Archive for the ‘International Politics’ Category

Three threats to free speech

June 6th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Economist says we need to fight back against three threats to free speech. They are:

Free speech is under attack in three ways. First, repression by governments has increased. Several countries have reimposed cold-war controls or introduced new ones. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia enjoyed a free-for-all of vigorous debate. Under Vladimir Putin, the muzzle has tightened again. All the main television-news outlets are now controlled by the state or by Mr Putin’s cronies. Journalists who ask awkward questions are no longer likely to be sent to labour camps, but several have been murdered.

Sadly many countries do not have free speech or free media.

Second, a worrying number of non-state actors are enforcing censorship by assassination. Reporters in Mexico who investigate crime or corruption are often murdered, and sometimes tortured first. Jihadists slaughter those they think have insulted their faith. When authors and artists say anything that might be deemed disrespectful of Islam, they take risks. Secular bloggers in Bangladesh are hacked to death in the street (see article); French cartoonists are gunned down in their offices. The jihadists hurt Muslims more than any others, not least by making it harder for them to have an honest discussion about how to organise their societies.

This is a growing threat and leads to a lot of self-censorship.  A newspaper should treat a cartoon of Mohammed in the same way as a cartoon of Jesus. But we know that only one of these would result in death threats, so newspapers self-censor.

Third, the idea has spread that people and groups have a right not to be offended. This may sound innocuous. Politeness is a virtue, after all. But if I have a right not to be offended, that means someone must police what you say about me, or about the things I hold dear, such as my ethnic group, religion, or even political beliefs. Since offence is subjective, the power to police it is both vast and arbitrary.

Nevertheless, many students in America and Europe believe that someone should exercise it. Some retreat into the absolutism of identity politics, arguing that men have no right to speak about feminism nor whites to speak about slavery. Others have blocked thoughtful, well-known speakers, such as Condoleezza Rice and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, from being heard on campus (see article).

I’m glad they included this, as it is a huge and growing issue, especially on campuses.

The threat to free speech on Western campuses is very different from that faced by atheists in Afghanistan or democrats in China. But when progressive thinkers agree that offensive words should be censored, it helps authoritarian regimes to justify their own much harsher restrictions and intolerant religious groups their violence.

And they do.

Blasphemy laws are an anachronism. A religion should be open to debate. Laws against hate speech are unworkably subjective and widely abused. Banning words or arguments which one group finds offensive does not lead to social harmony. On the contrary, it gives everyone an incentive to take offence—a fact that opportunistic politicians with ethnic-based support are quick to exploit.

Incitement to violence should be banned. However, it should be narrowly defined as instances when the speaker intends to goad those who agree with him to commit violence, and when his words are likely to have an immediate effect. Shouting “Let’s kill the Jews” to an angry mob outside a synagogue qualifies. Drunkenly posting “I wish all the Jews were dead” on an obscure Facebook page probably does not.

Very good examples. The response to the latter should be exposure and criticism, not criminal prosecution.

However, any public college, and any college that aspires to help students grow intellectually, should aim to expose them to challenging ideas. The world outside campus will often offend them; they must learn to fight back using peaceful protests, rhetoric and reason.

These are good rules for everyone. Never try to silence views with which you disagree. Answer objectionable speech with more speech. Win the argument without resorting to force. And grow a tougher hide.

Hear hear.

Who is for and against Brexit

June 4th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar


From Jim Rose.

They show Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. I wonder what the overall sentiment in England is? My suspicion is that England will vote for Brexit but the other three countries will vote to remain, which will see remain win.

A focus on immigration helping Brexit

June 2nd, 2016 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Public concern over immigration has delivered a “significant” boost to the Leave campaign amid growing concern about Britain’s ability to control its borders, a new poll suggests.

Leave now has 46 per cent of the vote share, with Remain on 51 per cent. The five point gap has been cut from 13 points last week.

The poll, by ORB, was carried out last week when new figures revealed that migration had risen to record levels; forecasts showed that immigration would add 4 million people to Britain’s population; and images of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean in their attempts to get to Europe emerged.

I never read too much into one individual poll but there have now been several out showing Brexit picking up ground, after dropping away.

Bremain still leads in most polls, but they are not over 50%. It will come down to the turnout for each side, and what the undecideds do. If they don’t vote, then Bremain will probably win.

Sir Lynton Crosby, the strategist who masterminded David Cameron’s election victory, suggests that the focus on migration in the past seven days has boosted the Leave campaign.

Writing for the Telegraph he says that the “increasing focus on lack of control over immigration and associated message discipline” had helped the case of the Leave camp.

That is the key message that can resonate. With Brexit the UK regains control of its own borders and immigration policy. In the EU, they have limited control. Now whether than is worth giving up the economic advantages of the EU is debatable, but it is the issue that most resonates.

An offensive t-shirt should get you criticised, not arrested

June 1st, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The 50-year-old from Worcester, England was kicked out of a pub for his offensive shirt on the weekend.

His shirt said the disaster was “Gods [sic] way of helping RENTOKILL”.

Rentokill is a pest control company.

The Hillsborough disaster left 96 dead and 766 injured as fans crammed into an overcrowded section of the Hillsborough football stadium in Sheffield.

The victims were mainly Liverpool supporters.

A picture of Grange’s shirt was posted on Facebook and Twitter along with his home address.

Social media users have taken delight in flooding his home with deliveries.

But it is unclear how many of the items have actually ended up on his doorstep.

Mr Grange is a moron. He deserves criticism and worse. Not at all funny to celebrate the deaths of 96 people.

Matters got worse for Grange when he was arrested.

A statement from Worcester Police confirmed he had been taken into custody on Monday (Tuesday NZ Time).

“The man… was arrested by officers this morning… on suspicion that with intent he displayed writing which was threatening, abusive, insulting and caused harassment, alarm or distress,” the statement said.

But in no way should this be a criminal matter. An insulting t-shirt should not be a crime.

Key to Fiji

May 31st, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Soured relations between New Zealand and Fiji are “ancient history” and the timing is right to visit, says Prime Minister John Key.

It is the first time in a decade a New Zealand Prime Minister will visit the island nation.

The relationship between the two nations broke down following the 2006 military coup and sanctions were put on Fiji until it returned to “free and fair elections”.

Diplomatic relations have been restored since 2014 when Fijian Prime Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama, known as Frank Bainimarama, was democratically elected.

Key said he endorsed then Prime Minister, Helen Clark’s, decision to sanction Fiji but always said the relationship would “normalise” when Fiji returned to democratic elections.

Key offered to visit Fiji because “it’s an important relationship for us in the Pacific”.

Good to see relations heading back to normal. Fiji has had democratic elections but there are still disturbing incidents such as the resignation of the Police Commissioner over military interference.

The union battle for control of France

May 30th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Yet there is evidence that France is, for the first time in two decades, heading for a perfect storm of social unrest fuelled by a Leftist union leader apparently bent on rekindling class warfare and a president so unpopular he cannot afford to climb down without losing his final fig leaf of credibility before elections next year.

In the past few days, the CGT has gone further than any union since 1995 to bring France to a total standstill. Between a third and half of the country’s petrol pumps are running dry, output from nuclear power stations has been cut raising the prospect of electricity shortages; and perhaps even more ominously, a series of “unlimited” public transport strikes are to begin next week just days before the Euro 2016 football tournament kicks off.

Hollande is toast if he gives in. Mind you he is toast also if he doesn’t.

Meanwhile, hotel operators warned that the union’s “scorched earth tactics” have seen occupancy rates fall by 50 per cent to their lowest since the immediate aftermath of the November Paris terror attacks, as French and foreign tourists fear travel chaos or worse.

Trying to bankrupt the country.

When France’s national newspapers refused to publish a tract on his position for free this week, the CGT arm of the printers’ union blocked their publication, letting just one daily through: l’Humanité, the Communist organ. Even Laurent Joffrin, editor of the left-wing Libération, criticised the move as “shameful and stupid”.

And will destory any media who don’t print their propoganda for them.

As polls currently stand, the winners are likely to be the centre-Right, whose candidates for presidential primaries are falling over themselves with ambitious liberal reform proposals.

If, however, the blockages and unrest persist, that could play into the hands of the far-Right Front National, whose leader Marine Le Pen has called for more workers’ rights on top of an anti-immigration line. The FN has discreetly backed the protests.

Le Pen has a solid 30% support in the polls, around 10% ahead of the next candidate. She is almost certain to make the 2nd round, between the two top polling candidates.

Unlikely she would win the second round, but not impossible.

Tex on Public Polls

May 29th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Mark Textor writes:

As my business partner Sir Lynton Crosby noted at a post-election forum after the 2015 UK ballot, there were more than 600 polls published in the two years leading up to the election.

As reported in The Australian he observed: “When you look at the proportion of the percentage of time of news coverage devoted to the process of an election versus the issues of an election, it was well approaching 70 per cent in the UK where people were talking about the process of the election.”

My analysis would put Australian “process” percentage at round the same proportion.

And the geese parallels don’t end there.

Data obtained from Emeritus Professor Murray Goot of Macquarie University, show that in the UK, from the dissolution of parliament to election day there was a remarkable 3.5 polls per day published and force fed to voters. The same analysis shows that in Australia in 2013, despite having a significantly smaller voting population, there was an equally remarkable 3.2 polls per day from the proroguing of Parliament to election day.

Over the last decade and longer there has been a real change from reporting on policies and political issues to reporting on “process” stories.

Hundreds of polls will have been published since the last election and by the end of this campaign. And will the public be any wiser because of these? No, because like the process that produced foie gras, it’s the poor geese that get covered in shit. As my business partner points out: “If you think a campaign should be about ideas and communication with voters to give them a sense of empowerment and understanding of issues, then I think we really had to question the role that they [the polls] started to play in [campaigns].”

When you have this incredible frequency and focus on published polls it is the polls and their (usually small) vote movements that become the most frequent story rather then the issues. So we are none the wiser about the nature of issues in the world outside because all we are fed is the fat off published polls – the vote movement.

One solution is for more published pollsters to follow the guidelines recommended by WAPOR (the World Association for Public Opinion Research). They say: “As good practice in conducting pre election polls, researchers should: … measure key variables such as … reasons for party choice or attitudes on issues or other aspects of the campaign. Such polls will have greater political and social value if they do not confine themselves only to measuring voting intention but also explore the reasons for party choice and opinions on important campaign issues”, or indeed, journalists feasting on a menu of topics beyond the foie gras of polls or campaign dynamics.

I agree entirely.

Canada beer wins for free trade

May 29th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Cato writes:

Last year, I mentioned a Canadian court case that could help promote free trade within Canada. Well, a lower court has now ruled for free trade, finding that the Canadian constitution does, in fact, guarantee free trade among the provinces. …

The possible impact:

Canada is rife with protectionist laws and regulations that prevent the free flow of goods from one province to another. These laws affect Canadians’ ability to buy and sell milk, chickens, eggs, cheese and many other things, including some that neither you nor I have ever even thought about. And that is the beauty of this decision. It will open up a national market in everything. Yes, the CCF, Comeau and Comeau’s pro bono defence lawyers Mikael Bernard, Arnold Schwisberg and Ian Blue can all be proud that we have “freed the beer.” But we’ve done more than that — we’ve revived the idea that Canada should have free trade within its borders, which is what the framers of our Constitution intended. That means that the Supreme Court will likely have to revisit the constitutionality of this country’s marketing boards and other internal trade restrictions. In other words, this is a big deal.

I think one of the great strengths of New Zealand is that we don’t have states, meaning we are one market, and have one set of laws.

Union exposed lying about strike

May 28th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Telegraph reports:

Doctors’ leaders aimed to drag out a bitter dispute over a new contract for 18 months and admitted pay is “the only real red line,” leaked messages reveal.

The secret strategy is revealed in more than 1000 pages of leaked Whatsapp messages – just weeks before 40,000 junior doctors vote on a deal which has just been agreed between the British Medical Association (BMA) and Government.

The correspondence, between members of the union’s Junior Doctors Committee, over the past six months discloses secret tactics which are at odds with the public messages being conveyed.

Despite repeated public protestations that safety, not pay, was the chief concern about proposed changes, a member the committee described pay as ““the only real red line” for junior doctors.

The messages show that while the union was claiming it wanted enter talks with Government, its committee chairman was privately suggesting that delaying tactics, and a string of strikes, could be the “best solution” to the dispute.

This is no surprise. The aim of the union was to hurt the Government, not get a settlement, and their claims of concern about safety were a smokescreen for simply wanting more money.

The campaign against Clark

May 26th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Helen Clark is a victim of her own success, Prime Minister John Key has suggested.

Clark is embroiled in controversy over her bid for the United Nations’ top job after an international publication claimed her candidacy had sparked an “internal uproar”.

In a lengthy article highly critical of Clark, Foreign Policy’s Colum Lynch said Clark had left a trail of “embittered peers and subordinates” at the United Nations Development Programme, which she has headed for the last seven years.

The claims against her included that Clark “ruthlessly ended the careers of underlings in her quest to advance her candidacy and of undercutting the UN’s promotion of human rights,” Lynch wrote.

I’m sure Clark did ruthlessly end many careers at UNDP. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as many UN organisations are bloated and inefficient.

Key said on Wednesday Clark was being targeted because she was the front runner. He predicted the campaign would get dirty.

“I think it shows you that, as the front-runner, there are some people who want the job and don’t want her to get it because they are bidding to get the title themselves,” Mr Key said on the way to question time today.

“But, look, at the end of the day, the fact that her organisation led some change and she implemented that change, should come as no surprise to anybody. It just shows you the campaign might get a little bit dirty.”

Still rather surreal to have Key defending Clark, and saying the campaign against her is just dirty politics!

New Zealand sources have previously acknowledged that Clark is not universally popular at UNDP after leading a restructuring drive that saw more than 200 staffers at its New York headquarters sacked after inheriting an organisation that was top heavy with senior managers.

But they say Clark is well respected as a result of those changes, one of the factors behind her being seen as a front runner to replace UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon when he steps down later this year.

Clark remains the favourite with the bookies. She is 2/1 with Paddypower, compared to 5/1 for Irina Bokova and 4/1 for Vuk Jeremic. Kevin Rudd by the way is 20/1.

Boris sticks it to Erdoğan

May 26th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Boris Johnson has won a £1,000 prize for a rude poem about the Turkish president having sex with a goat.

The former mayor of London’s limerick, published by the Spectator as a rebuff to Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s efforts to prosecute a German comedian’s offensive poem, also calls the president a “wankerer”.

Johnson, a former editor of the magazine, won the Spectator’s “President Erdoğan offensive poetry competition”, despite judge Douglas Murray saying the contest had received thousands of entries. The prize money has been donated by a reader.

The limerick was written off-the-cuff by the Conservative MP during an interview with the Swiss weekly magazine Die Weltwoche. …

Johnson then offered the limerick: “There was a young fellow from Ankara, Who was a terrific wankerer.

“Till he sowed his wild oats, With the help of a goat, But he didn’t even stop to thankera.”

Not bad for something created on live television.

This is why Boris as Prime Minister would be such fun – he’ll offend so many people!

Ontario trying to introduce taxpayer funding of parties

May 23rd, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Christine van Geyn writes:

Few things are as revealing of the underlying values of the current Ontario Liberal government as its most recent proposals for election financing reform. The proposals show an absolute lack of faith in voters, and a movement to replace the speech of civil society with government-controlled speech. All on the taxpayers’ dime.

The draft legislation introduced on May 17 includes a taxpayer subsidy of $2.26 per vote to political parties, and limits on speech by civil society groups without corresponding restrictions on government advertising.

The taxpayer subsidy of $2.26 per vote would give a total of $10.7-million in taxpayer money to politicians, with the governing Liberals receiving the most at $4.2-million. That’s $10.7-million that is not paying to build roads or bridges. It’s $10.7-million of your money that is not filling in potholes, assisting autistic children, or paying doctors’ salaries. You will be forced to hand over your money to political leaders for them to run attack ads and stuff your mailbox full of flyers.

This is what Labour wants in NZ. Because they are so unpopular that supporters have stopped donating to them, they want to force taxpayers to fund their party instead – as do the Greens.

This is what causes a backlash

May 22nd, 2016 at 7:27 am by David Farrar

Radio NZ reports:

Only about a quarter of all mathematics academics in Australia are female, and the university is now advertising three positions in its School of Mathematics and Statistics for female applicants only.

It is believed to be the first time it has limited applications to women only for permanent academic positions.

The intention is good, but the decision is bad. Excluding anyone on the basis of their gender is wrong.

Around 60% of university students are now female. Does this mean universities will start advertising quotas for male students to ensure 50% representation?

Trudeau assaults MPs

May 21st, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Globe and Mail reports:

The House of Commons erupted in chaos Wednesday as a New Democrat MP and her opposition colleagues accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of elbowing her in the chest during a confrontation prior to a key vote.

Ruth Ellen Brosseau said she was shocked by the encounter and had to leave the chamber as mayhem descended on the Commons floor, with Trudeau at one point in a face-to-face encounter with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.

The incident, which took place amid the superheated atmosphere of a debate about doctor-assisted death, had MPs in an uproar as they shouted and pounded their desks in a display of antipathy rarely seen in the parliamentary chamber.

Footage from the Commons television feed shows Trudeau wading into a clutch of MPs, mostly New Democrats, and pulling Opposition whip Gordon Brown through the crowd in order to get the vote started.

As Trudeau turns around to pull Brown through, Brosseau can be seen reacting with discomfort.

“I was standing in the centre talking to some colleagues,” Brosseau told the House after calm was restored. “I was elbowed in the chest by the prime minister and then I had to leave.”

Outrageous behaviour. He grabbed an Opposition MP by the arm because he wanted a vote to start. The elbowing of Brosseau may have been accidental but what the hell was he thinking by doing what he did?

LGBT rights around the world

May 21st, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

New Zealand has been rated as a world-leader when it comes to recognising the rights of the LGBT community, a step ahead of our neighbours across the ditch.

A map produced by ILGA, the international lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex association, shows how different countries are rated according to their laws regarding sexual orientation.

New Zealand is at the highest end of the scale for its recognition of same-sex unions, joint adoption and second parent adoption.

The full report is here, and an interesting read. Some extracts:

  • 39% of countries (74 countries) make it a crime to have a same sex relationship
  • Of those 74 countries all outlaw male homosexual relationships and 45 also outlaw female lesbian relationships
  • Seven of those 74 countries are in the Pacific – Cook Islands, Kiribati, Nauru, PNG, Samoa, Solomons, Tonga and Tuvalu
  • 13 countries (6%) have the death penalty for consensual same sex relationships – Sudan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, Mauritania, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Qatar, UAE, Iraq, ISIL
  • Only 53% of countries have the same age of consent for same sex and opposite sex relationships
  • Only 38% of countries prohibit employment discrimination based on sexual orientation
  • 22 countries (11%) allow for same sex marriage. A further 18 countries have civil unions or the like.

People will disagree or same sex marriage. But incredible to think 39% of countries still criminalise consensual adult relationships, and in 13 of them you can end up dead for it.

Germany releases land to keep housing affordable

May 20th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Forbes reports:

On Wiles’s figures, German house prices in 2012 represented a 10 percent decrease in real terms compared to thirty years ago. That is a particularly astounding performance compared to the UK, where real prices rose by more than 230 percent in the same period. (Wiles’s commentaries can be read here and here.)

A key to the story is that German municipal authorities consistently increase housing supply by releasing land for development on a regular basis.

If you don’t release land, then prices can go only one way. You need to do more than just release land but nothing else will work if you don’t do that.

ISIL has lost 45% of Iraq territory

May 19th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

USA Today reports:

The Islamic State has lost 45% of the territory it once held in Iraq and 20% of areas it controlled in Syria, according to new estimates by a U.S.-led coalition combating the extremist group.

That’s good news. A long way to go, but losing territory is important. ISIL is not Al Qaeda. Their appeal and legitimacy comes from holding territory.  There will always be Islamic terrorism (sadly) but ISIL as an entity can be defeated by loss of territory.

New Zealand has played a role in this, with our training of Iraqi troops. The opposition would have had us do nothing but take in more refugees. By supporting and training the Iraqi troops, we are helping with ending the suffering of those who were living in territory controlled by ISIL.

Far better to help stop creating refugees, and making their homes safe again, than doing nothing to stop ISIL.

Sexual Harassment in the French Parliament

May 18th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

The Guardian reports:

Isabelle Attard, a French MP from Normandy, stood outside the French parliament flanked by dozens of protesting female politicians and feminist campaigners. Armed with placards and loudspeakers, they demanded an end to a dangerous French taboo: the everyday groping, harassment, sexist comments and sexual assault that women are still subjected to in parliament by male politicians.

“We can no longer stay silent,” Attard said. “Women must feel able to speak out.” Riot police stood by on the sidelines. …

Attard, 46, an independent MP in Calvados, is one of eight women who came forward this week with allegations against the Green MP and deputy speaker of parliament, Denis Baupin, ranging from harassment to sexual assault.

Between 2012 and 2013, Baupin allegedly sent Attard and other MPs barrages of lewd daily text messages in parliament, ranging from “I like it when you cross your legs like that” to proposing during meetings that she become his lover or texting her that he liked it when she resisted.

Sandrine Rousseau, 44, an economist and spokesperson for the Green party, Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV), told an investigation by Mediapart and France Inter radio that during a party meeting, Baupin had cornered her in a corridor, pinned her against the wall, held her breasts and tried to kiss her by force.

Elen Debost, another politician in the party, allegedly received about 100 messages of serious sexual harassment from Baupin such as: “I am on the train and I’d like to sodomise you wearing thigh-high boots.” Baupin resigned this week as deputy speaker of parliament and a judicial preliminary inquiry was opened. His lawyer vehemently denied what he called “mendacious, defamatory and baseless” charges.

Doesn’t sound too baseless when they have the text messages. Amazing that this level of harassment happens at all in their Parliament, let alone by a Deputy Speaker.

Venezuela Is Falling Apart

May 18th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

The Atlantic reports:

In the last two years Venezuela has experienced the kind of implosion that hardly ever occurs in a middle-income country like it outside of war. Mortality rates are skyrocketing; one public service after another is collapsing; triple-digit inflation has left more than 70 percent of the population in poverty; an unmanageable crime wave keeps people locked indoors at night; shoppers have to stand in linefor hours to buy food; babies die in large numbers for lack of simple, inexpensive medicines and equipment in hospitals, as do the elderly and those suffering from chronic illnesses.

That socialist revolution is working well then.

You wonder how many people have to die before people get it.

A case in point is the price controls, which have expanded to apply to more and more goods: food and vital medicines, yes, but also car batteries, essential medical services, deodorant, diapers, and, of course, toilet paper. The ostensible goal was to check inflation and keep goods affordable for the poor, but anyone with a basic grasp of economics could have foreseen the consequences: When prices are set below production costs, sellers can’t afford to keep the shelves stocked. Official prices are low, but it’s a mirage: The products have disappeared.

Yet in NZ some politicians push for rent controls, not realising that it would inevitably lead to an even greater shortage of places to live.

When a state is in the process of collapse, dimensions of decay feed back on each other in an intractable cycle. Populist giveaways, for example, have fed the country’s ruinous flirtation with hyperinflation; the International Monetary Fund now projects that prices will rise by 720 percent this year and 2,200 percent in 2017. The government virtually gives away gasoline for free, even after having raised the price earlier this year. As a result of this and similar policies, the state is chronically short of funds, forced to print ever more money to finance its spending.

Quantitative Easing on steroids!

Meanwhile, the Venezuelan government can no longer afford to provide even rudimentary law and order, making Caracas, the capital, by some calculationsone of the most murderous cities in the world. Drug traffickers run large sections of the countryside. Prison gang leaders keep military-style weapons on hand, and while grenade attacks still make the news, they are nothing new. Recently, the police captured an AT4 antitank rocket launcher—basically, a bazooka—from a suspect.

The breakdown of law and order is so severe that even children are being robbed. At Nuestra Señora del Carmen school in El Cortijo, a struggling neighborhood of Caracas, supplies for the school-lunch program have been stolen twice this year already: Thugs have broken into the school’s pantry late at night after fresh food is delivered. The second burglary meant the school couldn’t feed the kids for at least a week.

So sad for those living there.

And it is about to get worse as the Herald reports:

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Saturday extended the economic state of emergency in the South American country by 60 days. Yesterday he warned that authorities will seize any factories which stop production, and throw their owners in jail.

Oh yeah that will help.

Maduro said a complaint by factory managers that they were lacking the hard currency for raw materials was “whingeing” and their threat to close was a declaration of “economic war”. Any factories which stopped working would be “occupied by the people”, Maduro said in a televised speech. “We will do it. We will take over all the plants paralysed by the bourgeoisie,” he said. “Any who does not wish to work, let him leave.”

So he wants mobs to invade the factories. I think Mugabe has tried that approach!

A troubling case

May 17th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar reports:

WHEN we think about euthanasia, many of us picture an elderly person.

They’ve had many good years, but an illness has ruined their quality of life. They’re in pain, and they want to end things on their own terms. For many people, this is an easy concept to accept.

But a recent case in the Netherlands is getting a lot of media attention, and it’s troubling ethicists.

A sexual abuse victim in her 20s was allowed to go ahead with assisted suicide as she was suffering from “incurable” post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), according to the Dutch Euthanasia Commission.

The law in the Netherlands states that doctors may perform euthanasia on anyone with “unbearable suffering”.

The girl had been abused between the age of five and 15. As a result of her abuse, she suffered severe anorexia, chronic depression, and hallucinations.

Doctors said her conditions were “incurable” despite some small improvements in her mental state after intensive therapy. Two years ago, they agreed to her wish to end her life.

The doctors judged her to be “totally competent” and that there was “no major depression or other mood disorder which affected her thinking”.

News of her death has triggered debate around the world about the ethics of assisted dying.

I’m in favour of assisted suicide/euthanasia in cases where people are dying, or have a condition (Huntington’s that will make their life intolerable). But declaring PTSD to be incurable seems a step too far to me.

Why US farmers are pro TPP

May 17th, 2016 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

NPR reports:

Turn on the TV and you can barely escape the acronym TPP.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a free trade deal between the U.S. and 11 other countries that’s currently being negotiated. Presidential candidates on both sides of the aisle are deriding the TPP, saying it’s a bum deal that will hurt the U.S. economy and especially low-wage workers.

But if you venture into the Midwest and ask a farmer about the TPP, you’re likely to get a different answer.

“This pending TPP trade negotiation, to me, is hugely important for agricultural commodities, but specifically for beef,” says Mike John, a cattle rancher in Huntsville, Mo. He’s one of many Midwest farmers and ranchers who are bucking the political trend to dog the TPP.

A coalition of more than 200 agriculture groups recently drafted an open letter urging congressional leaders to approve the TPP, saying the trade deal will help U.S. farmers stay competitive in an increasingly crowded world market.

And what if the US does not ratify?

Binfield says if the U.S. doesn’t pass the TPP, countries like Australia and New Zealand could make their own deals with each other, excluding the U.S. That could mean less trade access overall for U.S. producers.

But there’s another issue casting a long shadow over TPP negotiations: China. China is not a part of the trade deal. But pro-TPP interests say agreements like this one prevent China from setting global trade rules in its own interest.

Binfield says in the overall strategy, the U.S. wants to make sure China – which is a massive economic power – doesn’t have the chance to dictate the trade rules for Asia. The U.S. wants to set the trade standards.

I’ve been told that what might happen could be fascinating.

If the US does not ratify, then Japan and Canada will only stay in if there is a major economy as part of it.

Who could that be? China!

That would be a brilliant political move. China steps in and says we’ll sign TPP, and then you get a trade agreement with all 11 countries, China and no US.

April Public Polls

May 16th, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The situation in NZ was:

9 years ago 3 years ago 1 year ago 3 months ago Last month This month
National 47% 45% 49% 47% 46% 46%
Labour 36% 33% 29% 28% 28% 27%
Greens 8% 12% 11% 14% 14% 12%
NZ First 4% 4% 7% 7% 9% 11%
Nat over Labour +11% +12% +19% +19% +18% +19%
Nat over Lab/Gre +3% -1% +8% +5% +4% +7%
Right Direction 55% 62% 60% 61% 58%
Wrong Direction 34% 27% 28% 29% 31%
Net Direction +21% +35% +32% +32% +27%
Preferred PM
National Leader 27% 39% 42% 40% 40% 39%
Labour Leader 37% 15% 11% 8% 9% 7%
NZ First Leader 3% 3% 10% 8% 9% 10%

National’s party vote is lower than a year ago but slightly higher than three years ago.

Labour’s party vote is lower than one and three years ago.

The Green’s party vote is around the same as a year ago.

NZ First party vote is up from a year ago and up from three years ago.

You can subscribe to the full newsletter at for fuller details of polls in NZ, the US, the UK, Australia and Canada.

More guilt by association

May 16th, 2016 at 12:13 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been named in the Panama Papers as the fallout from the global scandal continues.

It has emerged that Turnbull was a former director of a company created and administrated by embattled law firm Mossack Fonseca in the 1990s.

However a spokesman for Turnbull told Fairfax the Prime Minister was not aware the company had been administered by Mossack Fonseca as the registered agent in Road Town, Tortola.

Turnbull was a former director of a British Virgin Islands company administered by Mossack Fonesca.

He joined the board of Star Mining NL with former New South Wales Premier Neville Wran in 1993, but both resigned two years later.

So 25 years ago he served as a director of a company that has been initially established by a law firm. And because of the guilt by association method of those releasing all these stolen documents, he has to defend himself.

What are Trump’s chances of winning the Presidency?

May 15th, 2016 at 4:10 pm by kiwi in america

Before I attempt to answer this question, I need to disclose my personal views. I was a Rubio supporter but voted for Cruz in the Arizona primary as Rubio has dropped out of the race by then. I was, and am now, not a fan of Trump…however I will hold my nose and vote for him in the General Election over Hillary Clinton.

The 2016 Presidential election will likely be remembered as one of the most exciting, chaotic, unpredictable and nasty campaigns in history. The presumptive nomination of Donald Trump to be the Republican Party’s standard bearer is the first time a major party has nominated a candidate with no prior elected office experience since businessman Wendell Willkie was the Republican nominee for the 1940 election. Yes, it is true that the GOP nominated Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 but he had served in the US Army for all his professional life with some years in major high profile leadership roles such that most would argue he had served his country in a highly public and successful capacity as Allied Supreme Commander in Europe during World War 2.

Democratic race

Before I look at the pluses and minuses that Trump brings to the campaign, it is instructive to look at the state of the Democrat nomination race. On paper, Hillary Clinton is going to be the nominee. The only mathematical chance that Bernie Sanders has of overhauling Clinton’s almost 300 pledged delegate lead is to overwhelmingly win the remainder of the Democrat primaries AND to then persuade over 250 of the super delegates pledged to Hillary to switch camps. All of the Democrat delegates from primaries and caucuses are awarded proportionately unlike some key winner-take-all Republican primaries (such as Indiana where Trump easily beat Cruz to knock him out of the race). For instance, whilst it is true that Sanders has won the majority of more recent races, Clinton has managed to amass still more delegates in each lost race and, having won the large states that count, Sanders can only chip away at her delegate lead with low single digit delegate margins between him and her. With that said, Clinton is proving to be a remarkably weak front runner. Normally at this stage in a race with a front running presumptive nominee, momentum builds and the victories over the remaining candidate get wider and more decisive. Clinton did fight a rearguard action against Obama in 2008 but really only had a handful of victories during that resurgence and then fell away. It seems that despite the inevitability of the delegate count, Sanders is remaining defiant and is ramping up his attacks and remains capable of beating Clinton if only in smaller state contests. This is significant because whilst Trump is now unchallenged and can concentrate his fire on Clinton, she must still fight Sanders off to her left flank. He has dragged her to the left by virtue of both his socialist roots and his solidly progressive grassroots, populist campaign and so the usual pivot to the centre that a candidate undertakes in a general election campaign (no longer needing to appeal to the more ideological extremes of the party’s base) has been delayed for Clinton. Clinton has faced withering fire from Sanders over her vote for the Iraq war, her support for her husband’s popular tough anti-crime laws and welfare reforms in the 90’s and seems to be adopting knee jerk harder left positions such as the lifting the Federal minimum wage, anti-fracking/anti-oil sentiments and sounding tougher on Wall Street than Hillary would normally be considering her strong ties there.

The big question mark over Clinton still remains that of her fate arising from the FBI investigation into her non authorized email server and the dissemination of classified emails through this unsecure channel thus breaching strict intelligence secrecy laws. All recent reporting suggests the following:

  • The man hired by Clinton to set up the homebrew server (Bryan Pagliano) has been granted immunity from prosecution and has spoken freely and frankly to the FBI;
  • Clinton’s entire inner circle has now been interviewed by the FBI and Clinton has been advised that she will be next and last. This is the standard pattern of federal agents targeting a key person;
  • FBI Director James Comey has gone on the record effectively dismissing the Clinton spin reaffirming that this is an investigation not a “security review” and that he and his agents will not be deterred by her rank and status;
  • Various former Federal prosecutors have weighed to remind us that Clinton’s intent (innocent or otherwise) will be irrelevant – if top secret material is proven to be transmitted over non secure and non authorised channels, she (and her aides) will have committed the various felonies outlined in various relevant statutes.

Clinton’s fate lies in the hands of the Department of Justice and its top official, Obama appointee Attorney General Loretta Lynch. If the FBI find a prima facie case of breach and recommend indictment, it will be her and her deputy Attorneys General who will make the decision to file formal charges. The likelihood of stalling to after the election by the DOJ and White House or even a non-indictment decision is, in my opinion, high. However, Clinton (and the Democrat party) runs the risk of not only high level leaks from the career professional investigators (Comey has over 150 agents on the case including several top counter espionage and cyber security experts) but also the prospect of Comey’s own resignation over a non-indictment if the evidence is particularly compelling.

If there is no indictment, Clinton will tough it out and rely on a sympathetic pro Democrat media to shield her somewhat from the FBI leaks. If she is indicted, she’s toast as a candidate. Sanders is hanging around hoping for an indictment and will argue at the Convention in Philadelphia that he’s the next highest delegate winner and so the ‘next in line’. Despite polls showing Sanders getting a wider winning margin over Trump than Clinton, look for the Democrats to parachute Vice President Joe Biden in as the nominee as a Hail Mary to save the election.  This analysis is then premised on Clinton facing Trump in the autumn general election campaign.

Trump’s chances

Anyone who thinks they know what is going to happen on November 8 is likely to be wrong. Trump has upended almost every establishment political prognostication on both sides of the political aisle. He has defied conventional wisdom every step of the way. He has made a stream of gaffes that would’ve ended normal politicians’ runs, he has ignored media narratives and robustly combatted media opposition and yet still earned twice the media coverage of all of his GOP AND Democrat rivals COMBINED, he has eschewed a delegate winning ground game and what little money he has spent so far has largely been his own money. No one has ever managed to do this and succeed in the modern political era. He has relied more on his natural instincts concerning issues that are driving voters rather than carefully measured, polled and focus group tested sound bites like Clinton and his GOP opponents. Trump says things no one else has dared say especially about Bill and Hillary Clinton. Predictions of Trump’s fate, even from more centrist establishment Republicans, are that he is staring down the barrel of a landslide defeat. And yet others look at his remarkable string of victories against all prognostications, the record turnout of GOP primary voters and his ability to defy all the rules of normal politics as evidence that he will ride a wave of voter anti-establishment disgust all the way to a massive win over Clinton. The trouble with these predictions, as you will see as I detail the pros and cons of Trump’s candidacy, is that both sides of this argument seem to have compelling reasons to back up their assertions.

Trump’s negatives that militate against him winning

 1. Dis-unified party.

Most primary races leave wounds and scars amongst the defeated candidates and their followers but generally voters, supporters and surrogates for the defeated candidates get over it and unify behind the nominee. This process has not happened as much or as quickly with Trump. There has been a discernable and visible division amongst centre-right commentators, media, blogs and talk show hosts between those that support Trump and those that opposed him. This has been characterised by the so-called Never Trump movement. Whilst there has been somewhat more of a coalescing around Trump in recent days, the high profile reluctance of House Speaker Paul Ryan to endorse Trump is somewhat unprecedented. Likewise, is the hostile reception of party leaders like Mitt Romney who is alleged to have sounded out high profile Trump opponents like Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska and even Governor Kasich. This divide is clearly evident with invective and criticism of each other from right wing media with angry outbursts from Trump supporters like Fox News hosts and commentators Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter clashing with anti-Trump commentators like talk show host Mark Levin, Blaze TV front man Glenn Beck and a host of National Review editors and writers. Some like popular talk show hosts Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt have tried to remain largely neutral but the warfare inside the conservative movement over Trump, his candidacy, policies and personality is unprecedented and will make it harder for Trump to unify the party. Trump of course doesn’t help matters with his uncompromising rhetoric and his clashes with right media personalities such as Megyn Kelly.

2. Poor ground game

Unlike Ted Cruz who was known for his excellent on-the-ground GOTV efforts, data driven voter turnout models and canny delegate wooing tactics, Trump has been slow to embrace this crucial part of winning elections partly because he has relied so much on earned media. Trump seems to be far less interested in this aspect of electioneering than is wise. Clinton has managed to snare some of the same team that drove Obama’s highly successful voter targeting and GOTV operation and she has been investing heavily in a good ground game in key battleground states. It is a fact that the Republican National Committee has spent the last 2 election cycles playing electronic and data mining catchup with the Democrats and it is said that the RNC’s current GOTV operation is the best it’s ever been and at least equal with the Democrats. Trump’s slowness in this regard may be compensated for by the party’s own machinery that will swing in behind Trump. Obama proved that it was possible to get out his unique coalition twice in a row and Clinton will be banking on managing a three-peat.

3. Very high negative polling

Any analysis of polling data comparing past campaigns and candidates reveals that we face a quite unique situation with the two main candidates in 2016 in that both feature unusually high unfavourable polling figures. This is the ratio between those who favourably view a candidate and those who are unfavourable. The latest Gallup Favourable/Unfavourable ratio for Trump is a staggering 33/61 and Clinton is better but still poor at 41/54. To have two such unpopular candidates opposing each other is unprecedented and it remains to be seen as to what will happen to these figures as the campaign moves to a general election footing as each candidate showers media with a wall of negative ads designed to define their opponent.

4. Media portrayal of misogyny sticking

The main stream media have been quick to portray Trump as a misogynist women hater and certainly his comments about Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina gives some backbone to these claims. Will Trump’s very high negatives with women improve and if not, will Clinton’s negatives with men be enough to outweigh them? Right now Clinton is on the winning side of that statistical battle.

5. Competing against the first woman President candidacy theme of Clinton

Clinton has, and will continue to aggressively play, the woman card. Just as Obama was campaigning to end centuries of oppression of blacks by being the first black President, so Clinton wants to break a remaining glass ceiling and be the first woman President. To women voters in particular it is a powerful and simple campaign theme. Whether Clinton can overcome her considerable baggage to realise that goal remains to be seen but it is a real headwind that Trump is running against.

6. Poor head to head polling v Clinton

Up until very recently, the head to head polls, both at the national and swing state level, were devastating for Trump and his GOP opponents hammered him relentlessly on that. This more than anything else has fueled much of the negative prediction commentary about Trump from his right wing opponents and this has been seized upon with glee by Democrats, the MSM and left leaning commentators. Polls would be trumpeted showing Clinton barely behind in heavily Republican states like Georgia, winning Arizona (which has voted Democrat only twice since WW2 – 1948 and 1996) and Clinton leading in national polls by double digits. Electability in the fall in the past has been a powerful electioneering tool for primary candidates but in this cycle, once again a seeming cardinal rule has again been broken. Head to head polls showed in this order: Kasich, Rubio, Cruz then Trump from doing the best to the worse against Clinton (or Sanders) and yet the success of each major GOP candidate has been in inverse proportion to their supposed electability. Part of the reason for this is the truism that head to head polls this far out are meaningless and Trump’s surrogates have pointed this out for months and in recent weeks, these polls have tightened considerably with reputable polls putting Trump essentially level pegging in key states like Florida and Ohio and close to the margin error behind Clinton in national polls.

7. Leftist policy provisions and his bombastic personality causing the conservative base to stay at home

The knee jerk reaction of a number of more solidly conservative friends of mine is to refuse to vote for Trump. Some talk up a conservative third party candidate, others say they’ll vote Libertarian whereas most say they cannot bring themselves to vote for Trump seeing him as an unauthentic conservative, a closet Democrat and a crass populist and a few flirt with voting for Hillary. These assessments are not far off the mark but increasingly, many are coming to see Hillary and the extent to which Sanders has dragged her so far to the left, as a far greater existential threat to the Republic that many more are doing what I am doing and holding their noses and voting for Trump. The extent to which the conservative base stays home in protest or disgust at Trump’s excesses and policy quirkiness may have a large bearing on his success or otherwise in November. A third party candidate is highly unlikely. No one remotely electable has stepped up and in any event, the deadline has passed in most states to even get on the ballot – a task that is complex, time consuming and costly.

8. Trump’s caustic management style may see key staff burnt off

Stories abound of Trump’s abrasive and take no prisoners style. Will this extend to his campaign to such an extent that key staff abandon him? It’s hard to say. Trump has outwitted and outlasted armies of the GOP consultant establishment and utterly defied their collective wisdom by turning it on its head and proving them all wrong. That said, some mechanics of a campaign must be adhered to. Could Trump be so arrogant as to ignore even the practical and good election campaign advice rationalising his behaviour because he so dominated the primary race that the consultants have nothing to teach him? The truth is likely somewhere in the middle – some of their advice is relevant but most of their instincts have been to line their own pockets with fees. If Trump is wise he will attract the best players and listen to the good tactics they have to offer and yet stay true to his instincts that have seen him win so convincingly.

Trump’s assets that might see him win

1. Massive earned media

This graph tells the story far better than words. This, more than anything else, explains Trump’s success. He sucked the media oxygen from the air of almost all his rivals’ campaigns. Media obsession about all things Trump meant Jeb Bush could spend $150 million and have almost nothing to show for it. Despite the media realising that Trump has been their creation, he remains a ratings dream for networks and cable shows and excellent click bait for on line political news outfits like Politico, the Hill, the Washington Examiner and blogs. This is not going to change in the foreseeable future. Trump will still say outrageous things that will leave media and commentators buzzing and obsessing and now it will be Hillary Clinton who will be overshadowed. Obama got excellent earned media coverage because of his unique persona. Clinton is not unique – she is extremely well known and a rather dour campaigner. Faced with Trump’s endless stream of consciousness, provocative tweets and interviews, clashes with media and opponents and his sheer utter unpredictability, he will remain ratings gold as the campaign progresses ensuring his message reaches all corners of the electorate.

2. Record GOP turnout in the primaries translates into larger than usual general election turnout

The increase in Republican primary turnout in this cycle compared to 2012 has been a staggering 60%. As at the end of the New York primary on April 19th, this amounted to an additional 9 million voters! Note that Obama only beat Romney by 5 million votes in the 2012 election. Whilst it is true that in some primaries allowed independents and registered Democrats to vote in GOP primaries meaning some of the higher turnout could be put down to cross over voting, turnout has been massively up even in states with closed primaries (limited only to registered Republicans). The best analysis of this is found at This trend bodes well for Trump.

3. Lower Democrat turnout

The flip side of point 2 is the significantly lower turnout for Democrat primaries and caucuses and this is in spite of the resurgent and seemingly popular grassroots campaign of Bernie Sanders. Democrats, aside from Sanders’ supporters, appear to relatively less enthusiastic about their presumptive nominee. This was the reverse in 2008 when Democrat primary turnout was hugely up on the back of Obama’s popular campaign. This difference does not bode well for Clinton.

4. Any negative news event in the immigration or terrorism sphere plays into Trumps hands

Any high profile murder by an illegal immigrant (especially one previously deported) will play into Trump’s anti-illegal immigration message. Even the ongoing wave of refugees into Europe plays subtly into Trumps hands as it shows the negative cultural impact of uncontrolled immigration. Even more potent would be the indirect electoral benefit to Trump of another global terrorist event. Another Paris or Brussels attack by Muslim extremists makes Trump’s policy of pausing on Muslim immigration to the US look reasonable and practical. A terrorist incident like the San Bernardino massacre, especially if close to the election, will guarantee Trump a strong bounce over Clinton as Trump will unsubtly make the Benghazi contrast. Anything more serious than San Bernardino would be game over for Clinton as Trump would ride a wave of almost 911 style voter fear.

5. The party is gradually, albeit slowly, coalescing around Trump

Paul Ryan, after his much publicized ‘summit’ with Trump, has moved from Never Trump to Probably Trump (but not yet). More Senators (even those who opposed him) are coming on board. Cruz and Rubio will likely hold their noses and eventually endorse. The Bush clan will stay silent and Romney will continue to oppose but likely will temper his attacks. It won’t be across the board or full throated but it could be enough to send a sufficient signal to other wavering GOP voters to hold their noses and vote for Trump.

6. Hillary is a lousy campaigner

She is wooden, inauthentic, focus group driven, uninspiring and somewhat prone to gaffes. Her handling of controversies such as the email scandal has been woeful. She is afraid to be interviewed by anyone except a handful of pro-Democrat flunkies who don’t really press her hard. Whilst she has handled Sanders reasonably well in their debates, she has not faced the wall of hostile questioning the GOP candidates faced in most of their debates and nor has she had to face Bernie Sanders more recent harder edged criticism as his attacks have ramped up since their debates. Trump, on the other hand, went through a large number of debates where he was the primary target of attacks and he acquitted himself adequately. He is not the purist debater in the Cruz mold nor the compelling story teller like Rubio but he can and will attack and vigourously defend himself. He will not conform to normal debate structures and approaches and will be unpredictable and feisty against Clinton and will not hesitate to bring up a host of negative issues like her email server, her poor record at State, Benghazi and the murky funding of the Clinton Foundation. Clinton has not faced any hard edged opposition in a public forum on any of these matters. I’m picking that she may refuse to debate Trump such will be the political risks that he will wipe the floor with her.

7. Clinton is burdened by a sluggish economy and Obama’s weak foreign policy – fighting off the Obama’s 3rd term meme.

Whilst Obama’s popularity has staged a minor recovery, the economy (on Main Street versus the more buoyant Wall Street) has seen very anemic growth. The Obama recovery is the weakest of the all the post-Depression recoveries. The extremely low labour participation rate is a major unseen economic drag. It is down to only 63% from a high of 68% in 2000 and explains why the unemployment rate is seemingly so low at 5%. It is because approximately 11 million Americans have dropped out of the workforce altogether and are no longer seeking work and so are not counted in the unemployment stats. If they (and those forced to work part time) are added in, the true unemployment rate is 9.6% . This is the first administration since the Depression to preside over a slight decline in net real wages AND net wealth of the vital middle class. Many voters feel they are not any better off despite the stock market recovery.  Add to this a string of foreign policy failures or stagnations, Clinton will be seen as an 3rd Obama term and a third term in office for the same party has only happened once since the 22nd Amendment restricted Presidents to two terms (Bush 41 wining in 1988 after the two Reagan terms).

8. Trump benefits from the strong anti-insider establishment sentiment and appeals to Reagan Democrats

This is the greatest unknown and possibly the one thing above all else that could win Trump the Presidency. Frustration at the establishment of both parties is running at record levels. It is palpable and crops up constantly in political discussion across communities. GOP control of the House (2010) and the Senate (2014) has actually made the sentiment worse because the GOP won two large wave elections giving them unprecedented majorities in both houses of Congress to block Obama as voters intended and yet time after time, the Republican leadership caved on key conservative issues to the disgust of the Republican base. This more than anything else explains Trump’s success in the primaries. This disgust, anxiety and frustration is bi-partisan. Many many voters of all persuasions see inaction on the border and blame stagnant wage growth and un/under employment on illegal immigration. Trump unashamedly taps a huge vein of fear and discontent especially amongst blue collar workers who were once a key demographic cohort for the Democrats. Lately this group have stayed home from the polls demoralised by the inaction by the party elites of both parties. Trump’s promises to make America great and to build a wall may bring record numbers of recent nonvoters to the polls to vote for a successful, confident outsider beholden to no one promising to get things done. The same is true for foreign policy and the rise of Islamic extremism. Middle America is tired of political correctness and waning American power and the seeming impotence of Obama’s so-called ‘smart power’ diplomacy. Trump’s promise to make America great again has to the power to plough through all his many negatives and bring dormant general election voters of both parties, long disgusted by business as usual in Washington, to the polls in droves to install the anti-politician who has built a successful business empire.

9. The Teflon factor

Trump has defied political gravity continuously. Normal rules don’t apply. Revelations of sordid earlier affairs, drug fueled parties in the 80’s, eminent domain abuses, fraudulent claims of Trump University, threats to investigate his political enemies if he wins – all negatives that the media will gleefully report from Clinton’s oppo research files, will slide off Trump. Almost all of this is baked into the cake. Voters know Trump is flawed, quixotic, not really a policy expert and often all over the page on some issues. They don’t care – they believe on the big issues (immigration, Islamic extremism, American jobs and US strength and power abroad) that Trump will face down his critics, ignore the media and Washington commentatiat and just hunker down and finally do the things that Americans have been begging to have done for decades. When faced with a choice between more of the same from Clinton (with the added spice of a rerun of Clinton scandals like the 90s) and the fresh but flawed broom that Trump promises to sweep, it may end up being a no brainer for enough voters in places like Florida, Ohio, Colorado, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania to get him to 270 electoral votes.

As I said, both sides’ arguments are compelling, All I know is that US voters are in going to be in for the wildest campaign ride possibly in over a hundred years!

Winston backing Brexit

May 15th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Breitbart reports:

The Remain campaign is “contaminating” Britain’s democratic process by relying on “outside money” and foreign interests to tell Brits how to vote, the former Deputy Prime Minister of New Zealand has said.

Speaking at Westminster, Winston Peters, who also served as his country’s Foreign Minister and Treasurer, mocked suggestions Britain would suffer outside the European Union (EU) and said the UK would be welcomed by the Commonwealth.

“The British people are standing on the cusp of a truly exciting future,” he said. “It will not be easy to achieve that future but if there’s one nation that can do it, it is the British.”

Good God. I may be on the same side as Winston on an issue.

Not that I’m totally decided (and of course I don’t vote) but the campaign for Bremain has been pretty awful and failed to portray any positives from membership – just a scare campaign against leaving.

However there is no doubt a Brexit would have significant negative consequences for the UK in the short term. It would hit the economy as there would be two years of uncertainty and businesses won’t invest when the environment is uncertain.

But in the medium to long term those consequences would fade, and there will be advantages of independence.

If the EU was more democratic, I’d be more keen to see the UK remain. But the EU structure is fundamentally flawed and I am not sure if it fixable.