Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

World War I

July 28th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

World War 1 started 100 years ago on 28 July 1914. Some stats from that terrible conflict:

  • 70 million soldiers mobilised
  • 9 million combatants killed and 7 million civilians
  • 20 million wounded
  • Four empires destroyed – Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, German and Russian
  • NZ occupied German Samoa
  • Germany tried to get Mexico to attack the US and reclaim Texas, New Mexico and Arizona from them – this led to the US entering WWI
  • Germany initiated the use of poison gas in the war, and eventually all sides used it resulting in 1.3 million causalities
  • 8 million men held in POW camps
  • 11,000 soldiers were killed or wounded between the signing of the Armistice and it coming into force six hours later.
  • NZ lost 1.5% of its population, Australia 1.3%, UK 2.0% France 4.3%, Ottoman Empire 15%
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Australian Senator wants a rich well-hung Senator

July 23rd, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Any complaints about our MPs look trivial in comparison to some of the loons in Australia.

TVNZ reports:

An Australian politician has raised eyebrows after revealing her two requirements in a partner.

Palmer United Senator Jacqui Lambie told Tasmania’s Heart 107.3′s radio station she has only two requirements in a man, they must be wealthy and well-endowed.

“They must have heaps of cash and they’ve got to have a package between their legs, let’s be honest,” Ms Lambie said.

“I don’t need them to speak, they don’t even need to speak.”

Ms Lambie, a 43-year-old mother of two, was then introduced to a 22-year-old listener named Jamie, who called into the radio show to express his interest in dating her.

“Do you have plenty of cash?” asked Ms Lambie.

“I’m just a bit concerned that at 22 years of age and living in Tasmania you might not be quite there yet?”

Jamie then assured her he does have plenty of cash.

Ms Lambie then asked: “Are you well-hung?”

Jamie assured her he is & “like a donkey”.

The pair have agreed to go on a date.

Funnily enough Senator Lambie opposes gay marriage on the grounds it compromises Australiam morals.

(more…)

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du Fresne on Hamas

July 21st, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Karl du Fresne writes:

There is a ruthless, cynical logic in what Hamas is doing in the Gaza Strip.

The constant rocket attacks on Israel are largely futile in the sense that they do minimal damage. But Hamas knows that as long as the attacks continue, Israel is bound to retaliate. It can hardly allow its territory and people to remain under constant threat.

Hamas’s trump card here is the Western news media. The terrorists know that the casualties of Israeli retaliation – children especially – attract international media sympathy. They make sure TV crews get footage of the funerals and have access to the hospital wards where maimed children are being treated.

They know that their most potent weapon against Israel is not rockets but international opinion. And they know that as long as the media present the conflict as one that is massively one-sided – one that is reported every day in terms of the gross imbalance in the casualty figures, almost as if it were some grotesque sporting encounter – then international opinion will regard Hamas as the wronged party.

There is a degree of truth to this. Israel has more military might so when it responds, more people get killed. Hence for those who treat it as a numbers game, Israel are wrong. They should just let 200 rockets be fired at them, and never retaliate.

I recall a good comment by someone on how the intentions are crucial, and that Israel regards every civilian killed as a mark of failure, while Hamas regards every civilian killed as a mark of success.

There have been the recent tit for tat killings. Three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped and killed in June. Several militant groups (not Hamas) claimed responsibility for the killings. Hamas denied responsibility but there is some evidence that two Hamas members were involved. Hamas has actually published a kidnapping guide.  Sadly many Palestinians openly celebrated the kidnapping and killing.

Horrifically a few weeks later there was a revenge attack where a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped, beaten, and burnt alive. I’m not sure one can or should compare which murders are more horrific, but burning alive is as bad as it gets. The Israeli Police have arrested three men, one of whom has confessed.

What is interesting, and sad, is the reactions to the two despicable murders. Almost without exception the murder of the Palestinian teenager was reviled and condemned by every politician, media outlet and the public. And the perpetrators were arrested and will, if found guilty, go to prison for a long time.

This contrasts with the reaction of many Palestinians to the murder of the Israeli teenagers, where no assistance was given in solving the crime, and there was widespread support for the kidnapping and murder.

Now I understand the grievances of the Palestinians, but when you celebrate the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers, it is hard to persuade Israel that any land for peace settlement would ever be honoured or make them safer.

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Hamas encouraging its own citizens to get killed

July 20th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

William Saletan at Slate writes:

Hamas seized control of Gaza seven years ago. Its reign has been disastrous. Unemployment and poverty are around 40 percent. The government is bankrupt. Israel’s control of Gaza’s borders has played a huge role in that. But Hamas has done everything possible to tighten Israel’s grip and delegitimize Palestinian resistance.

And the latest:

The vast majority of the damage in Gaza has been inflicted by Israel. Yet Hamas has contrived to make the carnage worse. It has encouraged Gazans to stand in the way of Israeli missiles. When Israel advised 100,000 Gazans to evacuate an area targeted for invasion, Hamas instructed them to ignorethe warnings. It added: “To all of our people who have evacuated their homes—return to them immediately and do not leave the house.”

Unbelievable. They actually are encouraging their own citizens to try and get killed, so they get propaganda from it.

That’s what Hamas is doing. It’s trading Palestinian blood for political ambitions it foolishly expects to achieve through war. No amount of suffering in Gaza has persuaded it to stop. During the war’s first week, there was vague talk of a cease-fire, with each side reportedly holding out for further demands. Netanyahu declared that “no international pressure will prevent us from operating with full force.” Israel looked like a belligerent bully. On Monday, when Egypt announced acease-fire proposal based on ideas sketched by Abbas, all Hamas had to do was say yes. The proposal entailed no concessions. It was just a break in the bloodshed, followed by talks.

The gist was simple. As of 9 a.m. Tuesday, both sides would stop shooting. Then they’d start talking, through Egypt, about a truce. The discussions would include Hamas’ demands for easing Israeli control of Gaza’s borders. Egypt’s foreign ministry emphasized that the proposal was “aimed at stopping the killing of the Palestinians.”

The Arab League embraced the plan. Abbas issued a statement that “urged all parties to comply with this truce in order to stop the shedding of Palestinian blood.” Israel accepted it and announced that, as of 9 a.m., it had stopped shooting. For six hours, Israel held its fire.

But Hamas kept shooting. Rockets continued to fly from Gaza into Israel—nearly 50 in the next six hours—and Hamas took credit for them.

People need to understand how this makes the chance of there ever being peace minimal. When Israel agrees to a cease-fire, and Hamas fires 50 more rockets off, you’d have to be bonkers to think Israel will then do another ceasefire.

Hamas didn’t just reject the cease-fire. Its spokesmen mocked Israel for agreeing to the plan, calling this acquiescence “indicative of Israel’s weakness.” They “condemned international and regional support for the ceasefire initiative.” They derided Egypt, scoffing that “the Egyptian initiative is an attempt to defeat us” and that “those who ignore the Palestinian resistance should not be dealt with.”

Anyone who equates Hamas and Israel is basically an Israel hater.

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The purge of the middle aged men

July 16th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

David Cameron has completed his biggest reshuffle in office, demoting the trouble-making Michael Gove to chief whip, installing the Eurosceptic Philip Hammond as foreign secretary and promoting two more women to the cabinet.

The prime minister has cleared out a dozen middle-aged and older men from his ministerial ranks in order to create a more female and less privileged top team. The strategy behind the shake-up is being attributed to Lynton Crosby, Cameron’s election adviser, as the party seeks to make itself look more representative of society before the election.

The size of the reshuffle is huge. Almost every major portfolio affected.

However, there are already signs of a backlash within the party about the scale of the sackings. Among the centrists, there is unhappiness about the departure of Dominic Grieve as attorney general, who has stood up for the European court of human rights

No wonder he went. The ECHR is massively unpopular in the UK.

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Australian house prices

July 12th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

An Australian report that lays the blame for rising house prices on a lack of land for development, rather than a “price bubble”, could have reached the same conclusions here, a free-market think tank says.

The report, by the Sydney-based Centre for Independent Studies, said Australian house prices had risen at an annual rate 3 per cent higher than inflation since the 1970s.

Author Stephen Kirchner said foreign and domestic property investors had been made a scapegoat when the real problem was zoning and planning rules. They restricted the availability of building land and prevented the more intensive development of existing residential areas.

The supply squeeze in Australia was compounded by taxes such as stamp duty and capital gains tax, he said.

Australian house prices have risen at much the same level as New Zealand. What is useful to note is Australia has had a Capital Gains Tax since the 1980s.

So when Labour goes on about how a CGT will magically mean house prices decrease, ask them why has that not worked in Australia?

The solution in both countries is the same. Make more land available. It is about as basic economics as you can get. Artificially restrict the supply of land, and of course the price of land increase.

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Germany says nein to US

July 12th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Germany has told the CIA station chief in Berlin to leave the country in a dramatic display of anger from Chancellor Angela Merkel at the behaviour of a close ally after officials unearthed two suspected US spies.

The scandal has chilled relations with Washington to levels not seen since Merkel’s predecessor opposed the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. It follows allegations that Merkel herself, who grew up in Stasi-ridden East Germany, was among thousands of Germans whose mobile phones have been bugged by American agents.

“Spying on allies … is a waste of energy,” the chancellor said in her most pointed public remarks yet on the issue. “We have so many problems, we should focus on the important things.” …

US government sources said the official – whom neither side named – was Berlin station chief for the CIA, the Central Intelligence Agency. A German source said the man would face possible forcible expulsion if he did not leave voluntarily.

This is an unprecedented fall out between allies. I can’t say I blame the Germans. Spying on your opponents and enemies, but not your allies.

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Why US policy failed in Iraq

July 11th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

A fascinating post at the Washington Post by Ali Khedery:

To understand why Iraq is imploding, you must understand Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — and why the United States has supported him since 2006.

I have known Maliki, or Abu Isra, as he is known to people close to him, for more than a decade. I have traveled across three continents with him. I know his family and his inner circle. When Maliki was an obscure member of parliament, I was among the very few Americans in Baghdad who took his phone calls. In 2006, I helped introduce him to the U.S. ambassador, recommending him as a promising option for prime minister. In 2008, I organized his medevac when he fell ill, and I accompanied him for treatment in London, spending 18 hours a day with him at Wellington Hospital. In 2009, I lobbied skeptical regional royals to support Maliki’s government.

By 2010, however, I was urging the vice president of the United States and the White House senior staff to withdraw their support for Maliki. I had come to realize that if he remained in office, he would create a divisive, despotic and sectarian government that would rip the country apart and devastate American interests.

America stuck by Maliki. As a result, we now face strategic defeat in Iraq and perhaps in the broader Middle East.

Khedery argues that if the US has stopped supporting Maliki in 2010, then what has happened in the last few weeks may not have occured.

After the December 2005 parliamentary elections, U.S. Embassy officials combed the Iraqi elite for a leader who could crush the Iranian-backed Shiite militias, battle al-Qaeda, and unite Iraqis under the banner of nationalism and inclusive government. My colleague Jeffrey Beals and I were among the few Arabic-speaking Americans on good terms with the country’s leading figures. The only man we knew with any chance to win support from all Iraqi factions — and who seemed likely to be an effective leader — was Maliki. We argued that he would be acceptable to Iraq’s Shiite Islamists, around 50 percent of the population; that he was hard-working, decisive and largely free of corruption; and that he was politically weak and thus dependent on cooperating with other Iraqi leaders to hold together a coalition. 

Khedery says Maliki was the right pick in 2005, but then things went wrong:

With the Obama administration vowing to end Bush’s “dumb war,” and the continued distraction of the global economic crisis, Maliki seized an opportunity. He began a systematic campaign to destroy the Iraqi state and replace it with his private office and his political party. He sacked professional generals and replaced them with those personally loyal to him. He coerced Iraq’s chief justice to bar some of his rivals from participating in the elections in March 2010. After the results were announced and Maliki lost to a moderate, pro-Western coalition encompassing all of Iraq’s major ethno-sectarian groups, the judge issued a ruling that awarded Maliki the first chance to form a government, ushering in more tensions and violence.

So he started to go rogue around 2009.

After helping to bring him to power in 2006, I argued in 2010 that Maliki had to go. I felt guilty lobbying against my friend Abu Isra, but this was not personal. Vital U.S. interests were on the line. Thousands of American and Iraqi lives had been lost and trillions of dollars had been spent to help advance our national security, not the ambitions of one man or one party. The constitutional process had to be safeguarded, and we needed a sophisticated, unifying, economics-minded leader to rebuild Iraq after the security-focused Maliki crushed the militias and al-Qaeda.

In conversations with visiting White House senior staff members, the ambassador, the generals and other colleagues, I suggested Vice President Adel Abdul Mahdi as a successor. A former Baathist, moderate Shiite Islamist and French-educated economist who had served as finance minister, Abdul Mahdi maintained excellent relations with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds as well as with Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

And how high up did the lobbying go?

On Sept. 1, 2010, Vice President Biden was in Baghdad for the change-of-command ceremony that would see the departure of Gen. Ray Odierno and the arrival of Gen. Lloyd Austin as commander of U.S. forces. That night, at a dinner at the ambassador’s residence that included Biden, his staff, the generals and senior embassy officials, I made a brief but impassioned argument against Maliki and for the need to respect the constitutional process. But the vice president said Maliki was the only option. Indeed, the following month he would tell top U.S. officials, “I’ll bet you my vice presidency Maliki will extend the SOFA,” referring to the status-of-forces agreement that would allow U.S. troops to remain in Iraq past 2011.

Biden was wrong, as he so often is.

But all the lobbying was for naught. By November, the White House had settled on its disastrous Iraq strategy. The Iraqi constitutional process and election results would be ignored, and America would throw its full support behind Maliki.

So they can’t say they were not warned. What happened next:

Within a short span, Maliki’s police state effectively purged most of them from politics, parking American-supplied M1A1 tanks outside the Sunni leaders’ homes before arresting them. Within hours of the withdrawal of U.S. forces in December 2011, Maliki sought the arrest of his longtime rival Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, eventually sentencing him to death in absentia. The purge of Finance Minister Rafea al-Essawi followed a year later.

So what are we left with:

In short, Maliki’s one-man, one-Dawa-party Iraq looks a lot like Hussein’s one-man, one-Baath Party Iraq. But at least Hussein helped contain a strategic American enemy: Iran. And Washington didn’t spend $1 trillion propping him up. There is not much “democracy” left if one man and one party with close links to Iran control the judiciary, police, army, intelligence services, oil revenue, treasury and the central bank. Under these circumstances, renewed ethno-sectarian civil war in Iraq was not a possibility. It was a certainty.

I resigned in protest on Dec. 31, 2010. 

If only they had listened to him. What happened was not inevitable after the fall of Saddam. It came about through bad decisions.

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Mad new airline safety procedures

July 10th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Passengers flying to and from British airports, and not just those on United States-bound flights, must ensure their electronic devices are charged.

Although New Zealand authorities have not been asked to implement the tough new safety measures, the Aviation Security Service said it was prepared to step up checks.

The ASS should say that they will not succumb to the paranoia from overseas. To ban you travelling with a cellphone if it has run out of power (which is very common) is madness. Think of the huge delays as every person has to power their phone on, and then has to either give up their cellphone or change flights if it has run out of power.

A spokesman for the department said: “In line with the US advice, passengers on some routes into and out of the UK may now also be required to show that electronic devices in their hand luggage are powered up or face not being allowed to bring the device on to the aircraft.

“Passengers … are therefore advised to make sure electronic devices being carried in their hand luggage are charged before they travel.”

Has anyone done a cost benefit analysis of the huge cost this imposes, against the very marginal benefit?

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Another blow to the anti-vaccination nutters

July 7th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Daily Beast reports:

Yet another group of studies shows vaccines have very low risk of side effects—and no link to autism. When will anti-vaxxers finally wake up?

Probably never. They’re like the anti-fluoride brigade. A local example is former Green MP Sue Kedgley:

Health officials and the medical establishment have decided that vaccination is such an essential public health tool that New Zealanders should simply accept its benefits without question, and have even implied that the unvaccinated are a risk to the health of society. At the same time they have dismissed those who question or oppose it, as dangerous, extreme and irresponsible.

Only because they are.

My own interest in vaccination began when I gave birth to my son 14 years ago. Whether or not to vaccinate our children was a hot topic at our regular mother’s group meetings, but eventually I had my son vaccinated.

Shortly after receiving his triple MMR vaccine at 15 months, he developed a horrendous incident of croup — to the point where he was taken to the emergency department. He subsequently developed a weakness in the chest which led to childhood asthma, which fortunately, through my various remedies, he has managed to shake off.

At the time I said to my doctor, I am certain the croup was triggered by the vaccination, but the doctor dismissed my suggestion as ludicrous, and certainly never forwarded it as an adverse reaction to the Centre for Adverse Reactions, which records significant adverse reactions to vaccination. I was convinced it was, however, and my son has never received another vaccination since.

It’s like the father who is convinced his child’s cancer was caused by the wifi network at their school.

I discovered, to my horror, that 23 vaccines, including vaccines that were given to babies, used thiomersal — a substance that is 50% mercury, one of the most toxic substances.

Kedgley does what most anti science nutters do. She refers to the presence of toxins, without mentioning their level. They may be at less than one thousandeth the safe level, but hey who cares about science.

Given these adverse reactions, and the acknowledged risks of vaccinations, it is alarming that the government has been quietly increasing the number of vaccinations our children receive before they are five, without any public debate or inquiry.

So this Green MP was against kids having more vaccinations.

Green Party policy today is very nuanced on vaccinations it seems because:

Our official position is influenced by the fact that we do not have a firm policy on it as we don’t have consensus from our members.

Anyway back to the main article:

The AHRQ study played out like this: 20,478 articles or meeting abstracts were identified by an electronic dragnet, of which 3,208 had enough about vaccine safety to warrant a closer look. These were really clawed through and mostly discarded for faulty (or absent) study design, missing information, or else use of non-US approved vaccines. Once whittled down, they were left with 67 studies—typical fallout in the world of the systematic review, though one that sometimes raises questions from those first hearing of the approach.

They then worked through a rating system that quantified just how good the evidence, pro or con, was for each vaccine of interest: measles-mumps-rubella (often called MMR) which uses weakened though still-live viruses; the chicken pox vaccine (ditto); and killed or genetically engineered vaccines against influenza, hepatitis, meningitis, and several other conditions.

After all the rigmarole, they found what any pediatrician already knew: the MMR causes fever. Fever, in a child, can provoke seizures. They found zero evidence to support a connection between MMR and autism or other neurologic problems.

Zero evidence. Zip.

Indeed, there is nothing surprising about the AHRQ article or the IOM’s review. Rather, the surprise is that groups as important and as busy continue to re-re-re-review the same data to reach the same conclusions, all because of the relentless countervailing force of the anti-vaccine crowd.

Because they never give up. They have a world view that Gaia made us all perfect and we should never let science interfere with Gaia’s grand plan – even if that means kids dying of preventable illnesses.

But nothing the scientific, evidenced-based, reality-based, rational world can do will change the minds of those who are not working from the same basic premise where science trumps belief. For them and millions of others, belief trumps science. To try to win them over on the merits of the argument is doomed to failure and even derision: the accusations that the latest study is rigged, that the scientists involved actually are only “scientists,” that the real evidence, long suppressed by the orthodox view, shows clear and incontrovertible evidence that vaccines are killing and maiming people left and right.

Very familiar.

I suggest people attend their local Meet The Candidate meetings and ask them for their views on vaccinations. If they start spouting nonsense about how they cause autism, and there is a conspiracy – then that makes it easy – don;t vote for them or their party.

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Good job Google

July 6th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Google has been accused of misinterpreting a European court’s “right to be forgotten” ruling by deleting links to apparently harmless news articles in a bid to whip up anger against “censorship”.

Articles about a former Merrill Lynch banker, the singer Kelly Osbourne, a football referee involved in a controversial penalty decision, and a “foul-mouthed” former president of the Law Society were among the first tranche of web stories to be removed from search results, it emerged yesterday.

The move by Google comes weeks after a landmark ruling by the European Court of Justice which upheld the “right to be forgotten” and sparked a debate over how to balance freedom of expression and public interest with the right to privacy.

Details of the first article to be “hidden” by the search engine created a backlash against the court ruling yesterday, but by last night there were growing questions about how Google was handling the take-down requests.

Ryan Heath, spokesman for the European Commission’s vice-president Neelie Kroes, said that Google’s decision to remove a BBC article by the economics editor Robert Peston about the ex-Merrill Lynch boss Stan O’Neal – one of those blamed for helping cause the global financial crisis – was “not a good judgement”.

He said he could not see a “reasonable public interest” for the action, adding that the court ruling should not allow people to “Photoshop their lives”.

That’s exactly what the court ruling allowed. Good on Google for making people aware the impact of the ruling.

Describing Google’s actions as “tactical”, he added: “It may be that they’ve decided that it’s simply cheaper to just say yes to all of these requests.”

Of course it is cheaper. do they really think Google is going to hire 200 lawyers to spend hours or days on each request considering the merits extensively. Of course not. They will take the option with least legal risk, and act on almost all requests – because that is the position the stupid European Court has put them in.

Privacy campaigners accused the internet giant of playing “silly political games” in an attempt to undermine the ruling. Jim Killock, executive director, Open Rights Group, said: “The ruling was clear that results that relate to articles that are in the public interest shouldn’t be removed.”

Who decides the public interest? Google? I don’t want Google deciding the public interest. The decision should be made by individual publishers whether to keep content on the Internet, and not by search engines on whether to index it.

Google is struggling to deal with the volume of demands. Around 70,000 requests for links to be removed have been made in the past month – more than 8,000 [8,497] of which were from Britain – it emerged yesterday. If all demands were met, more than a quarter of a million [267,550] web pages would be deleted – around 34,000 [34,597] as a result of complaints made by people in Britain.

This is why Jimmy Wales called the ruling the biggest threat to free speech on the Internet.

70,000 requests being made per month. If each request takes an hour to consider, then that is 70,000 hours of staff (probably lawyers) time needed per month. So around 450 lawyers needed just to deal with the requests. Sheer madness.

Emma Carr, acting director, Big Brother Watch, cited Google’s decision to remove a link to the blog, which featured “wholly accurate and legal content”, as highlighting “exactly why the ECJ ruling was ridiculous and detrimental to freedom of the press in Europe.”

And Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales, a member of an expert panel set up by Google to help it deal with the controversy, condemned the European ruling as “an utter and complete disaster” and branded it “a major human rights violation”. The judgment is “clear and direct censorship of the worst kind,” he said.

It is. But here is the sad thing. If this was a court ruling in almost any other place, the law could just be changed to over-rule the court. But pretty much the only way to get rid of this, is by leaving the EU and the jurisdiction of the European Court.

It is not just Google which is being swamped with demands for links to be removed. The rate at which the BBC is receiving requests for stories to be deleted from its website has prompted the broadcaster to issue new guidance on “unpublishing” content.

David Jordan, BBC director of editorial policy and standards, said: “Sometimes the people we feature in our news reports want the news about themselves to be erased so they can obscure the events they were involved in, or the comments they made to us and stop others finding them.”

The new guidance states that material on the BBC website is part of a “permanently accessible archive” and will not be removed or changed unless there are “exceptional circumstances”. It adds: “Removing online content, particularly news items, risks the accusation that we are erasing the past or altering history.”

On this I agree with the BBC.

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Why stop at a four day week – let’s go for one day

July 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A four-day working week promoted by one of Britain’s top doctors is a “radical” concept worthy of debate, considering the importance of a healthy work-life balance, a Canterbury health leader says.

A business leader in the region, however, says the idea is “nonsense” and imposing a rigid standard would be a backwards step.

Professor John Ashton, the president of the United Kingdom Faculty of Public Health, told British media this week that “a mal-distribution of work” was damaging people’s health.

Ashton called for Britain to phase out the five-day week, saying it would help combat high levels of work-related stress and illness.

Too many people were working “crazy” hours and a significant number of people were not working at all, he said.

“We need a four-day week so that people can enjoy their lives, have more time with their families and maybe reduce [workers'] high blood pressure.”

Why stop at four days? Think how much better off we’d be if we only worked three days a week? Or two days? Why not one day a week?

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey, of the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), said it was “a challenging and thought-provoking idea” worthy of debate.

No its’ not.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said it was “nonsense” to suggest a four-day working week would solve everyone’s problems.

“I get a bit tired of people who just put straight lines in the sand. That is not how the world works these days. You deal with things on an individual basis. If someone in your workplace is [showing] signs of stress you deal with it,” he said.

“A young couple that might be paying off a mortgage with no kids might want to work 60 hours a week. It is all about being accommodating and flexible.”

Exactly. the idea of a law that sets a maximum working week for everyone is socialist nonsense.

Auckland manufacturing company Manson Marine & Engineering allows its staff to opt for four-day weeks once a month. Staff work 10-hour days that week and earn an extra 12 days off a year as a result.

That’s a great example of flexibility – at an individual company level.

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Labour has as much support as Rob Ford

July 1st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Toronto Star reports the latest Mayoral poll has incumbent Rob Ford on 27%, despite being a crack addict.

Out of interest 27%, is also the level the Labour Party is at in NZ.

And Rob Ford is only 7% behind his leading rival, while Labour is 23% or so behind.

 

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Greenpeace executives commute by jet to work!

June 29th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

One of Greenpeace’s most senior executives commutes 250 miles to work by plane, despite the environmental group’s campaign to curb air travel, it has emerged.

Once again, it is do as we say, not do as we do.

Pascal Husting, Greenpeace International’s international programme director, said he began “commuting between Luxembourg and Amsterdam” when he took the job in 2012 and currently made the round trip about twice a month.

The flights, at 250 euros for a round trip, are funded by Greenpeace, despite its campaign to curb “the growth in aviation”, which it says “is ruining our chances of stopping dangerous climate change”.

One Greenpeace volunteer on Monday described Mr Husting’s travel arrangements as “almost unbelievable”.

Why doesn’t he take the train? Only 6 hours, and you can work on the train.

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Prohibition in Bhutan

June 28th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Christoper Snowden writes how in 2005 Bhutan banned tobacco sales:

Bhutan’s government enforced the tobacco ban with remorseless vigour using the full apparatus of a despotic state. Nevertheless, a 2011 study found a thriving black market and widespread tobacco use in all its forms.

Prohibition failed with alcohol. It has failed with drugs. It has failed for several thousand years with prostitution. Yet some people think prohibition will succeed with tobacco!

The PM of Bhutan said in 2012:

the simple fact that prohibition has never worked and will not work. That’s why a black market quickly (and effectively) established itself in spite of the draconian provisions of the existing Act. That’s why, in the year since the Tobacco Control Act came into effect, many people took their chances despite the stiff sentences in it. Of the many, 84 people got caught. And of them, 39 people have already been sent to jail. 

So they jailed people for selling tobacco, yet it still didn’t work.

Bhutan’s second parliament is likely to set the history of ‘ban lift’ as it takes steps to do so one after another. Very recently the country lifted ban on import of furniture [!!! - CJS] and alcohol.
Now the country’s Upper House resolves that ban on import of tobacco must end. In a majority resolution on Monday (3 February 2014), the house said ban on import and sale of tobacco products must end to control the black market.
They tried prohibition. It failed. yet in NZ public health advocates say we should ban sugar, ban pies, ban sodas over a certain size, ban RTDs etc.
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Rik Mayall arguing against AV

June 26th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Rik Mayall as Alan B’stard lauds the virtues of the Alternate Voting system, for the No to AV campaign a couple of years ago. This follows on from his characters’comment that the beauty of proportional voting is that even if they don’t vote for you, you’ll probably still get in.

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Greenpeace staffer loses $5.5 million currency trading

June 25th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The ABC reported:

Greenpeace has fired an employee who lost the environmental charity $5.47 million in a failed gamble on international currency markets.

Greenpeace communications director Mike Townsley said the unnamed employee “went above his authority” in agreeing the deal with a broker who was meant to mitigate currency losses for the charity.

So Greenpeace does play the currency markets – this staffer just went too far.

So $5.5 million of donations flushed down the drain.

Greenpeace, known for its militant anti-drilling campaigns at oil rigs in the Arctic, has a total annual budget of about $432 million.

They are a very large multi-national. That’s a bigger turnover than many of the companies they target

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Greenpeace having problems in India and NZ

June 24th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Hindu reports:

Following an Intelligence Bureau (IB) report that alleged foreign-funded NGOs were creating obstacles to India’s economic growth, the Home Ministry has clamped down on Greenpeace, an international campaign group present in 40 countries.

In a letter dated 13th June, the Ministry has directed the Reserve Bank of India that all foreign contributions originating from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation — two principal international contributors to Greenpeace India Society — must be kept on hold until individual clearances are obtained from the Ministry for each transaction.

The RBI has been asked to direct banks to this effect. The central bank has also been asked to report to the government if any government department or institution is receiving such funds.

Greenpeace was specifically targeted because the IB report had charged it with orchestrating “massive efforts to take down India’s coal-fired power projects and mining activity.”

So Greenpeace India is funded by Greenpeace International? There are laws restricting the amount foreign companies can donate to NZ political parties. Should money from Greenpeace International be seen as a foreign election donation?

And they have problems in NZ also.  They had a website attacking Simon Bridges, which they have closed down as the Electoral Commission said it was an election advertisement that doesn’t have a promoter statement.  They could of course have simply stuck a promoter statement on the website, but I guess that would not help their court case where they claim to be a charity, not a lobby group.

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Putin arranging anti-fracking protests

June 24th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

The head of one of the world’s leading groups of democratic nations has accused Russia of undermining projects using hydraulic fracturing technology in Europe.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), and former premier of Denmark, told the Chatham House thinktank in London on Thursday that Vladimir Putin’s government was behind attempts to discredit fracking, according to reports.

Rasmussen said: “I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

So Putin is allied with the Greens! I love it.

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What is ISIS

June 22nd, 2014 at 11:52 am by David Farrar

Prospect Magazine look at what is ISIS:

What is ISIS?

It is a Sunni Muslim militant group operating in Western Iraq and Syria. The name is an acronym, standing for “the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (the Levant).

What does it want?

International recognition as an independent state for the territory it controls, which spans parts of eastern Syria and western Iraq. In this area, it functions as a de facto government, operating schools and courts. It also wants to control more territory. If it can sustain and consolidate its new gains in Iraq, it will control much of the northern part of the country, and reports say it plans to mount an assault on the capital, Baghdad (its advance has been halted just short of the city). It also wants to seize control of rebel-held areas in central Syria and potentially expand into the Lebanon to the West. In both Iraq and Syria, ISIS’s enemies are Shia Muslims.

So it wants to carve a Sunni country of of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

Who are its members?

Reports vary, putting the total number of recruits at anything from 3,000-10,000. According to Gareth Stansfield, professor of Middle East politics at the University of Exeter, the group tends to recruit most heavily among Syrian and Iraqi locals, but it does have some foreign fighters, mostly Chechens, Afghans, and Pakistanis, as well as some Europeans. Michael Stephens, Deputy Director, Qatar for the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), says there could be as many as 300 Britons fighting for ISIS, and a further almost 300 other Europeans. 

Any Kiwis I wonder?

How dangerous is it?

The group is well-resourced. Its new adventure in Iraq has seen it seize military bases in Mosul. In Syria, it controls oil fields, and it may yet gain control of Iraq’s largest oil refinery in the town of Baiji. Stephens says that individual Saudi and Kuwaiti donors are giving money to ISIS, either through European financial institutions or, in some cases, by smuggling suitcases of bills across the border. It is also ruthless: the group has been blamed for a string of assassinations in Syria, including two alleged crucifixions. Most importantly, this particular militant operation is very good at recruiting people to its cause. “This idea of fighting Shia seems to be really mobilising young men to fight in a way that fighting Westerners didn’t,” says Stephens. “They [say] they’re saving Islam from itself. 

That’s fascinating that the are more motivated to fight Shia than the West.

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Marriage in Luxembourg

June 20th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Lawmakers in Luxembourg, whose prime minister is openly gay, has overwhelmingly approved changes in the small European nation’s legislation governing marriage that will allow people of the same sex to wed and to adopt children.

Sort of amusing that they have a gay PM before they have gay marriage. A country with a PM who couldn’t get married (well not to someone he is attracted to).

But that isn’t what I found most interesting:

Under the reform, Luxembourg’s legislators also fixed the legal age for marriage at 18 and dropped existing legal requirements for a pre-wedding medical exam, as well as the 300-day waiting period that had been imposed on widows or widowers before they could remarry. 

They required a pre-wedding medical exam!! And had a waiting period for widows!

Other strange laws they had:

  • Girls could marry at 16 but boys only at 18
  • Only civil marriages are recognised
  • The blood tests must be within 2 months of the marriage
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Author says kids better off in India

June 18th, 2014 at 12:48 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The poorest Kiwi children are now no better off than some children in the slums of India, a leading author says.

Professor Jonathan Boston, co-author of Child Poverty in New Zealand, said at the book’s launch in Auckland last night that he saw worse poverty in some Kiwi families than he saw when he spent a month late last year in Delhi slums where his wife, Dr Mary Hutchinson, worked as a volunteer doctor for a Christian charity.

“The Indian Government feeds every primary school child lunch every day for 130 million children,” he said.

“We saw very few seriously malnourished children in the slums of Delhi.

With respect to Professor Boston, but that is a ridiculous claim.

The under 5 mortality rate in India is 56/1000.  In NZ it is 6.

UPDATE: I understand that Professor Boston thinks his comments have been misrepresented and that he wasn’t saying (or intending to say) that some Kiwis kids are worse off than in India.

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Clark wanting the UN top job

June 16th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Helen Clark walks into the conference room at her New York headquarters clutching the Smoke Free cup that travelled with her from New Zealand.

Five years in the big apple and she still hasn’t got around to getting herself a new tea cup.

Something else hasn’t changed since Clark bid farewell to New Zealand five years ago: she struggles to see a place for herself back home, though she doesn’t rule out returning eventually when the time comes to ”relax” a bit more.

That time is clearly not on her horizon any time soon, which is why there is mounting speculation about Clark’s future at the end of her second term as the United Nation’s third-ranked official, as head of the UN Development Programme.

Clark is increasingly having to bat away questions about her ambition to succeed UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in two years’ time. 

She says she will neither rule it in or out – and adds that it is not appropriate for her to talk about the job now, given that Ban Ki-Moon is only midway through his second term.

”He has been a great supporter of mine, which is why I am here today.”

But she says ”there will come a time when that debate is appropriate and member states have got to work out what it is they are looking for in this day and age”.

The UN has never been headed by a woman, for instance – and that should matter, suggests Clark.

“I think the women of the world will be screaming ‘yes’. It will be a year when a woman is making a very strong bid for the US presidency. There’s a woman at the International Monetary Fund, a woman at the Federal Reserve, there’s a lot of last bastions being stormed by women, so the time will come when women say ‘what about the UN?’.”

And of course that woman could be her, by happy coincidence for Helen!

While not impossible, a Clark successful candidacy is very unlikely.  The job tends to go by regional rotation and it is Eastern Europe’s term. The Ukraine situation would make it even more intolerable for them to miss out.

Also there is an unwritten requirement the UN Secretary-General can speak French. Unless Helen has been getting lessons, I don’t think she can.

Also few Secretary-Generals come up through the UN. Most are serving or just retired foreign ministers.

Ban Ki-Moon was the South Korean Foreign Minister when elected. Kofi Annan was a UN bureaucrat, but before him Boutros Boutros-Ghali was Egyptian Foreign Minister when elected. Javier Perez de Cuellar was a career diplomat for Peru. Kurt Walhheim was the Austrian foreign minister. U Thant was a career diplomat for Burma. Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was Deputy Foreign Minister of Sweden and Trygve Halvdan Lie was the Foreign Minister for Norway.

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What did the Brits ever do for us

June 15th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Oliver Hartwich writes on the impact of Britain on the world:

There is something that is undoubtedly special about Britain. It is not just a small, rainy island in the North Atlantic. It is not just another mid-sized northern hemisphere country. In many ways, Britain has been, and still is, much more than that.

Other countries may also lay claim to some socio-political developments or scientific inventions, but none other could boast to have started modernity with the same justification.

It was Britain in which monarchs first had to respect the rights of the people and of parliament. Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution paved the way towards liberal parliamentary democracy. Britain was the birthplace of the Enlightenment, which was a prerequisite of scientific discovery in the age of invention, the industrial revolution and the development of economic thinking.

The Common Law, developed since the Norman invasion, had become an important tool in the promotion of a commercial society. The protection of property rights and freedom of contract were at the heart of this British version of law.

Taken together, the UK made the modern world, it dominated it until around the time of the Great War, and it still wields incredible soft power to the present day. Britain’s greatness is not just a historic feature. It still makes Britain a special country today, not least because of the spread of the English language.

For example, ask yourself where the world gets its news from, and a large part of the answer would be from the BBC, the Financial Times and The Economist.

Other countries may produce better cars, more efficient machinery and certainly more palatable wine than but few others would be better at selling their ideas, culture and beliefs to the world. 

The world would be a very different and far worse place today, if it were not for Britain. And there are not many other countries you can say that about.

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So Iran are now the good guys?

June 14th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Iran has reportedly sent its Revolutionary Guard forces to fight al-Qaeda-inspired militants who are sweeping across Iraq.

The Wall Street Journal and the Times reported that two battalions of the Quds Forces, the elite overseas branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, that have long operated in Iraq, have come to the aid of the Shia-dominated Government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki Government last night remained in paralysis, unable to form a coherent response after militants blitzed and captured entire chunks of the nation’s Sunni heartland this week, including major cities, towns, military and police bases as Iraqi forces melted away or fled.

What’s that old saying – my enemy’s enemy is my friend. So true.

The new reality is the biggest threat to Iraq’s stability since the United States’ withdrawal at the end of 2011, and it has pushed the nation closer to a precipice that would partition it into Sunni, Shia and Kurdish zones.

That may not be the worst outcome – three separate countries. Can the Shia and Sunni sects live together now? Kurds are already autonomous. But actual separate countries could also be destabilising as Turkey would not want a Kurdistan as neigbours.

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