be spent on - rather than on beer, cigarettes, poky machines, dak or whatever.

The way the system works at the moment means that tenants can get heavily into arrears before landlords are allowed to kick them out...the tenants can then up and leave leaving the poor landlord out of pocket and with no way of tracking them down. The Tenant will them move onto the next unsuspecting landlord and so the cycle continues. This is hardly ideal.

Even though I'm a card carrying, raving mad socialist with a deep affection for the welfare state... that doesn't mean I like seeing the welfare state being ripped off...I pay taxes to provide people less fortunate than myself with food and shelter...that means I really really want the money to be spent on food and shelter.