Archive for February, 2007

US court rules blogger immunity for comments

February 28th, 2007 at 4:26 pm by David Farrar

The US First Circuit Court of Appeals (one below the Supreme Court) has ruled Lycos, a message board administrator, is not liable for an alleged defamatory statement regarding the value of Universal Communication Systems stock.

The court noted that “Congress intended that, within broad limits, message board operators would not be held responsible for the postings made by others on that board,” adding that allowing bloggers and message board operators to be sued for the statements of commenters on their sites would have an “obvious chilling effect” on speech.

The full court decision is here.

Hat Tip: Sir Humphrey’s

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Another whopping surplus

February 28th, 2007 at 2:13 pm by David Farrar

Treasury has just published the half year accounts for the Government, and surprise surprise an ever growing surplus.

It is now at $4.47 billion. To be fair most of the increase above budget are one off revaluations, rather than changes to core revenue and expenses.

Talking of revaluations, the rail network appears to have been revalued upwards by $10.3 billion – that’s a huge net worth increase.

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Wellington Broadband

February 28th, 2007 at 11:27 am by David Farrar

I’m delighted (and quoted as that) with the proposal for Wellington City Council to wire up “every household” for high-speed broadband internet services.

The idea to use the trolley bus lines, reducing the costs by 80%, is excellent, as is also offering private companies the right to use underground piping for no charge.

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Monthly NZ Blog Stats

February 28th, 2007 at 11:07 am by David Farrar

My diligence at doing the monthly NZ Blog Stats has waned of late, mainly due to being far too busy.

Luckily Span has kindly agreed to fill the breach. So to be included in the stats:

1. Count up how many posts and how many comments your blog has produced in the calendar month (in this case, February 2007).

2. Email those figures, along with the name of your blog, and your url if you are feeling really onto it, to me at spanblatherATgmaildotcom (de-munge please). You could even put “Feb Stats” in the subject line, if it takes your fancy.

3. I will put up a post with all Feb stats I have received at some point on March 1st. There may or may not be categories…

4. If you don’t get your stats to me in time you can always add them in comments, but then you may miss out on being a category!

Big thanks to Span for taking on the job. It is good to have a record of these things.

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The self-employed underclass

February 28th, 2007 at 10:52 am by David Farrar

Fran O’Sullivan highlights how ill treated the self -employed are, and that they represent a business underclass. Some extracts:

* The self-employed are not eligible for the implicit tax break wage and salary earners from making employer’s contributions free from SSWCT (specified superannuation contribution withholding tax)

* Tax credits that are available to families which are explicitly not available to the self-employed unless one parent is a wage or salary earner.

* Lowering the top corporate rate to 30c will not help the self-employed

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Anti-spam law passed

February 28th, 2007 at 10:13 am by David Farrar

At around 9 pm last night Parliament passed (only ACT voting against) the third and final reading of the anti-spam law. I’ve been working on this issue, and having a workable law, since around 2003 along with David Harris (of Pegasus Mail fame) and others in InternetNZ. So great to see it finally passed, with a big ups to David Cunliffe who reversed the previous Government position not to support legislation.

The official release from InternetNZ is not yet online, so is over the break.

I should stress that no-one who supports this law thinks that it will magically stop spam. If only it was so easy. Every anti-spam group around will say that you need a combination of education, technological measures, self-regulation, legislation and international co-operation. None of these by itself stops spam, but together they help mitigate it.

The legislation will have three direct benefits:

1) It will allow those NZers involved in spamming to be prosecuted. Because our ISPs are all intolerant of spammers, little or no spam is directly sent from NZ, but a number of NZers are involved in the spam industry and use overseas parties to do the sending for them.

2) It allows the Govt enforcement agency to monitor where spam is coming from and for domestic sources take direction action, and for overseas sources work with overseas counterparts to target the worst offenders. This international co-operation has led to prosecutions and some of the worst US spammers have gone out of business. And if we don’t have a law on the books making spam illegal, we can’t have our government working with others to target spammers.

3) It removes the incentives for spammers to move to NZ, as almost the last remaining OECD country to have an anti-spam law.

The law doesn’t take effect for six months, so I expect there will be an education campaign for consumers and businesses on how the law will work, and how to make sure what you do isn’t spam.
(more…)

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Action Hobson u-turn

February 28th, 2007 at 10:05 am by David Farrar

Action Hobson has done a sudden u-turn on the billboards ban.

This is ironic as Christine Caughey is the Cr who first pushed for restrictions in early 2006. I guess they now realise how deeply unpopular the proposed ban is.

However by doing this u-turn just three days before submissions close, they’ve just managed to alienate both City Vision and C&R on Council (a rare feat to offend both) for grandstanding.

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No Right Turn on tax deductible donations

February 27th, 2007 at 7:14 pm by David Farrar

No Right Turn labels National’s announcement of removing limits on tax deductible charitable donation as “a policy aimed more at the rich than the poor, the primary impact of which will be to help them dodge on their taxes”.

I think NRT’s attitude is probably reflective of much of the left on this issue. They don’t like private charity much, or “Tory charity” as Steve Maharey labels it.

But let’s look at who wins and loses from increasing the limits on tax deductibility. Let’s use an example of Rich Bastard A, Charity B and Government C.

Rich Bastard A decides to give $10,000 to Charity B. For this his tax bill is reduced by $3,333. This means he is left $6,667 out of pocket.

Charity B has $10,000 more money which it can now spend on charitable purposes, which in the case of the Wellington City Mission where the policy was announced, is helping the poor and homeless.

Government C has $3,333 less tax revenue.

So Rich Bastard A loses the most money and Charity B gains the most.

And this is what No Right Turn calls aimed at the rich, not the poor.

As someone who spent four years working for a charity, let me tell you that they will be delighted with this policy. Removing the cap on corporate donations especially will help as this often proved a barrier to corporate fund-raising.

Also worth remembering that to gain tax deductability as a charity, you need to both be registered with the new Charities Commission and approved by the IRD.

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Lots of links

February 27th, 2007 at 4:01 pm by David Farrar

A round-up of some good articles to check out.

Salient has the ratio of overspent public money in 2005’s election by The National Party, Act, United Future, Greens, NZ First and Labour respectively : 1:2:6:7:13:68

Liberals blogs No Right Turn and Contradiction disagree on banning gang patches. I have some problems myself with banning identification symbols instead of actions.

Whale Oil points out the non independence of the independent inquiry into rates. He later discovers that one of them also used to work in Helen Clark’s office.

Craig Foss and fellow Hawke’s Bay MP Chris Tremain dress up as the Blues Brothers.

Liberty Scott blogs about the attempt by Rebecca Loos and Matthew Ridge to join the mile high club. He has some useful practical advice for those who wish to try. Also Stuff reports that Ridge on TV last night denied anything happened. Yeah Right!

David Haywood blogs that the differences between Sue Bradford and Chester Borrows versions of Section 59 are not as great as they think. There has been a lot of debate on their discussion board on the issue.

Spare Room has Drew Barrymore (sigh) in a Saturday Night Live skit as a 80s workout instructor.

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Top Ten Messages on Britney Spears’ Answering Machine

February 27th, 2007 at 3:22 pm by David Farrar

Letterman is in great form, as usual.

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National announces charity tax policy

February 27th, 2007 at 2:54 pm by David Farrar

John Key has announced a massive change to tax on charitable donations. Currently the law only allows you to claim $1,890 of donations at a 33.3% rebate (ie net $630) as an individual and companies are restricted to a 5%.cap.

National is abolishing both caps so that donations up to a person’s total net income will be eligible for the 33.3% rebate, The company cap is also lifted, plus extended to non publicly listed companies.

And finally gift duty on donations to charitable organisations has been abolished.

It is estimated this policy change could lead to a doubling of donations to the voluntary sector.

Quoting John Key:

“In my Burnside speech I said I wanted to turbo-charge the efforts of private and community groups making a difference. This policy shows I mean it.

“Following that speech, Labour’s Steve Maharey attacked National using the sneering term ‘Tory charity’.

“This is the view that the State is always best placed to improve society by taxing people and spending the money on government programmes. This is the view that private charity is simply patronising.

“National thinks these views are appalling. It’s a fundamental part of a civilised society that people do things for one another, and do them selflessly, without being compelled, and without the Government organising it.

I think this is a great policy. It will make a huge difference to many charities.

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You can’t speak personally in your portfolio

February 27th, 2007 at 2:33 pm by David Farrar

Clark and Peters have already stretched constitutional conventions to their limits by coming up with silly concepts such as being Foreign Minister, yet not being in Cabinet. We saw yesterday the path this leads us to.

It’s one thing for Peters to give personal opinions on non portfolio matters such as compulsory superannuation, but you simply can not have the Minister of Foreign Affairs give “personal opinions” to the media on issues such as Iraq.

Alexander Downer is not meeting with him for Winston’s personal opinion, Neither are the media. They are there because his job is to talk on behalf of the NZ Government.

Peters is of course blaming the media.

As it happens I agree with the views Winston put forward. But they are not the views of the NZ Government, whom he is meant to represent.

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A good attempt when you don’t know the answer

February 26th, 2007 at 7:53 pm by David Farrar

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And yet another Auckland billboard

February 26th, 2007 at 6:52 pm by David Farrar

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And the billboard photos keep coming in. This one I think is near Parnell.

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Were they individuals or was it the Exclusive Brethren?

February 26th, 2007 at 5:32 pm by David Farrar

I think it is a nonsense for the Exclusive Brethren to claim the church wasn’t involved in politics, just a number of individuals. It may be true in a very narrow technical sense, but it ignores the reality. It’s a bit like King Henry asking “Who will rid me of this turbulent priest” and then claiming he never ordered the Archbishop killed.

There are three reasons why one can only conclude that the church at a minimum encouraged, if not mandated, political involvement.

1) They have got involved not just in NZ, but all around the world. This can not be a coincidence, but implies central direction.

2) The seven Brethren who paid for the pamphlets were senior members of the church, not just seven ordinary members.

3) All over NZ, hundreds, maybe thousands, of Brethren offered assistance with delivering letters etc.

You can not take all of the above, and then claim oh it is just a few “over-enthusiastic members”.

The NZ Herald article suggests the Brethren will not be involved in politics in the future. Good.

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View from the Room

February 26th, 2007 at 12:58 pm by David Farrar

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No whities says Turia

February 26th, 2007 at 12:43 pm by David Farrar

Tariana Turia says she wants less immigration, as it stops the browning of New Zealand and she is most concerned about traditional source countries like Australia, Canada and Great Britain.

Sigh.

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The Capitalism Pyramid Scheme

February 26th, 2007 at 12:05 pm by David Farrar

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I want a full size version for my wall!

Hat Tip: Spare Room

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Compulsory Savings

February 26th, 2007 at 11:53 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald endorses Winston Peters’ call for the Cullen fund and KiwiSaver to be turned into a fully fledged compulsory superannuation fund with individual accounts.

I opposed compulsory super in 1997, partly on the basis it was dictating the preferred form of savings. Often it was more logical for someone to pay off their mortgage before investing in a super fund. Likewise young farmers might be better placed to invest in their farm, than put money into bonds. Same for business owners.

But considering the Cullen Fund means taxpayers get massively overtaxed, so they don’t have the money to do these other things anyway, the proposal by Peters has more merit today than it did then.

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The blackhole health sector

February 26th, 2007 at 11:36 am by David Farrar

Yet another report highlighting how much money is being wasted in the health sector.

A review just of the three Auckland health boards, finds that one could save $36 million in just eight departments, which is 13% of the expenditure in these areas.

They also find doctor salary inflation of 36.1% over four years.

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US Christian Right unhappy with all candidates

February 25th, 2007 at 9:52 pm by David Farrar

The US Christian Right is unhappy that none of the leading Republican Presidential candidates are intolerant enough for them.

Good.

It’s nice to see a moderate GOP field on these issues. My ideal GOP candidate is a fiscal and defence hawk, yet liberal on social issues. Rudy and McCain both appeal at this stage. Romney is also promising.

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Cactus Kate on tour

February 25th, 2007 at 8:48 pm by David Farrar

Cactus Kate blogs the highlights of her brief trip to New Zealand, but she seems to have missed some details out.

In best Rachel Glucina fashion, I pose the questions:

Which member of the Business Roundtable was seen meeting Kate at her hotel, the Intercontinental?

And why were they then seen peering through the window of a lingerie store?

And what was discussed during their meal at an exclusive Wellington cafe? Was it fiscal policy?

Answers please.

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Join the Ukranian Army!

February 25th, 2007 at 6:59 pm by David Farrar

A very cheesy ad encouraging men to join the Ukrainian army. Basically shows you pulling all the girls.

Hat Tip: James Westlake

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Well that was a better week

February 25th, 2007 at 3:59 pm by David Farrar

A better week for my Super 14 picking ability. Of the six games, I got four of them correct and all four I also got the margin correct. 32 points thank you very much, making a total of 105.

My two favourite teams of Hurricanes and Highlanders delivered, as did the Blues and Bulls. Western Force lost unexpectedly and the Crusaders hit form.

Ss globally I move up 11,642 places to 40,636. Still a long way to go.

The bloggers challenge (name: NZ Bloggers, password: dpf) now has 82 participants and I am in 23= place.

Andrew Thompson leads on 135 points and a global rank of 735. Nice. Peter McCaffery is 2nd on 129 and Mike Heine 3rd on 123. Several people got 37/48 points.

Globally the top scorer is on 166 points.

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Climate Change Measures

February 25th, 2007 at 3:38 pm by David Farrar

The HoS looks at Contact Energy and the role it may play in climate change. First we are reminded:

The reality is that since Labour took office in 1999 New Zealand’s emissions have grown at twice the rate of the United States, four times the rate of Japan and are even larger than Australia.

Now Contact Energy has announced a a bold $2 billion five-year programme to build new renewable energy projects — geothermal and wind. Worth remembering this is the privately owned generator. The other two major ones are publicly owned.

But what is the problem with their plans? The RMA.

Contact believes geothermal is the best replacement for carbon producing gas and coal stations because it is more reliable than wind. But it has been frustrated by the six-year process it has taken to get resource consent to upgrade the Wairakei station, still months away.

No resource consent should ever have to take more than a year, two at the most. But we have roads which take longer to consent than build. Marinas which take 13 years. We need a resource consent process which allows objections to be heard and considered, but doesn’t involve years and years of delays.

While on the topic of climate change, the HoS also reports on how the Government is alienating the entire forestry sector, who also might be key to helping with climate change.

They just don’t get it, that if you keep all the credits for yourself, yet try and impose huge debit costs on industry, industry will rebel. They are looking to charge $13,000 per hectare if you change your land from forests to farms, yet won’t let you keep the credits from keeping it forestry.

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