Abel Tasman Coastal Track Day 2

February 10th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

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Friday morning starts off with a short trek along the Anchorage beach.

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There is a low tide and high tide track. We had to use the high tide track which is an extra 3 kms and an hour longer. A climb at the beginning.

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You loop around the inlet.

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Some kayakers having a rest.

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Then cross the water on the bridge.

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This is just next to the bridge, and where we had morning tea. A lovely isolated swimming hole.

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The low tide track across the Torrent Bay Estuary.

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There’s a couple of dozen houses at Torrent Bay, and this is the main road through the settlement.

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The beach at Torrent Bay.

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You then climb up steeply after Torrent Bay, giving you this view. The track has no major climbs, but lots of minor ones of 100 metres or so.

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A couple of paddle boarders.

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The track goes inland and gets a bit narrow.

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Over the large swing bridge.

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Falls River.

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As we drop down towards Bark Bay, we see a weka.

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The beach at Bark Bay.

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I went for a swim and discovered lots of pipis in the sea. So threw them in the water to spit out the sand and then boiled them, so we had pipis for afternoon tea.

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The Bark Bay Hut. Two rooms inside the hut that sleep 14 each communally, and another room on the side which we were lucky enough to score that has just six individual bunks.

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The Bark Bay Estuary at low tide. The campsite is in the trees between the estuary and the sea.

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And as the tide comes in.

A fairly gentle four hour day with 13 kms or so.

Walker on TPP and soverignity

February 10th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald interviews the chief TPP negotiator for NZ, David Walker:

The first trade deal for which he was chief negotiator was the P4, the predecessor to the TPP comprising New Zealand, Singapore, Brunei and Chile.

His first big one was the China deal in 2008, the first free trade agreement China had negotiated with an open economy.

While there were similarities between the China and TPP agreements, the China deal was less ambitious in trade in services than TPP, which also went further on intellectual property, and had more extensive treatment of labour and the environment.

“But in most respects we’re dealing with a similar range of subject matter in both agreements.”

The combination of having led the China negotiations and the TPP talks affords him the description of New Zealand’s most successful trade negotiator.

The China deal especially was a great success. TPP has not gained us quite as much, but it is much much harder to negotiate with 11 other countries, than one.

So what is his response to the claim that the TPP undermines New Zealand’s sovereignty? “An international treaty to my mind, it’s really sovereign countries coming together in the joint exercise of that sovereignty, deciding what they will do together, or what they agree not to do in concert with each other.

“And sometimes that is going to act as a constraint on individual action. That, in fact, is the purpose of the treaty-making process in the first place and that arises no matter what policy area the treaty is in respect of, whether it is an economic treaty or a security treaty or a human rights treaty.”

Little’s rantings about sovereignty are intellectually dishonest. The TPP no more impacts our sovereignty than the China FTA, the Kyoto Agreement, the Antarctic Treaty or the UN Convention against Torture.

A stairwell is a lot cheaper than a lift

February 10th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Ministry of Education (MoE) has spent almost $20 million on a redesign of its new office block, including $2.5m on a 12 floor staircase named “the Stairway to Heaven” by the Opposition. 

The MoE said the revamp of Matauranga House, in Bowen Street just up the road from Treasury, will come in $3m under budget and save $27m on accommodation and running costs over the 15 year term of the lease.

But Labour education spokesman Chris Hipkins said the cost was over the top.

“Huge expenditure like this on a gold-plated office will certainly stick in the craw of teachers and student up and down the country. Is this the Stairway to Heaven? It would need to lead to somewhere pretty special for that sort of money,” Hipkins said. 

Gold-plated because it has a stairwell?

An MoE spokeswoman said the staircase was needed because there were only four lifts in the building and eventually it would have 25 per cent more staff than when MBIE occupied it. There would also be an estimated 1000 visitors a month.

It was not “a Stairway to Heaven” but was the cheapest way to handle the extra traffic. The alternative – a fifth lift – would have cost up to $4m.

Choosing a stairwell over a fifth lift is an excellent idea. Not only is it $1.5 million cheaper, but it means staff and visitors can use the stairwell to go between floors, rather than have to use the lifts. So it is good for fitness, and saves money. Plus lifts have notoriously high ongoing maintenance costs.

MoE had been working out of four buildings in Wellington and those leases were due to expire early this year. The revamp had been funded out of existing baselines. The office space was 6000 sq metres less than its previous premises, down from 22,500 square metres to about 16,500.

So what Chris Hipkins is attacking is that the Ministry has reduced the size of its office space by 27% and has a lease and running costs $27 million cheaper over 15 years than previously?

I know the role of the opposition is to attack wasteful spending (as the Taxpayers union does also). But sometimes spending isn’t wasteful, but actually saves money. I think Chris could benefit with better targeting.

Other changes would see phone costs cut by about $330,000 through scrapping traditional desk phones and providing staff with headsets and Skype

Good to see smart use of technology.

Eventually all staff would “hot desk” with only a locker but no desk of their own – a first for a government department or ministry. The design was open plan, and even chief executive Peter Hughes did not have his own office.

Which presumably is how they have managed to reduce their floor size by 6,000 square metres.

General Debate 10 February 2016

February 10th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Gareth Morgan on Awaroa Beach

February 10th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Gareth Morgan writes:

Kiwis have generously got behind a campaign to buy 7 hectares of beach and scrub, with the aim to fold it into the Abel Tasman National Park. So far the campaign has raised over $1.3m, attracting over 20,000 donors. Even Stuff has got behind the campaign, no doubt sensing that this foray into campaign journalism could yield them more clicks.

It’s a great campaign and so far 22,457 Kiwis have pledged $1.42 million to purchase the land to donate to the conservation estate.

Over the weekend, Andrew Little has suggested that the public purse could pick up the balance of the fundraising – currently at least $650,000 – given we have no idea what the other bids in the tender are. There is no doubt it is a popular campaign, and fair enough to the donors – after all people can decide to spend their money however they like.  But it doesn’t follow at all that this project is an appropriate way to spend public money. Before any politician commits taxpayer’s money to any project they should think beyond the kudos of the publicity and be sure it is the most beneficial – and hence responsible  – way to spend the next million of other people’s (i.e.; taxpayer’s) money.

It is the norm before any public money is spent for the Treasury to give advice on the value for money that the spend offers. To let politicians to just spray taxpayers’ property around like confetti is a recipe for disaster. While running on their gut political instincts is their natural predisposition, any politician who expects tenure needs to be a bit above that.

I’d be more impressed if Little had pledged his own money to the campaign, instead of demanding taxpayers be forced to fund it. Nothing kills a great community spirit more than politicians trying to muscle into the action and claim credit.

DOC has already said that the land is too expensive at $2m for them to invest. Quite rightly they have done their sums and there are other projects that give infinitely more return to the ecological estate than a piece of sandspit.

We all know DOC has plenty of land in its portfolio and can’t look after the estate it has already. The true conservation dividend it can earn comes from killing stuff – eliminating predators so that our native species can flourish. It does not come from buying more hectares that it can’t protect. Predator free zones are our best investment in conservation.

I agree.

Finally here’s an offer. I will make up the difference between the crowd-funding amount and the tender offer of $2m. I will guarantee that the public have access to the same extent that the current owner has kindly bestowed. But I will go further than that. I will undertake to give the property to DOC once my family has finished enjoying it. But I expect something in return – I want to use the property for my own private benefit meanwhile, just as the current owner does.1

That way we don’t have politicians irresponsibly spending taxpayer funds, there is no risk of public access to this threatened sand-spit being denied, and the beach is guaranteed to end up in public ownership.

I can do this because it’s my money. That’s a big difference from politicians generously promising to spend you money on such folly. What do you say taxpayers – sound like a deal to save you money?

It is a generous offer. However I’m not sure one can combine the public appeal with this offer. People have pledged their donations for a very specific purpose – to donate immediately to the conservation estate. While many donors may be willing to accept Morgan’s offer, there would need to be some mechanism for people who have donated to withdraw if they don’t want to have it done this way.

Jacinda on Australia Day

February 9th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Jacinda Ardern writes in the SST on the call for NZ to have a national holiday that is an actual celebration like Australia Day:

Australia Day? Are you kidding? That is the last place we should be looking for a model of race relations, let alone a national day of celebration – unless you’re into drunken, casual racism. 

Jacinda seems to be judging Australia Day off the basis of what a small minority do. I doubt most Australians see it as a day of drunken casual racism.

Parliament 9 February 2016

February 9th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Prime Minister delivers a statement to open the year with. He, and other party leaders (with at least six MPs) get 20 minutes each and all other MPs get 10 minutes.

The debate will last 13 hours which will mean four speeches of 20 minutes and 68 speeches of 10 minutes.

If they do not break for any other business, they will complete. six and a half hours of the debate today.

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track Day 1

February 9th, 2016 at 11:34 am by David Farrar

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We set off on Thursday, with an early flight to Nelson and then Trek Express to Marahau where the Abel Tasman Coastal track starts.  Happy to find The Park Cafe in Marahau so we had a decent lunch before five days of tramping food!

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You start off crossing the Marahau River in the open.

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Then you hit the bush.

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And then into canopy cover, which in 26 degree heat is very welcome.

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Every so often the canopy clears to give you stunning views of the water and beaches.

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The first day is around four hours tramping.

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The view above Stilwell Bay.

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And off memory this is Cyathea Cove.

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Despite being a coastal track, quite a variety of bush.

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Torrent Bay in the distance.

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Heading down to Anchorage.

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And the final stretch along the beach at The Anchorage. Unlike most tramps where you only see other trampers, the Abel Tasman is like a motorway. There are hundreds of day walkers, kayakers and beach goers who just come in by water taxi. As you lug your 16 kg pack you envy the day walkers with their tiny bags.

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Anchorage Hut which was only built a few years ago. Possibly the best DOC Hut I have stayed in. They have five separate bunkrooms and flush toilets under the same balcony so you don’t have to navigate a field in the dark when you need to go.

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Our bunkroom. Having storage for packs makes a huge difference.

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And the view from the hut with some nice tables on the lawn just in front of the beach.

We got there around 4 pm, so had time to go for a late afternoon swim. Not many tramps in NZ in which I’ve gone swimming. Normally you’re so high up the water is freezing!

Greens on ETS

February 9th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An evaluation of the Emissions Trading Scheme shows the Government has “weakened the scheme to the point of ineffectiveness,” says Green Party co-leader James Shaw.

The Government released three technical reports last week, to help New Zealanders engage with a public review of the ETS. 

One of those, a Ministry of Environment report into the performance of the ETS, found it provided businesses nearly no incentive to look at how to reduce their emissions.

Shaw said that with expenditure of $40m on setting up the ETS, and despite it being the Government’s main policy for tackling climate change, it was failing.

“The ETS is supposed to provide businesses with an incentive to reduce their emissions – but two thirds of businesses no longer give any consideration to the ETS when making business decisions.

The Greens are correct that the ETS is not sending a price signal to businesses that will greatly impact production of greenhouse gas emissions.

But this is more due to the collapse of the global price of carbon after the failure of Copenhagen some years ago. The agreement in Paris may see prices rise.

The cost per EU unit was 30 Euros in 2006 but by 2007 had fallen to 10 cents.  So it is not just NZ that has had the challenge of a trading scheme with low prices.

However that is not to say local policy settings don’t have some impact. The 2:1 subsidy was needed to cushion the initial impact, but I think it is time for that to go.

Jones says shift Waitangi Day celebrations

February 9th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Labour MP Shane Jones has thrown his weight behind calls to shift Waitangi celebrations involving the Crown, away from Ti Tii Marae. 

The national day and lead-up was marred by in-fighting among trustees of the lower marae. Drawn-out confusion over whether Prime Minister John Key was even invited, and a gagging order placed on him by some trustees led to his withdrawal from Waitangi celebrations at the weekend. …

Northland-based Jones, now New Zealand’s economic development ambassador to the Pacific, said he supported the calls.

“Unfortunately all Tai Tokerau (Northland) tribes are tainted by the Te Tii Marae circus. Their decision that the PM could go on the Marae but not talk makes a mockery of Marae culture.

“What were they thinking, that the leader of the nation would stand and hum Pokarekare ana?” said Jones. 

And Jones further says:

He said a vote over whether trustees would extend an invitation to the Prime Minister this year was “farcical”.

“Such hui and decisions showed that Marae cannot cope and an alternative venue should be used to prevent Waitangi looking like wairangi (delusional).”

Why not shift it around New Zealand and allow different Iwi to host it? I’m sure Ngai Tahu would put on an exceptionally good Waitangi Day, for example.

You could rotate it among all the Iwi that have completed Treaty settlements with the Crown.

Quote of the week

February 9th, 2016 at 8:00 am by TaxpayersUnion

“It was Thomas Edison who brought us electricity, not the Sierra Club. It was the Wright brothers who got us off the ground, not the Federal Aviation Administration. It was Henry Ford who ended the isolation of millions of Americans by making the automobile affordable, not Ralph Nader. Those who have helped the poor the most have not been those who have gone around loudly expressing ‘compassion’ for the poor, but those who found ways to make industry more productive and distribution more efficient, so that the poor of today can afford things that the affluent of yesterday could only dream about.”

– Thomas Sowell

The quote of the week is brought to you by the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union. To support the Union’s campaign for lower taxes and less government waste, click here.

General Debate 9 February 2016

February 9th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

So what did I miss?

February 9th, 2016 at 6:59 am by David Farrar

So as far as I can tell, now being back in the world with Internet, I missed:

  • TPP protests that did of course turn violent
  • PM not attending Waitangi Day at Waitangi Marae as the hosts thought not allowing the head of government to speak wasn’t insulting
  • Someone threw a dildo at Steven Joyce

Sounds like it was a good five days to go tramping!

No tag for this post.

Robertson predicted unemployment would hit 7%

February 8th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Just a few weeks ago Grant Robertson said:

With unemployment set to head towards 7% in the coming year, it is reckless that the government still has no plan to address this.

Oh dear.

Inflation has been outside the Reserve Bank target range for eight of the last sixteen quarters yet he is not planning to take any action. 

And here Grant is complaining that inflation is not high enough!

Winston wants to nationalise EFTPOS!!!

February 8th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Winston rants:

Following the latest EFTPOS outage, New Zealand First is calling on the Reserve Bank to purchase EFTPOS processor, Paymark, which is reportedly on the market.

“Most people don’t realise that the clearing houses behind New Zealand’s electronic banking system are both overseas owned,” says New Zealand First Leader and Member of Parliament for Northland Rt Hon Winston Peters.

“In 2013, ANZ sold EFTPOS New Zealand to American giant Verifone for $70m, while overseas owned ANZ, ASB, BNZ and Westpac want to sell off Paymark.

“If the Reserve Bank is to meet a key purpose of its own Act, ‘promoting the maintenance of a sound and efficient financial system’, then Paymark must come into its ownership.

Winston wants the Government to nationalise the EFTPOS system!

One day he may understand the difference between ownership and ability to regulate. But I doubt it.

How is free tertiary education going in Scotland?

February 8th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Labour’s huge $1.2 billion+ bribe of free tertiary education for all has been done before. By the SNP in Scotland.

This is fortunate for us, as we can compare how students in Scotland fare compared to students in England, which has fees.

Tim Wigmore in the New Statesman writes:

If you are a disadvantaged young person today, your chances of going to university are far worse if you are born in Scotland than south of the River Tweed. The poorest fifth of Scots are 3.5 times less likely to go to university through Ucas than the top fifth; the difference is only 2.5 times in England. Based on this measure, Scotland has by far the greatest level of educational inequality in the UK.

So Scotland with free fees does worse than England in terms of getting poor families to university:

Because of the absence of tuition fees, universities themselves also lack money to invest in bursary and outreach programmes, further handicapping disadvantaged students. English institutions spend over three times as much on financial help for poor students, according to a 2013 study from the University of Edinburgh. English universities also no longer have a cap on the number of students they can take; the cap on the number of Scottish students that Scottish universities can take hurts all students but disproportionately affects the most disadvantaged.

The same could well occur here. Presumably the Government will ban universities from charging fees, which means they will entirely control the income streams for universities.

In an age of austerity, cutting school funding has partly paid for protecting free university education. Spending on schools in Scotland fell by five per cent in real terms from 2010 to 2013 while, in England, it rose in real terms between 2010 and 2015.

This is the opportunity cost I talked about. Rather than invest more money into improving teacher quality, they are just doing middle class welfare.

Nicola Sturgeon is fond of saying that university debt would have meant she couldn’t go to university. This is not only disingenuous – students only have to repay their fees when they are earning over £21,000 – but also ignores that students in Scotland today still leave university with an average debt of £21,000, more than those in Northern Ireland or Wales, which both have tuition fees. When far less generous bursaries from universities are taken into account, many disadvantaged Scottish students will actually graduate with higher debt than equivalent students in England. Perhaps this is why even Scots are becoming sceptical about this middle-class hand-out by stealth: only a quarter of Scots believe that no students should contribute towards their tuition fees.

A student will be around $500,000 better off by going to university. It is not unreasonable they should pay a small portion of the costs of that education, rather than tax everyone for 100% of it.

General Debate 8 February 2016

February 8th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

6 takeaways from the beginning of the U.S. Presidential primaries

February 7th, 2016 at 6:48 pm by kiwi in america

On Tuesday February 2nd, Iowa held its caucuses for both parties formally kicking off the US 2016 Presidential primary election season. First off a disclaimer: I am a Rubio supporter and decided to support him pretty much from the beginning of the GOP debates. With only one result in the bank, we have learned some key things about the race for each party’s nomination.

1 – New Hampshire is more important than Iowa.

This is particularly true on the Republican side. There are two reasons for this. First is that Iowa (IA) holds caucuses and New Hampshire (NH) holds primaries. The significance of the difference is turnout. Caucuses are a gathering of party supporters in a given area (caucus locations mostly match party voting precincts and would have a concentration analogous to the concentration of NZ election polling booths). Organizers for each campaign stand in designated corners of a hall and ask those caucusing to come to their side to be counted. The tallies for each location are then called in to a central location for the final result. Caucuses are usually held in the evening and can be time consuming as you have to register for the party you nominate and that can take some hours before the actual caucusing begins. The time consuming nature of the voting method, the restricted time the vote is held (versus a primary where polls are usually open for 12 hours) and the public nature of your vote in that everyone in the hall can see who you support versus a private ballot in a primary, means the turnout in caucuses is significantly lower than in a primary. In 2012 a total of 121,500 Republicans voted in the Iowa caucus and that represented 19% of all IA registered Republicans. IA had a population of 3,074,000 in 2012 so that’s only 4% of the total population. By contrast in NH with a population of only 1,320,718, in 2012 the GOP turnout at the primary was 225,123 so at 17% it is four times higher than in IA. It’s a crude metric because NH allows Independents to vote in either primary and about 40% of registered voters in NH are independents but you get the drift – more voters vote in primaries than caucuses so in the case of the NH primary, from a statistical point of view, the result is pulling off a larger sample base.

The Iowa GOP caucuses are also much more dominated by evangelical Christians which explains the early victories of Huckabee (2008), Santorum (2012) and Cruz (2016). NH has a demographic breakdown more akin to the wider U.S. General Election population and that explains why, on the GOP side, winners of the GOP primary in NH are very much more indicative of who the eventual winning nominee will be than the winners in IA. Of the 9 elections since 1980, the GOP NH primary has successfully picked 8 out 9 GOP nominees whereas in IA, the figure is only 5 from 9. On the Democrat side, the IA caucus has picked the nominee 7 out of 9 times versus only 6 from 9 in NH so the IA caucus is more determinate for the Democrats whereas the NH primary is more so for the Republicans.

2 – Hillary is a lousy campaigner but, barring an indictment, will still win the Democratic nomination.

Clinton eked out the narrowest of victories over Sanders on Tuesday. In fact, she may have actually lost because reportedly 6 precincts had anecdotal reports of a tied vote that was decided by a coin toss and Clinton won 5 of the 6 coin tosses. Had the coin tosses been 50/50 then Sanders may have won by a whisker. It was of course not meant to be like this. Clinton has all the advantages on paper: a massive donor edge, endorsements of most major party leaders, the support of the DNC (the national party organisation), name recognition beyond any prior candidate for President, a crack campaign team who had supposedly learned key lessons from her 2008 defeat to Obama and her still popular husband Bill (who remains a formidable retail politician) campaigning for her. These advantages were supposed to negate her wooden speaking style and her perpetual inauthenticity. However, her campaign has been beset by pratfalls: a disastrous book launch tour in the summer of 2015, her tone deaf comment about being broke after leaving the White House and, as the summer wore on, the emerging evidence of her home brew email server through which she routed sensitive State department emails that has become a running and growing scandal. When played against the parallel but less publicized scandal of the cash for favours roundabout that Billary ran with their Foundation scoring tens of millions in speaking fees for both Bill and Hillary and mingling the supposed charity work of the Foundation and Hillary’s work as the 4th most powerful member of the U.S. government as Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013. Hillary’s explanations for her non authorized email system, designed to shield her from Congressional scrutiny, have proven to be patently false particularly, as it has recently emerged in the gradual release of emails forced from the State Department by a lawsuit from Judicial Watch (a right wing lobby group), that a good number of emails were afforded a security classification so top secret that some on the Congressional committees tasked with oversight did not have sufficient clearance to be advised of their content and that even redacted copies cannot be released. When you have the FBI investigating you for causing serious breaches of extremely sensitive classified material and you told the families of the four State Department employees were killed in the 12 September 2012 raid on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya because of uprisings fueled by an obscure anti Muslin video and not the security lapses that she knew about from the outset, you have major credibility issues. This is why an awkward nerdy aging socialist Senator from one of America’s smallest states is getting huge crowds, a wave of on line donors and has not been easy for her to beat.

BUT, for all of Clinton’s manifest failings, she has advantages that should carry her through to the nomination. She is highly likely to lose the NH Democrat primary to Sanders next week but that is mostly due to Sanders’ high profile in New England (Vermont adjoins New Hampshire). The next primary (aside from the obscure Nevada caucuses that produce few delegates) is the South Carolina primary. That is dominated on the Democrats side by black voters who are more inclined to support Clinton over Sanders. After SC is Super Tuesday comprising 14 States and the single largest group of states voting on the same day. Clinton has a natural advantage on Super Tuesday due to her vastly superior ground game and the larger amount of cash on hand to contest in so many states simultaneously. The delegate lead that Clinton should build by the second week in March could be insurmountable for Sanders whose grassroots funding will wither if it looks like he cannot prevail. BUT – if Clinton is indicted for the various breaches of intelligence confidentiality laws by the Department of Justice as a consequence of the FBI’s investigation into her exclusive use of her non-secure email server (and subsequent unauthorized sending of highly classified material via this unsecure network) then all bets are off. Her campaign would be finished.

3 – Trump is not done

Trump has been the most unconventional candidate to run for President since Ross Perot ran as an Independent in 1992 and 1996 (his campaign split the conservative vote allowing Clinton to win with only 42% and 47% of the popular vote respectively). He has broken all the rules and conventions of U.S. politics and got away with it. He engaged in blatant mysogony by insulting popular Fox TV presenter Megyn Kelly by accusing her of erratic ‘time of the month’ behaviour, he mocked a disabled reporter, he insulted Senator John McCain’s widely admired time as a tortured prisoner of the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War, he routinely abuses the press and verbally beats up on reporters who follow MSM standard gotcha questioning tactics, he proposes extreme sounding policies that appear to be right wing dog whistles (mass deportation of illegals or banning all Muslim migration for a period of time), he ignores and mocks PC conventions, he routinely accuses his opponents of things that aren’t factual (Cruz being ineligible because he was born in Canada), he largely self-funds and eschews and then taunts the entire GOP donor class, he gets into several fights with Fox News culminating in his boycotting the last Fox moderated GOP debate before Iowa (because Kelly was presenting) and he summed up his seeming invincibility in the polls by saying his supporters would stick with him even if he shot someone on 5th Avenue in New York! Despite Trump’s bombast, his abuse of reporters and opponents, his flip flopping on so many key issues (was all for single payer health system now opposes Obamacare that is less government intrusive than single payer and is now against abortion when he was for it), his being a Democrat for so long, being so close to the Clintons and his seemingly flakey policies and inability to grasp important foreign policy issues waved away with a “trust me – I’m a great deal maker and will hire the right people who will advise me”, Trump has defied political gravity for month after month. Most of the talking heads and commentators even on the right predicted a Trump implosion that not only never happened but with each seeming career ending move, he would go UP in the polls.

Kiwis, even those on the centre right, look on with shocked bemusement wondering how Trump could survive. To understand Trump’s rise, you must understand the intense frustration felt by many Republican voters. They watched their party’s mainstream leaders mock, marginalize and block the Tea Party movement and they’ve seen House and then Senate Republicans, once they assumed control of first the House (2010) and the Senate (2014), then cave to Obama and the Democrats on issue after issue of concern to the Republican base (the debt ceiling, sequestration and funding the military, repealing or at least constraining Obamacare, the Corker-Cardin deal on the Iranian sanctions, defunding Planned Parenthood – especially after the damning undercover videos, Islamic refugees and general lack of fiscal rectitude). The anger is palpable and Trump’s ‘take no prisoners’, say it how it is, politically incorrect truth to Republican power is music to the ears of a base that feels ignored and spurned by former Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Some of this group had dropped out of the political process as witnessed by the numbers of GOP voters who stayed home rather than vote for Romney in 2012. Trump also draws from blue collar workers who were Reagan Democrats who find the modern Democratic Party too left wing and captured by special interest groups to ever represent them. Add in his flamboyance, his mystique and perceived success as a billionaire and his name brand recognition from his popular reality TV show “The Apprentice” and you have the makings of a resurgent candidate. All Trump needed was a willing media to report his every outburst and comment and the U.S. media duly obliged. Like a real life soap opera going on in real time, half in disgust and half in morbid fascination, the MSM have enabled and fueled Trump’s rise and rise. By reporting his every move and comment, Trump has sucked the political oxygen out of the room for his opponents.

But in the end, there are SOME political niceties that must still be followed and one of these is a ground game and Iowa is a state where campaign boots on the ground is essential for success and Cruz and Rubio were head and shoulder above Trump in that regard. NH is more philosophically attuned to a Manhattan elite candidate so it would not surprise if Trump does win there but, we have learned from IA that he has underperformed from his polling average by some 5%. This could be because his supporters are happy to tell pollsters they love Trump but don’t actually show up because Trump’s campaign don’t even know who his supporters are or where they live.

Earned media will continue to give Trump a tail wind. But if Rubio’s surge continues and Cruz stays steady, Trump could face a length 3-way race even past Super Tuesday. Another reason why Trump will stay is because of a very important change to the Republican nominating process that was instituted post 2012 and that is that all primary/caucus states pre-March 15th must award delegates on a proportional basis whereas all Republican primaries (and caucuses) prior to 2016 were winner-take-all contests. In comparison, the Democrats have been gradually moving to a proportuional allocation culminating in a full slate of primaries and caucuses in 2008 chosen this way. It was this reform that enabled Obama to beat Clinton. He racked up proportional wins in caucus states where his ground game was superior to Clinton whilst she concentrated on the big primary States. By the time the Pennsylvania, Texas, California and New York primaries came around, Obama had amassed a near unsurmountable lead that could not be overtaken even when Clinton won a number of larger later states because she only won a proportion of the delegates on offer. A winner-take-all system favours an early front runner who can quickly amass delegates and drive his/her competitors out of the race.

Trump knows even if he slips from the No 1 slot that he will still amass delegates in all the voting that goes on prior to mid-March and leave him with enough delegates to soldier on. Trump is self-funded and so will be unaffected by the usual drop off in funding that occurs if a leading candidate funded by donors starts to slip in both the polls and actual primary votes. Even if Trump slips to 3rd later in the race but wins several key early states (say NH and SC), he could continue in the race to Super Tuesday and exert an influence on the eventual outcome denying a Cruz or Rubio campaign an outright plurality of delegates. This is why Trump is here to stay.

4 – Bush will not be the nominee

He didn’t make double digits in IA despite spending big. He’s spent even bigger in NH and is still polling just under 10% in the RCP average of all polls and is 5th behind Kasich. If the results in NH are similar to the polls (see point number 6), he’s toast. Bush has been the biggest victim of the Trump resurgency (along with a clutch of capable and articulate and mostly successful sitting Governors: Walker from Wisconsin, Perry from Texas and Jindal from Louisiana). Trump starved all of them (but particularly Bush) of valuable media oxygen all through the summer and autumn and Bush’s big early war chest has been unable to claw him out of the hole. Bush declared early and jumped to a strong lead and was favoured by the donor and chattering beltway classes and it went to his head. He, like many, waited for Trump to implode and Trump cleaned his clock. Bush sat on $70 million+ for months and did virtually nothing to challenge Trump assuming his pratfalls would collapse his vote. Now he is spending millions attacking Rubio in NH – not the strategy of a rising star. His absence from the political stage for 9 years since he was Governor of Florida showed in his initially hesitant debating style. Negatives such as being seen as soft on illegals and for the controversial Common Core can not be counterbalanced by his story of considerable success as Florida Governor and then there’s the mostly negative legacy of the Iran and Afghanistan wars his older brother got America into. At the end of the day, who really wants to see a rerun of Bush v Clinton. He’ll be out by or just after Super Tuesday.

5- Rubio is the best GOP General Election candidate

That’s what the head to head polls say although such polls at this stage are premature. That said, in watching Rubio debate, it is hard not seeing him eat Hillary Clinton’s lunch. He is a formidable debater. Yes, so is Ted Cruz but in a much more technically pure way where it’s obvious he was the champion debater in high school and university. Rubio however is rawer, visceral and at the same time fluid. He possesses the rare talent that few politicians have (like Reagan, Clinton and Blair) to boil down complex hot button issues of the day into a pithy and emotive sound bite. His back story is superb (son of the impoverished Cuban immigrant), he speaks passionately about the American project, he is telegenic and boyish and yet exhibits an almost breathtaking depth of knowledge particularly on foreign affairs. He is a whole generation younger than Clinton and is a visionary forward thinker who dwells on sunny up lit plains territory whereas Clinton comes across as an old hack deeply mired into everything wrong with U.S. politics and the grab bag of identity and grievance politics that is the hallmark of the modern progressive left. Democrat operatives fear Rubio the most for these very reasons and it’s not hard to see why.

Rubio is still vulnerable most particularly for his support for the so-called Gang of 8 immigration amnesty proposal that came out of a bipartisan Senate effort but was killed by the GOP controlled House and for his relatively short time in the U.S. Senate. But despite this, and his support for corporate welfare canards such as sugar subsidies (a big industry in his native Florida) and the ethanol mandates so big in Iowa, he seems to be peaking just about the right time. He exceeded expectations in Iowa and entry polls (the caucus equivalent of exit polls) saw him pick up late deciding voters in IA 2:1 over Trump and Cruz. He came within 1% of pushing Trump into 3rd place and he seems to be enjoying a statistically measurable bounce coming into the NH primary. This against the backdrop of sustained attacks from Cruz, Bush and Christie.

Will GOP primary voters forgive Rubio for the ‘sin’ of the Gang of 8? Rubio has uttered many mea culpas and stronger more hawkish rhetoric on this subject as have all the candidates since Trump’s more extreme proposals gained traction. He is racking up high level endorsements: several of the former candidates who are sitting Governors have endorsed him (Walker and Jindal) as has recent drop-out Senator Rick Santorum. He scored the conservative wing’s new darling African-American freshman Senator from South Carolina Tim Scott. There are whisperings that Mitt Romney may endorse Rubio as early as this weekend if it looks like he gets within striking distance of Trump. Romney was Governor of neighbouring Massachusetts and many residents of NH are in the Boston TV station viewing range plus Romney has long owned a cabin the NH woods so he is well regarded in the Granite State. Romney’s endorsement, whilst an anathema to the more conservative followers of Cruz, would play very big amongst the more moderate centrist NH GOP primary voters many of whom are independents. An upset win in NH (or running a very close 2nd to a weakening Trump) would propel Rubio to the front of the race especially if Kasich and Christie drop out. Rubio has many electoral strengths and few damaging weaknesses especially when you factor in the more moderate centre that must be won to win the Presidency. His final trump card (pun intended) is he is Hispanic and he could improve on George W Bush’s high-water mark of winning 42% of Hispanics in 2004 (versus the low point of the 27% Romney got in 2012). Yes, Cruz is Hispanic too but his more abrasive combative style is going to be easier for the Clinton camp to exploit than Rubio’s breezy eloquence. Greater electability versus Clinton in the General is a potent argument and Rubio is exploiting it to the hilt.

Primary polls are notoriously unreliable and yet are still reported as if they are

Polling in general has become a more difficult business across the globe even in general elections. Pollsters missed the late surge to National in the NZ 2014 election, the Conservative win in the UK 2015 election, the scope of the GOP wave in the 2014 mid-term elections and the easy Likud victory in the 2015 Israeli elections. Polls for U.S. primary elections are even more fraught for a variety of reasons. The sample sizes tend to be smaller for most (but not all) polls so the margins of error are higher. Primary voters are fickler and a much higher percentage make up their mind at the last minute compared to general elections. Late breaking surges for a particular candidate are missed or more frequently, their extent is understated. This is because of the tighter time frames over which primary polls are often conducted (which is part of the reason why their sample sizes are smaller). Polls conducted in the next major primary/caucus state right after the previous state results are often tainted by the immediate euphoria and media reporting binge surrounding the victory or failure of specific candidates which has the effect sometimes for instance, of overstating the support of an Iowa winner over a candidate that will be more popular in New Hampshire. But if a pollster waits for the post primary vote reporting frenzy to dissipate, they may have too small a window in which to accurately poll before the next vote. And then add into the mix in New Hampshire the fact that over 40% of registered voters are Independents and that NH electoral law allows Independents to vote in either the Democrat OR Republican primary (but not both), one of the hardest things to predict (because the ratio of Indies voting in Dem or GOP primaries swings from election to election based on how competitive the ballot is for each party) is not only WHO Independents will vote for but even which contest they will enter. In a small state like NH, these swings to GOP over Democrat (or vice versa) can bring a larger than expected number of voters into a specific party’s race and if there is a late surge to one candidate in that party’s race, it is much more difficult for pollsters to pick that up. Bottom line: treat the NH polls in the lead up to Tuesday February 9 primary in New Hampshire with a grain of salt.

Alwyn Poole on Euthanasia

February 7th, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Alwyn Poole has done a post arguing against legalising euthanasia:

I had two fathers who died two quite different deaths. One, my birth father (who I never met), chose suicide assisted by a shotgun in his back shed. The other, the one who adopted me and brought me up, died of natural causes in his lounge – at home with his wife – in 2006.

Strangely enough, re the debate on euthanasia, it is the death of the second one I want to address. This should not be a nice trendy issue for someone to try and gain electoral support. It has stunning potential to become a slippery slope for a range of groups in society. It also has the potential to confer power to a group of people (doctors) who are highly fallible in a range of ways.

As I said – my adoptive father died naturally at home. His life almost did not end that way. A few months prior to his death I received a phone call at work that my father was “dying that day”. It was a Tuesday and he was in intensive care in a hospital in a small city in NZ. I had spent time there with him on the Sunday and had left him on the improve and​, apparently, ​ in good spirits. 

Ray Poole was 67 years old at the time and had a terminal illness, emphysema, that had progressed. He was not in good shape having been one of those people who had worked incredibly hard (sometimes doing three ​tough ​jobs) to provide for his family and pay his taxes. He most certainly hadn’t helped his health by supporting the NZ ​s​herry industry and overseas owned tobacco companies for a long period of time. His wife, my mother, had just been diagnosed with terminal cancer and told she could go “any time” (which did not actually ​happen ​until ​seven years later​. Luckily she was skeptical of certain timelines too). Her situation clearly was having an impact on him.

Back to the phone call and my dad dying “that day”. I caught a plane and got myself to his fair city. Drove to the hospital and walked into intensive care. With two questions:

  1. What was his condition?
  1. What has happened since Sunday to bring about such a change?

His condition was that he was unconscious and that his oxygen levels were having to be assisted by tubes in his nose. The “what had happened since Sunday” was more startling. Apparently since I had left he had refused food and drink and the staff had allowed him to do so (without notifying family). He was not dying of his disease – he was dehydrated and starving. I asked the nurse in charge how this was allowed. She told me that the “doctors had met and decided that he had no ​’​quality of life​’​ “. This had not been a discussion involving him, my mother, my brother (a nurse), or myself. After I had clearly informed them what I thought of this I then asked what their “plan” was. 

Their plan ​had been to wait until I arrived and then send in a junior nurse with me to “turn off his oxygen and see what happens – then evaluate further.” So I followed her in and she did what she had been told to do by her authority figures. When she turned the oxygen off the saturation levels began to drop off a little. I then informed her that it was time to turn ​it​ back on. She refused telling me it was best that he “slip away now” (my brother, mother and I being treated like uninformed village idiots). She had made that decision but was clearly certain of support from her seniors (who had made sure that they were not there). I was brief and to the point in informing her that she was to turn the oxygen back on and she did so. I then asked for a syringe and a jug of water ​then sat and began to drip water into my father’s mouth. Twenty minutes later he woke up, sat up, and said: “Mate – I would do with another litre of that.”

I then did what I maybe should have done on the Sunday – I stayed and I cared. My dad slowly got better. It was clear that he wasn’t going to live for a long time but he packed life into the next few months. He cared for my mother, he spent time with his grandchildren, he talked with me every day. He passed away naturally when the time came.

Why had he refused food and drink earlier (and been so ably assisted in doing so)? He didn’t want to die but he thought he was being a burden. He thought he deserved it after all he had worked, smoked and drank his health away. He thought he was without hope. He was lonely and afraid of being alone. His wife was sick and, apparently, dying. 

The staff at the hospital took for themselves a “right” and position that does not belong on human shoulders (regardless of what law gets promoted and maybe even passed).​ No human being should be put in a position to decide and assist. ​There are very good reasons that we hold that dying is a natural event and that to the absolute best of our collective ability we care for every human in our society until nature takes its course.

I am always happy to run guest posts for or against an issue.

Not a smart move by Lincoln

February 7th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Lincoln University staff are distraught after they were duped into being frank with a report-writer who turned out to be their future boss.

During the week of January 11, more than 20 staff were asked to meet and be interviewed one-on-one with a “visiting academic”, who was preparing a report for the university’s council.

The man was Professor Robin Pollard, who revealed to a few at the end of their discussions that he was the preferred vice-chancellor candidate. He was given the job, and would start mid-March.

The Tertiary Education Union (TEU) believed the appointment had been “unnecessarily fraught”, and did nothing to help resolve low staff morale and lack of trust in management at the university.

It was considering legal options, including making a complaint to the Employment Relations Authority about the university’s breach of good faith.

The university said the appointment process had been necessary to respect the need for Pollard’s confidentiality before any offer was made or accepted.

It is a good idea for a prospective CEO to do diligence on  the organisation they are looking to head.

But to mislead staff that you are just a visiting academic doing a report, rather than the likely next VC, is a really bad idea. I’d be very annoyed if that happened to me. You could well say stuff to a “consultant” than you would not say to your ultimate boss.

You can do do diligence or confidentiality, but not both in this way. They should have told those interviewed he was a potential VC, and asked them to not tell anyone, rather than have those staff agree under false pretences.

Whomever signed off on this made a mistake.

Melbourne Age notes the migration flow to NZ

February 7th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Melbourne Age reports:

More people are moving to New Zealand from Australia instead of the other way around for the first time in decades as Kiwis return to a buoyant economy and are joined by foreigners in search of work.

According to new figures released by Statistics New Zealand, 25,273 people migrated east across the Tasman Sea in 2015, compared to 24,504 who went the other way.

This net flow of 769 to New Zealand is the biggest since 1991 and the number of people coming to Australia is the lowest since the same year.

It comes as the country of 4.6 million is experiencing consistent political stability and strong economic performance while other countries falter.

We’re pretty much the only country on the OECD to already be back into surplus after the GFC.

The trend began in the middle of last year and these new figures confirm the anti-New Zealand migration is over, having peaked in 2012 when a total of more than 53,000 fled to Australia.

In 2013, the net migration flow to Australia was 19,600. By 2014, this was down to 3800. 

Halting the “brain drain” was a major campaign commitment of Prime Minister John Key who, after more than seven years in power, is a popular leader running a steady, successful government.

Australians would like some stability in their Governments!

Since John Key became National Party Leader, there have been six PMs of Australia.

The continued economic growth, low unemployment numbers, strong New Zealand dollar, budget surplus and migration success story of the country are all feathers in the cap of the Prime Minister, who last year joked that you “wouldn’t know who’s going to show up” when you’re expecting an Australian prime minister.

Heh.

One victim of this revolving door of political leadership, former treasurer Joe Hockey, last year insisted that the lower tax rates of New Zealand were “unquestionably” part of the exodus.

A top tax rate of 33% is attractive.

The Washington Post has also reported on the change in net migration between Australia and NZ.

General Debate 7 February 2016

February 7th, 2016 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Lessons from Iowa

February 6th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

USA Today has some good lessons from Iowa:

The numbers leave little doubt that Trump made a serious mistake in boycotting the Iowa debate. More than a third of Republican voters (35%) said they made up their minds about which candidate to support in “the last few days.” Among these late deciders, Rubio led the way with 30%, Cruz finished second with 25%, and Trump lagged badly with just 14%. By contrast, among those who had decided earlier than “the last few days,” Trump tied Cruz (both drawing 30%), while Rubio drew only 19%. The Rubio momentum in the final days of the campaign undoubtedly reflected his strong performance in the Iowa debate four days before the caucuses, while Trump’s weakness among last-minute deciders (with less than half the support he got from those who made their choices previously) stemmed at least in part from the bone-headed strategy of failing to appear on that crucial Iowa stage.

Trump thought the debate needed him more than he needed the debate. He was wrong.

Hillary remains profoundly vulnerable on the issue of personal integrity. Among Democratic caucus participants, 24% said the quality that mattered most to them was that a candidate should be “honest and trustworthy.” Among these voters, Bernie Sanders slaughtered Clinton by a staggering 83% to 10%. If the Republicans choose a candidate who conveys a sense of ethics and authenticity, they should be able to peel away some of these Democratic voters — as well as scoring big gains among the independents who care about the honesty issue.

Clinton also has a huge problem with younger voters. Look at the age skew in the entrance polls for Iowa:

  • Under 30s: Sanders +70%!!!
  • 30 to 44: Sanders +21%
  • 45 to 64: Clinton +23%
  • 65+: Clinton +43%

Education Directions on free tertiary fees

February 6th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting analysis of Labour’s “free” tertiary fees policy by Education Directions Dave Guerin – a leading education policy strategist:

  • The policy is quite thin beyond the headline figures. Costings and assumptions have not been provided, so it is hard to test the figures.
  • Making something free normally leads to rationing, and “homeopathy for pets” has been suggested as an area to be curtailed. However, Andrew Little has said that Labour expects a 15% increase in participation (that’s not in the papers released by Labour), so there will be overall growth.
  • If a TEO has fewer sources of income, it becomes more dependent upon the remaining ones. By reducing student fee income, this policy would increase the importance of government funding for TEOs. Such government funding is often constrained due to wider budgetary reasons. Any participation growth would probably be offset by lower income/students, and slower income growth.
  • Apprentices may get less benefit out of this than others, because their fees are generally lower and employers often pay a share of them. Officials will also be cautious about replacing employers’ funds with government funds.
  • The entitlement is defined as years of education rather than EFTS – that would disadvantage part-time learners, and we suspect it might change to an EFTS allowance in time (but Labour is talking to the general public, so would have avoided jargon at this stage).
  • The policy is not targeted, so it will pay the fees of people who are willing to pay fees right now (ie every current fee-paying student). While Labour says that it cares about increasing participation, their policy has the main effect of transferring funds to people who would be students anyway. If you wanted to boost participation amongst people deterred by current fees, you would use more targeted scholarships along with bridging programmes.
  • The policy is affordable, if it is prioritised over other things. Since most students pay their fees with student loans, and around 40% of the value of student loans are written off due to interest-free loans and other factors, Labour only really needs to find about 60% of the costs of fees for its policy (plus their 15% projected growth in student numbers). Labour will have to make a convincing case about its overall budgetary plans closer to the next election.
  • Labour’s stated reasons for the policy (access, retraining, and high debt) aren’t very robust, but the core reason seems to be that senior Labour politicians believe that this is the right thing to do, and that it will earn votes.

So my summary of the above is:

  • Policy does not provide details to back the costing
  • It is likely to lead to course restrictions in some areas
  • Tertiary institutes likely to end up with less funding per student
  • The policy is not targeted and will mainly pay the fees of people already willing and able to pay them
  • The rationale for the policy overall is not very robust – more to do with votes than solving a problem

That’s 9th floor, not 11th

February 6th, 2016 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Ever wondered where our politicians spend their days?

Stuff presents MP Cribs; taking you behind-the-scenes at the Beehive. First up, Prime Minister John Key and his office on the eleventh floor.

That’s the 9th floor, not the 11th floor. The 11th floor is pretty barren and just has a flagpole – commonly known as the roof.

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