Term limits for Cuba

April 18th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

This is genuinely good news if it occurs. AP reports:

Raul Castro proposed term limits yesterday for Cuban politicians – including himself – a remarkable gesture on an island ruled for 52 years by him and his brother.

The 79-year-old President lamented the lack of young leaders in government, saying the country was paying the price for errors made in the past.

Castro told delegates to a crucial Communist Party summit he would launch a “systematic rejuvenation” of the Government.

He said politicians and other important officials should be restricted to two consecutive five-year terms, including “the current president of the Council of State and his ministers” – a reference to himself.

I think term limits are very valuable in stopping dictatorships. If someone is able to try and retain the top job forever, then they will try to – and the temptation to abuse the powers of the state to hang on is immense.

Think if there was no for the US President. I hate to think what Presidents would do to try and win a third or fourth term.

Even in NZ, we saw the Electoral Finance Act as part of Clark’s strategy for a fourth term.

If NZ had a four year term, then I’d propose a maximum five terms for any MP, and a maximum two terms for the office of Prime Minister. If MPs knew there was a finite amount of time they could serve, I think it would encourage more focus on what they achieve during that time, rather than how long they can stay on for.

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37 Responses to “Term limits for Cuba”

  1. Linda Reid (385 comments) says:

    YES! Term limits are a brilliant way to stop people using our system for a job-for-life. But 3 terms is enough as an MP. If you have not made your mark in 12 years, you probably won’t.

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  2. Bed Rater (239 comments) says:

    It’s high time NZ followed Cuba’s example on electoral reform.. wait what?

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  3. Monique Watson (1,062 comments) says:

    Limit terms for list MPs to prevent the migration of the MP to a paid PR role. Electorate MPs are a different beast altogether. And there is no guarantee limiting the term of a PM will limit their influence. H1 is apparently still in close contact with Labour MP’s. You can’t legislate against personal contact but you could legislate to go to referendum on any changes to electoral acts . Sunlight and robust debate should take care of the dictator effect .

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  4. Mr Gronk (45 comments) says:

    I’m not sure what I think about term limits.

    For a single, powerful, at-large-elected office like the Presidency of the US, I’d say they’re a good idea, largely for the reasons DPF gives.

    For an MP, I’m not so sure. I tend to the opinion that the voters of an electorate should be free to elect any qualified candidate they choose. If he’s been representing them for thirty years and they still re-elect him, that’s their choice. The ability of a single MP to write laws and policy to ensure his unfair re-election is pretty small, I would have thought, unless he’s Prime Minister (or otherwise enjoys massive clout). If, on the contrary, he keeps getting re-elected because he achieves things for his electorate, then good on him. And I don’t like any argument that sounds like a variation on, “the voters need to be saved from themselves.”

    On the other hand, I accept that most electorate contests in New Zealand are won or lost on the basis of party affiliation. In which case I think it would be good for the political parties to assess whether an MP with a period of electoral success behind him is still their best candidate. I should think that after two or three terms it would become obvious whether or not that particular MP was headed for Ministerial office. If not, then he should probably be encouraged to move on, if necessary by selecting someone else in his place, and letting him run as an independent if he dares. A former major-party MP who wins as an independent probably deserves to keep the seat.

    Another problem with setting relatively short term limits in the context of a Parliamentary system is the requirement that ministers also have seats in Parliament. I don’t see many politicians landing major ministerial portfolios or Opposition spokesmanships without having served several years in Parliament first. The exceptions usually seem to be “star candidates” who are brought in on the list or parachuted into a safe seat, and those don’t make up much of cabinet. If term limits are to be brought in at all, either they would need to be quite long (15 to 16 years minimum) or an exception would need to be made for ministers. I’m not sure it would be good to have a revolving-door Cabinet. Similarly, if a party has been out of office for several years, I think it would be good if term limits hadn’t acted to remove all its former ministers by the time it finally regains government.

    One place where I do think term limits would be good is among list MPs. Since they aren’t accountable to any electorate, it seems reasonable to expect them to move on after about eight or nine years if they haven’t earned a place in Cabinet by then.

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  5. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    If MPs knew there was a finite amount of time they could serve, I think it would encourage more focus on what they achieve during that time, rather than how long they can stay on for.

    Or, they may have the mindset that since they don’t have to worry about re-election then they wont care what the consequence as long as they get to implement their legacy onto the electorate.

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  6. gravedodger (1,426 comments) says:

    The counter argument is why would you proscribe the opportunity for a very good leader to continue a job when the electorate should be able to retire dogtuckers. You are entering the same stupid quality control that is demonstrated with ward / electorate rules that require residence as a qualification, just because I have no wish to live in Mcgehan Close doesn’t mean I couldn’t do a great job of representing their interests.
    What we need is a media that exposes the dross that through party patronage get to remain in a position of power without genuine scrutiny. Will we ever see a media that would expose the behavour that led Field to the big house, not under the present culture of protection by threat of libel, slander and the abuse of political power.
    Remove that protection and trust the electorate to do their job at the ballot box in possession of the facts as expressed by a media with more legal protection to expose charlatans and political dogtuckers.

    For the benefit of the uninformed urban dwellers, a dogtucker is an animal that has no economic value and is not suitable for breeding therefore is awaiting slaughter to nourish the working dogs. Does that descriptive apply to anyone you know.

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  7. GJKiwi (179 comments) says:

    Yes, absolutely great news. I believe Raul will finally reach rapprochement with the U.S. I think he is waiting until Fidel dies though. :) He is the best thing that has happened to Cuba in 5 decades. Yes, they possibly needed a revolution, but a revolution needs to go somewhere. That being said, they have better health care in many ways than both New Zealand and the U.S. with free medical care to all. With regard to limiting terms, the U.S. limited the number of terms that a President could serve after FD Roosevelt, who served the better part of 4 terms before dying in 1945 near the end of his last term. Then Truman took over, and so, effectively you had the same administration for 6 terms, with Truman being re-elected twice as well. However, in a parliamentary democracy like New Zealand, how do you effectively limit terms? You couldn’t expect a first term MP to be Prime Minister. I think that a 4 year term should be implemented, now that MMP has been implemented. MMP limits the extreme measure that once occurred, and a 4 year term would allow Goverments to focus on constructive issues rather than always focusing on politics. Perhaps a limit of two four year terms as Prime Minister, but we effectively have that now in any case. It seems that the electorate gets sick of a Government after 2 to 3 terms and so it will be with the National Government. They will probably get the largest share of the vote this year, but, going on history, which shows that only one Government in all of New Zealand electoral history has ever gained an absolute majority of the electoral vote (National in 1951), we won’t have to worry about that this year either, even if we do win the RWC. So, the advantage of 4 year terms is that you get two years of more constructive politics between the beginning of the term and the end of the term. Oh, and you might notice that New Zealand politics is now much more stable since MMP than before, though it is still in its infancy and we still have several legacy MPS, (Jim Anderton, Peter Dunne, Rodney Hide and now, Hone Harawira. I expect given due time that New Zealand will revert to about 4 parties: National, Labour, The Green Party, and the Maori Party. I say this as that is what happened in Germany, where, after the initial election in 1949, where there were about 15 parties in Parliament, they got it down to 4 in 1961, and thereafter until the advent of the Green Party in 1983. In 1990, there were of course other issues, such as the re-unification of Germany, and so there were various parties, but never more than 6 represented in Parliament. Interestingly, twice in the history of Germany since 1949, there have been two Grand Coalitions, once in 1966-69 and once in 2005 to 2009, where the two major party blocks, the CSU/CDU and the SPD (roughly comparable to National and Labour) went into coalition. The first time was when the FDP (roughly equivalent to ACT, but much more sensible) tried to wag the dog, and got pushed out, and the next, in 2005, was when no-one wanted to work with the Left Party, a party that is a legacy of East Germany, on the extreme left. I assume that in the next few years, when Peter Dunne, Jim Anderton retire, and perhaps Rodney Hide falls from grace, we should see something similar in New Zealand. The split between the left and the right is actually usually in favour of the left, if you view the Maori Party as left wing, and Peter Dunne as centrist. However, far be it from me to be a soothsayer!!!

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  8. GJKiwi (179 comments) says:

    Some final points: Although we have some tired old MPS in Parliament, mostly in the left and centre, many of them will retire in the next term, as Labour will not do so well this term and then those who are past their due by date will get rolled and probably won’t bother standing at the following election. Phil Goff will no doubt be one of them.

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  9. somewhatthoughtful (436 comments) says:

    Oh please DPF, enough with EFA bullshit. You saw a convenient platform to bash the govt. from last election and you used it. Good on you, but when we actually have such a gross threat to our actual democracy in the form of CERA where are the billboards? This is far more important than requiring third parties to register yet where is the shouting, the comparing of brownlee to Mao? No where, if you’re going to be principled could you at least be consistent.

    [DPF: I was actually expecting to support most of Labour's electoral reforms - until I saw them. They deserved everything that was thrown at them as they were totally odious. The original EFB was a massive encroachment on the right to free speech, and it was introduced in the most partisan fashion with the motivation to silence critics.

    The CERA legislation was voted for by Labour, and has as a purpose the rebuilding of Chch. It doesn't silence critics of the Government]

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  10. GJKiwi (179 comments) says:

    Mr Gronk: absolutely agree. we don’t have to worry about how long MPS spend in Parliament, as, although they might have delusions of grandeur, e.g. Phil Goff, they will only be given one chance to prove it, and then they will be rolled. However, I do believe that Party Lists need to be accountable to the members of the Party at least, so that, to get on a party list, you should have to be elected to it by members of the party, and I don’t mean the elite members of the party. Full internal elections should be mandatory, not just voting by delegates at conferences.

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  11. s.russell (1,486 comments) says:

    I can’t agree with this – not for New Zealand.

    In an undemocratic state, or one where democracy is fragile, term limits are a useful expedient to prevent dictatorship. But NZ (and the US) have solid democratic traditions and I am solidly opposed to taking away people’s right to vote for whoever they like. I think you have to have a bloody compelling reason to do that, and a few backbench MPs who stay on past their use-by date is not a good enough reason by a country mile.

    Term limits for US president have been a very bad thing in my view. It has turned every second term US president into a lame duck. I point out too, that the term limit only came in with Eisenhower and in the 170-odd years before that, when there was no term limit only ONE president ever won a third term.

    Term limits for NZ MPs would be even more silly. Even a four-term limit would be very damaging. Consider the case of a National MP first elected in 1996. No matter how brilliant, that person could never have become a minister because their time would have been up in 2008.

    I also argue that for every MP who has been in Parliament more than 12 years and ought to have retired, there are at least two more of the same longevity who still give good value. Look at Lockwood Smith: an MP since 1984 and probably our best-ever Speaker of the House.

    Personally, I trust the voters to choose the right people. I do not think such an arbitrary rule should take that choice away from them.

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  12. GJKiwi (179 comments) says:

    @somewhatthoughtful: Indeed. The National Government’s record on democracy is appalling. For example, rolling Environment Canterbury. Check this out. 500,000 people in the greater Canterbury region disenfranchised. Who is next for the chop?

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  13. Neil (526 comments) says:

    From a strictly Cuban point of view, these statements of Raul Castro(the more communist Castro) further verifies statements made last year by both brothers that the revolution in Cuba has been a failure.(Other than good basic health and education)
    I was there last month and the level of nanny state antics has to be seen to be believed. With an average $US15 wage a month for all has seen the development of a little work population and a flourishing blackmarket.All the talented teachers,lawyers etc join the tourist industry to get all the tips from the wealthy European and Canadian tourists.
    The Cuban baseball team plays overseas at times with the result that when the time comes to go home you find half the team defecting.
    Museums can have up to 6-7 workers in each room. When I was there in one room I was “kidnapped” and they took photographs all round the room at displays. When finished to “escape” I had to pay 20CUC’s to escape(About US$20.)
    Cuba is a country where things generally don’t work,certainly the workers don’t work too hard. A typical Socialist paradise like the USSR in its last days. The black market is going loud and clear in Cuba.
    To hire a towel to go swimming at a beach resort can see you filling 3-4 forms and wasting ten minutes to have that privilege
    When Castros’ die what will happen. Perhaps the Cubans will be too lethargic to do anything. But if dancing and the salsa was banned look for a real revolution.Castro has real clamps over the internet and mobile phones.TV is terrible !!
    One thing nice about Cuba – you see very few loud Americans there.

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  14. louie (78 comments) says:

    @GJKiwi :”That being said, they have better health care in many ways than both New Zealand and the U.S. with free medical care to all.”
    Myth! Their leaders go overseas for any serious treatment or in the case of Fidel, fly in a Spanish medical team. The only way it is better is lack of waiting, that is because there is no useful treatment!
    I assume you aren’t praising the ‘treatment’ of aids patients?

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  15. Neil (526 comments) says:

    Louie the one thing I can say is that life span is longer in Cuba than the USA.
    Also Cuba compares well to most of the South American countries.
    However I don’t think too many of our left wingers would fancy Cuba with its state restaurants producing poor food and petty informers hanging around half the time. As well, you don’t have any motivation to do better than ordinary.

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  16. lofty (1,295 comments) says:

    I think that I am tending towards no particular term for “Elected” MP’s, but if, God help us we retain MMP, a 1 term limit for list MP’s, in, make your mark, (or not) get out.

    I want to return to the good old days of FPP, at least we could vote in a load, who you knew the probable agenda of, and if it was not so, give them the flick after 3 years, nice, cut & dried.

    MMP gives me the screaming shits, with scummy no hopers making up the majority of parliament, just cause some party machine, likes the cut of their jib. The majority of List MP’s are hijackers of the 1st order.

    Who knows what a probable agenda is nowadays?

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  17. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    I don’t know if term limits are the best of ideas. Just imagine if most of the current politicians in the governing party had to step down, what have you got left to replace them, drongos and dropkicks . The place would be a fucking circus. New Zealand doesn’t have a large enough population base to offer up competent leaders, just look at what’s on offering at the moment.

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  18. Rex Widerstrom (5,124 comments) says:

    lofty says:

    MMP gives me the screaming shits, with scummy no hopers making up the majority of parliament, just cause some party machine, likes the cut of their jib. The majority of List MP’s are hijackers of the 1st order.

    Exactly. And I see many other commenters are suggesting term limits only for list MPs, or far shorter ones for list MPs. That’s because people understand that, fundamentally, these people weren’t elected. If I hear one more apologist say “but people voted for the list” I’ll scream, because they did no such thing. They voted for the party. That’s why it’s called the party vote.

    Very few people (if any) are going to look at the quality – or lack thereof – on a particular party’s list and not vote for the party on that basis, especially when they’ve had it drilled into them that the party vote determines the government.

    So they swallow a whole batch of dead rats in order to get their preferred party onto the Treasury benches. MMP’s proportionality is undoubtedly an advance on FPP and I don’t support a return to the old system for that reason. But, as lofty says, God help us if we vote this time to retain MMP. We’ll neve get another chance to rid ourselves of this self-serving electoral ballast.

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  19. louie (78 comments) says:

    Neil, “Louie the one thing I can say is that life span is longer in Cuba than the USA.”
    Ummm no, another myth. According to 2008 data for both countries from WHO. 78 vs 77 years and that is with the differences in of classification of ‘live births’ between countries that regularly makes the US look a poor performer.

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  20. BlairM (2,266 comments) says:

    GJKiwi – Paragraphs! Please! Use! Them!

    That being said, they have better health care in many ways than both New Zealand and the U.S. with free medical care to all.

    Bollocks! As with all communist countries, some animals are more equal than others, and there are places where party members can go, and then there are places where everybody else goes.

    http://www.therealcuba.com/Page10.htm

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  21. Christopher Thomson (374 comments) says:

    Cuba. Why is it that all those who espouse and support the grand socialist ideal always want to bring it here.

    Why can’t Keith Locke et al bugger off over there to live and leave us alone? Just askin’.

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  22. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Castro was right to retain power in Cuba at least during the 60s and 70s. The Cosa Nostra international crime syndicate that owned the casinos in Havana before they were appropriate by Castro and co were working with the CIA to assassinate Castro. In fact the CIA had tasked the Florida Cosa Nostra boss Santo Trafficante with finding a team of assassins for the job. One plan that was all-but carried out, involved a team of snipers, prepared to hit Castro when travelling in a motorcade. They abandoned the mission on the day, because Castro’s security was too tight-read loyal. Only several months later JFK was assassinated in the same fashion that the would-be assassins of Castro had planned.

    You see – the hatred of Castro was so intense and deep-seated in the elite of the US right, that such measures were considered necessary.

    So who can blame Castro for being paranoid for so many years, that if he went, then Cuba would fall back into the hands of wealthy Americans, to use as a play-thing/resort. It will be interesting to see what happens to Cuba once free-elections are allowed. I’m guessing the IMF and World Bank conditional loans will be used as the wedge/trojan horse to open Cuba’s resources to US capital again.

    http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKtrafficante.htm

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  23. somewhatthoughtful (436 comments) says:

    Wait, what? It doesn’t encroach on free speech so CERA’s ok? Despite handing powers away from parliament to one man who is barely qualified to tie his own shoelaces? WHAT???

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  24. Manolo (12,622 comments) says:

    So who can blame Castro for being paranoid for so many years, that if he went, then Cuba would fall back into the hands of wealthy Americans, to use as a play-thing/resort.

    Has anyone ever seen magic bullet and Penny not-so Bright in the same room?

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  25. Dazzaman (1,114 comments) says:

    mb….the Godfather II was just a movie….

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  26. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Dazzaman

    Maybe so – but reality can be stranger than fiction.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1555830/CIA-hired-the-Mafia-to-kill-Fidel-Castro.html

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  27. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    mongy bullet would thrive in any future Red Guards organisation that would blight the earth.

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  28. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Hurf Durf

    Probably not. Red Guards have been infiltrated by intel op agent provocateurs often. That’s their main weakness. In one instance they were infiltrated by the P2 masonic lodge, through the Italian secret services, who carried out terrorist acts, and blamed the reds.

    Originally advised and financed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, many of the units and their clandestine arms caches were later taken over by the military intelligence organizations of West European countries and coordinated by a NATO committee…

    …The existence of these secret organizations was first disclosed in 1976 by a U.S. Senate committee investigating CIA operations. Former CIA Director William Colby told the story in greater detail in his 1978 memoir, Honorable Men….

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,971772,00.html

    Links between Gladio, Italian secret service bosses and the notorious P2 masonic lodge are manifold. The chiefs of all three secret services – Generals Santovito (SISMI), Grassini (SISDE) and Cellosi (CESSIS) – were members of the lodge. In the year that Andreotti denied Gladio’s existence, the P2 treasurer, General Siro Rosetti, gave a generous account of “a secret security structure made up of civilians, parallel to the armed forces”…

    …In 1984, questioned by Judges examining the 1980 Bologna station bomb in which 82 people were killed and for which two secret service agents were convicted, he said: “With the massacre of Peteano, and with all those that have followed, the knowledge should by now be clear that there existed a real live structure, occult and hidden, with the capacity of giving a strategic direction to the outrages.” The structure, he said, “lies within the state itself”.

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.cambridgeclarion.org/press_cuttings/vinciguerra.p2.etc_graun_5dec1990.html

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  29. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Now ask yourself – who signs off on Gerry Brownlee’s autocratic designs in Canterbury? The head of New Zealand’s secret service. Looks fraught with danger, if the autocratic tendencies of foreign intel/secret service organisations are anything to go by. I just hope we aren’t sleep-walking into something with terrible implications for New Zealand’s future.

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  30. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    A woodwork teacher, along with a spook have absolute power in Canterbury. Give yourself a collective pat on the back New Zealand.

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  31. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    “Onward to glory!” shouts Commissar Mongy Bullet as he shoots the last of the kulaks under his jurisdiction.

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  32. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    I don’t get what you mean Hurf. I’m merely concerned for potential threats to the relative internal peace and tranquillity that we enjoy in NZ. No one seems to care about the creeping authoritarism in NZ politics, from Clark to Key. It isn’t a partisan issue for me. It’s about protecting this wee piece of paradise from becoming a mini-USA. The crypto-fascist denial of civil-liberties and human rights is well under way, and i have no confidence in the ability and integrity of the woodwork teacher-spook team, who are able to do as they please within Canterbury. Brain rot like yours doesn’t help the already significantly disengaged public. Perhaps you deserve a slow slide in to tyranny, but I don’t feel as most of us do.

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  33. Hurf Durf (2,860 comments) says:

    Watch out for them CIA black helicopters operating clandestinely in New Zealand airspace. You’ll never see them coming until it’s too late.

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  34. Clint Heine (1,560 comments) says:

    GJKiwi – have you SEEN the inside of a Cuban hospital? Good grief.

    Why do people like to spread the myths that Cuban healthcare is somewhat better than the US or NZ ones? Both completely different systems that also carry their own myths. Apparently the US system is unequal because it shifts the responsibility of the payments to clients rather than the state and yet NZs system restricts people to healthcare because the state cannot pay for exp drugs or to clear waiting lists….

    Th Cuban system has a decent primary health system – you’ll be fine with minor injuries but why do you think the Cuban leaders all head offshore to get the major surgery?

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  35. magic bullet (776 comments) says:

    Hurf – all the reported facts are there if you want to kick that Koolaide habit. You can lead a man to knowledge, but you can’t make him read. This fact seems to be at the root of the current problem. Most people are informed solely by the 6 o’clock news, which has become about sensationalism, context-free reporting of news and womens magazine stories. Most people just don’t read issues in-depth and make up their own minds. They go with what ever slant the msm is promulgating. So facts which go against this narrative are suppressed or mocked when they see even the tiniest bit of sunlight. Truth and fact just don’t matter much any more. But it’s when the majority become immune to the facts, that the soil is ripe for the seeds of authoritarianism to grow. I’m concerned that we are currently sliding down that path in NZ. Thank goodness for blogs is all i can say.

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  36. bka (133 comments) says:

    It seems a little odd, having been so vocal about Labour changing electoral law to limit free speech, to then go and suggest a law that limits parties in their choice of who they can put up for election, as well as depriving the voters of the opportunity to vote for someone who they may think is still doing a good job.
    I don’t understand the need to take decisions on longetivity away from parties and voters.
    The arguments seem to be
    1) that Clark did something bad as part of trying to get a 4th term…But as a consequence Labour got voted out, and even without the goings on they have had in opposition they would still be having a tough election this year.
    2) that limits would encourage MPs to focus on what they can achieve…If they are full of deadwood a party should cull them or suffer at the polls.

    Look at the career of someone like Richard Prebble, 18 years in Labour, 9 years with Act, and in retrospect Act did rather well under his leadership, should it have been cut off after 2 years, or maybe not have happened at all?

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  37. libertyscott (355 comments) says:

    Russia has term limits…

    I’ll be excited when the domestic monopoly on media and all publishing is abolished.

    Meanwhile, it would be nice if the NZ media challenged the NZ sycophants of this vile regime (e.g. Matt McCarten), on matters such as imprisoning people as psychiatric patients for political crimes – because you’d only be deranged if you couldn’t see how lucky you are to be in a socialist state.

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