Archive for April 2008

This makes me ashamed to be a Vic Uni student

April 21, 2008

The actions described in this NZ Herald article, and this Dominion Post article makes me ashamed to be a student at Victoria University. 130 Victoria University students arrived in two Rotorua motels drunk on Monday, to compete in the University games, and engaged in almost non-stop drinking since then. The actions they committed included:
* Causing $9 500 in damges to property.
*poured alcohol into a TV set, ruining it, as well as breaking toasters and kettles, and smashing pieces of furniture.
*Causing alcohol stains in almost every room, and making the whole motel reek of alcohol.
*One person was found unconscious and needed to have an ambulkance called, after vomitting through a bed and room.
*Smashed one window.
*Left beer bottles floating in a mineral pool, despite the no glass policy
*Vomitted on the floors of 12 rooms, requiring them to be shampood, with one room completely wrecked and covered in vomit.
*Violated a no smoking policy
*One matress was soaked in urine, and every duvet and bedspread needed to be drycleaned.

Shamefull. But to make matters worse was the total lack of contrition from student leaders (who thanks to compulsory membership misrepresent me), who even had the audacity to ask for a $1200 refund because they were kicked out. And accused the motel owners of an “over the top and inhumane and unjustifiable” reaction. I think the alcohol use by the students was over the top, and they acted in an unjustifiable and inhumane way to the motel owners. And the students involved should have no refund for the eviction, but instead have to pay for all damages.

As for the drinking age, I don’t know what age the students were, but the drinking age should be higher than their ages.


More polls

April 21, 2008

TV One and TV Three both came out with new opinion polls last night, and both had opposite stories. TV One had National’s vote increasing to a massive 54%, with a 19% gap, while TV3 had only a 10% gap. TV One polls have a history of overestimating support for National, and as no other poll has ever put National at 54%, I am very suspicious that it is overestimated in this poll. Full poll results can be seen here. You can get a better picture by looking at a range of polls, rather than relying on one. Averaging the results (including the last Roy Morgan Poll, and deducting 2% of National and adding it to Labour from the One news poll (to cancel out bias to National) gives:
National: 49% (61 seats)
Labour: 36.5% (46 seats)
Greens: 6.2% (8 seats)
Maori Party: 3.0% (7 seats)
NZ First: 2.8%
ACT: 1.0% (1 seat)
United: 0.3% (1 overhang seat)
Progressive: 0.2% (1 overhang seat)
National, despite being as high as 49%, can barely govern with ACT and United Future. A one seat swing to labour could see a LPGM coalition. One of Nationals big problems is that altjough it is polling at stratospheric levels, it has so few coalition partners it can barely govern. The scenario above illustrates the point.

The audacity of hype

April 18, 2008

Much as I hate Labour, I can not avoid getting the impression that John Key is a man of spin, who is willing to say anything to get himself elected. In fact I at times question whether he has any goals for the country other than get himself into power.

The “audacity of hype” is the title of a speech given by Finlay MacDonald recently, outlining these problems with John Key. The speeches title is a pun from Barack Obama’s book “The audacity of hope” (although I see Barack Obama as a man of spin, almost as much as Key).

In it, MacDonald outlines several contradictions in John Key’s public statements. Consider:

On his religion, to the investigate magazine (shortly after becoming leader): “I have lived my life by christian principles”, then to the Jewish chronicle: “I will be the third Jewish Prime Minister of New Zealand”, and most recently “I’m not deeply religious, and I don’t believe in life after death”. John Key must be the only Jew who lives his life by christian priniples who doesn’t believe in life after death in the country.

MacDonald also found it difficult to believe that John Key never experiemented with drugs and can’t remember the position he took on the 1981 Springbok tour (I wasn’t alive in the 70s and early 80s so can’t comment on the drugs part of it, but as for the Springbok tour, if John Key wasn’t into politics I’d give him the benefit of the doubt, but the fact he can’t remeber where he stood on what was one of the biggest political issues at the time, as a politician, looks a little fishy).

Also consider the fact he recieved the “smoking gun” e-mail from the Brethren (setting out their plans for their campaign, and remember this was sent ot only two people, John Key and Don Brash, indicating John Key was deeply involved with the Brethren) and a whole lot of other e-mails, but didn’t open them. Sounds a little untruthful to me. Especially as the impression one gets from the Hollow Men book is that Key was up to his neck with the Brethren (although he was largely absent from the rest of the book). He also claims not to have known about the pamphlets. One of the e-mail exchanges in the book (among a large number of others, to a large number of people, including all the senoir members of the National Party) has the Napier campaign manager asking for his electorate to be exempted from the anti-Green campaign as they were hoping for a high Green electorate vote to win the seat of Labour. One notable feature of this e-mail exchange is that it shows that even someone as lowly as the campaign manager for one electorate knew about the pamphlet campaign, then knowledge must be widespread amongst the Party. It would be very surprsing if even the campaign manager in a small provincial city would know the details of the campaign, but the Party’s financial spokesperson, a frontbench MP, who had a number of meetings with the Brethren, and recieved a stack of e-mails from them (which he didn’t open) would be left comletely in the dark about the pamphlets.

And then of course there are a large number of policy U-turns. Of course we can’t accuse Key of lying with policy yet, as he isn’t in power. But the dishonesty with his relations with the Brethren, and his changing of mind over his religion, and questionable statements on areas such as his position on the 1981 Springbok tour, cast doubt on whether he is telling the truth on policy. I personally believe he is telling the truth on policy, because given his record, he is unwilling to do anything politically unpopular, but will voters?

Labour does not need to try hard to paint John Key as a liar who can not be trusted to run the country, because that is who he is.

What is most stricking about the lies is that most of them were unessescary. For instance, how many voters would not vote for him, because he happened to be pro or anti tour 27 years ago as a teenager? Who would not vote for him because of his religion?

I still want him and National to win the election, because I genuinely believe that the center right and conservative ideology that National represents is the best way, and whatever policies National comes up with, will reflect that ideology and be better for the country than Labours policy. In addition to Labours corrupt record on the pledge card and Electoral Finance Act making them totally unfit to govern, whatever their policies.

So far, the policy U-turns and lies on religion/brethren e.t.c haven’t done much damge, but in an election campaign they will. And I really worry that John Key might be exposed to the New Zealand public as the man of spin he is. One of the key test voters will ask before electing him, is can I trust him, and if the answer is no, they might go back to Labour.

It is worth remebering that in the US Presidential primaries, one candidate, Mitt Romney, tried the John Key strategy, of flip flopping on every issue except his Mormon religion, and despite leading in polls for months in all the early states (such as Iowa and New Hampshire) he got caught in the end (by Huckabee in Iowa and McCainn in New Hampshire) and lost, despite massively outspending his opponents. This does not set a good precedent for a John Key who has flipped flopped on every issue including his religion.

Hat tip: The Standard.

Nepal: a new communist threat

April 18, 2008

19 years after the Berlin wall fell, and communism became totally discredited as an ideology (in the same way fascism was in WWII), and even in countries where the Communist Party remained in power, such as China, the economic aspects of communism were thrown out the window. Only in a handful of international pariah states such as North Korea and Cuba (and I think thats it, oh yes, now Venuzuela) does the economic aspects of communism remain. But somehow Nepal seems to have missed this global tide, and (this is no joke) they have just elected Maoists into power. Of course this is a democratic election, so the west will have to respect the result.

Of course, socialist economic theory has failed spectacularly over the long term everywhere it has been tried, and I doubt Nepal will be an exception to this. But my main worry is that the Maoists will try to use democracy to destroy it, by rewriting the constitution to advantage themselves (in future elections, and elsewhere) and then build on this to establish a one party state. Instead of participating in the democratic process (although one where the monarch ignored a number of times, most famously in 2006, where he arbitarily declared a state of emergency to give himself absolute power, only to back down after rioting created an actual emergency) they have waged a long civil war against the Government. No Right Turn blogs on how this could be the end of the monarchy, a very dangerous step, as it would enable the Maoists to have complete power. What is needed isn’t the monarchy’s abolition, but its transformation into a constitutional one like the UK and New Zealand.

In any case the international community should respect the result, but make it clear that it will not sit idly by and watch the country being transformed into a one party state, and if human rights (and I consider the right to ownership of private property, within limits, a human right) are threatened, itwill be treated as a pariah state like its cousins in North Korea and Cuba.

Congestion charging

April 18, 2008

The Dominion Post has details of a proposal to introduce congestion charging here in Wellington, with one proposal including a fee between $1.50 and $4.50 to enter or leave a congestion charging zone between 7am and 9am, and 4pm to 6pm on weekdays, with suggestions for further tolls at other points, such as Pukerua Bay, Tawa and Ngauranga Gorge on SH1, and Petone and Lower Hutt on SH2. The scheme has distinct similarities to those already in place in London, Singapore, and introduced more recently in Stockhom. There are indications it has been successful, with a 10-15% decrease in vechiles entering the zone in London, and 13% fewer cars in the Singapore zone during operational hours. In London, the introduction of congestion charging has seen a 25% increase in bus patronage, and 20% reduction in CO2 emissions from transport, and an overall neutral economic impact (although the retail sector has suffered).

For these reasons I support the idea, but have some reservations. Firstly our train system is running at close to full capacity, although new trains are coming in 2010. If congestion charging is introduced, improvements to public transport (which must be very substantial) must be introduced before, not after the congestion sharging takes effect (with the tax revenue going to repay the loan). The zone should only cover predominately comercial areas of the CBD (the Motorway, Vivian Street and Cambridge Terrace could form a good boundary), and I am completely opposed to charges outside the CBD. And to repeat, the improvements in public transport must be big. A 10c per litre regional petrol tax could complement the scheme. I can not say for sure wether the idea is good until I see the full details, but considering it as an option is certainly a good idea.

Hat tip: Kiwiblog

E-mail theft unfound

April 16, 2008

David Farrar has the news that the Police have found that the people who stole or leaked Don Brash’s e-mails (which were latter published in the Hollow Men book by Nicky Hager) stole them as printed copies, not electronic ones. This Police press release reveals the investigation found that a total of 475 seperate e-mails were used in the book. This means that if the e-mails were stolen, someone must have left a pile of 475 e-mails sittihng on a desk for a thief or draw to come in and grab them, and no-one notice the pile had gone. Sounds pretty unlikely.

So they were almost definately leaked, not stolen.

UPDATE (17 April): David Farrar has a follow up post, in which he points out that the police called them “thefts” instead of “leaks” and all they rule out is an external hacker breaching security. David points out that there are other ways the e-mails could have been stolen, other than the unlikely scenario of someone leaving a pile of 475 e-mails sitting on a desk or in a draw for a thief to come in and grab with no-one knowing where they are, such as a IT staffer with system access, an insecure password, or an opportunistic thief taking advantage of a computer accidently left on, which are all plausible to me.

Further, if the e-mails were leaked instead of stolen, then Hager could have on the strict condition that the Police keep the name secret, told the Police who the leak was, have the Police interview the leak, and then the Police put out a press release, saying the e-mails were leaked by someone who had legitimate access to them, and that they were not disclosing the name of the leak, and end the matter, with the public knowing there was no theft.

Also, it the e-mails were leaked, who leaked them? Asuming there was only one leak, that person must have had access to all 475 e-mails (and as many were sent to only a small number of people, for instance the “smoking gun” e-mail when in may 2005 the Brethren sent an attached document outlining their plans for their campaign, was only availiable to five people, the Brethren author, Don Brash, John Key, advisor Bryan Sinclair (who read it and comented on it according to a Dom Post article on November 29 2006), Stephen Joyce (National’s campaign manager, who the e-mail was forwarded on to) and anyone who these people forwarded on to (and there would presumably be records of where and when it was forwarded)). Only a very tiny number of people would have legitimately have access to all 475 e-mails. I can not find any internet version of the November 29 2006 Dominion Post article (from memory it was on the front page) but it deals with the fact the smoking gun e-mail was sent from the Brethren to Don Brash’s public e-mail address (where they are read and responded to by staff members, in this case Bryan Sinclair) and those deemed particularly relavent are forwarded on by the staff member to Don Brash’s private e-mail account. But Simon G did make a comment on this post at 8:26 am on the 29th of November 2006 refering to the article, in which Hager gave e-mails not published in the book to the Dominion Post, one was the e-mail where Bryan Sinclair forwarded the smoking gun e-mail from Don Brash’s public e-mail address to his private e-mails address shortly after recieving it, labbelling it as urgent, and adding the comment “From the Brethren. I usually avoid tangling you up with this, but this is worth reading as it looks like $$ are involved here”. Shortly after recieving (and presumably reading the e-mail) Don Brash replied to Bryan Sinclair “Thanks Bryan. … I have forwarded this to Stephen. Don.”. Take the reply of Don Brash to Bryan Sinclair. It was only sent to two people (Don Brash and Bryan Sinclair). Stephen Joyce didn’t recieve it, or else Don Brash wouldn’t have written “I have forwarded this to Stephen” with his e-mail, as Bryan would have been able to see Stephen Joyce’s e-mail address in the CC space of the e-mail. And the reply was written specifically to Bryan Sinclair, no one else. And it is unlikely Bryan Sinclair forwarded the reply e-mail to other people, as one would expect him to forward the original e-mail to whoever he wants to see it, before waiting for Don Brash’s reply. So we can be reasonably conficent the reply e-mail was only seen by two people: Don Brash and Bryan Sinclair. So if it was leaked Don Brash must have given it to Nicky Hager (and the idea that Don Brash leaked the Hollow Men e-mails to Hager is so insane to not be worth thinking about), or Bryan Sinclair must have leaked them (and Byran Sinclair was up to his neck in everything bad the National party did in the book, was a key Brash advisor, and had a long history of right-wing political views, and no obvious motive, so the possibility that Bryan Sinclair was the leak is very remote. So considering all this, I am now very confident the e-mails were stolen.

By who? Ultimately, only God, the thief and Hager know. And I hope one day, the New Zealand public gets to know.

UPDATE II (April 18): TV3 Reports that Don Brash often printed his e-mails out to read them at home, before putting them in a pile marked “S” to be shreded, where someone, instead of shreding them, could have stolen them. If so, this makes the prospect of theft by an insider even more likely.
Hat tip: The Standard


The world in the future

April 16, 2008

Predicting the future is very difficult, largely because almost anything can happen, and events will always surprise us. However, it is very likely that the world in the future will be very different to the one we live in now. And within my lifetime, one can be reasonably confident the US will decline from being the sole superpower, to a multipolar world, with China and India as world powers almost as powerfull as the US.

The Economist has a good graph here, showing projected economic growth rates over the next two years, showing the % by which their economies will grow this year and next year. The results are:
China: 19% (and this is already a big economy- watch out)
India: 17% (another 2 years of spectucular growth on the way)
Russia: 12%
Brazil: 9%
South Africa 8%
Mexico: 4%
Britain: 3%
Eurozone: 2.5%
Japan: 2.4%
US 2% (no doubt reduced by the current economic problems)
The trend is clear. The developing countries are growing rapidly, while the rich countries are growing slowly.

If these trends continue (and they are likely to do so), the rapidly developing countries will make up a much larger share of the World economy.
In 2003, Jim O’Neil, a Goldman Sachs economist, invented the new term “BRIC” (an acronym for Brazil, Russia, India, and China) to identify countries he thought would become major players in the world economy in 2050. This arguement was outlined in the Goldman Sachs paper “Dreaming with BRICs: The path to 2050” (avaliable here), in which Goldman Sachs created a model to forecast future economic growth, and entered data into it for the BRIC countries, and also the G6 (US, UK, France, Germany, Italy and Japan). To test the acuraccy of the model, the same test was applied for the period 1960-2000, for the G6 countries, and South Korea, Hong Kong, India, Brazil and Argentina, and turned out to be remarkably accurate, with the exception of Brazil, Argentina and especially India, where growth was much lower than the model predicted, and the model slightly underestimated growth in South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong. In a 2005 follow up paper here they looked at 11 other emerging countries (including Indonesia, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, and Turkey), all of which (except Turkey) will also grow strongly and play a larger role in the world economy.

Lets compare the world in 2005 to their projected 2050 world (the figures not in brackets are GDP in billion $US 2005, GDP per capita is in brackets, with countries listed by size of their GDP, the 2005 follow-up paper is used for the 2050 projections). The change to the top 12 is particularly interesting:

2005:                                            2050:
United States 12 454 ($42 114)     China 48 571 ($35 105)
Japan 5 293 ($41 538)               United States 37 666 ($89 663)
Germany 3 062 ($37 146)              India 27 235 ($17 011)
France 2 314 ($38 151)                 Japan 8 040 ($80 492)
United Kingdom 2 261 ($37 411) Brazil 8 028 ($35 143)
China 1 918 ($1 468)                    Mexico 7 838 ($52 990)
Italy 1 185 ($32 446)                     Russia 6 162 ($55 630)
Canada 1 156 ($35 226)                Germany 5 440 ($73 904)
South Korea 814 ($16 741)            United K. 5 067 ($79 203)
Russia 754 ($5 257)                      France 4 483 ($79 807)
Mexico 753 ($7 092)                     Indonesia 3 923 ($11 668)
Brazil 747 ($4 013)                       Nigeria 3 708 ($10 402)
India 746 ($691)                          South Korea 3 684 ($81 462)
Turkey 349 ($5 013)                   Italy 3 128 ($62 083)
Indonesia 272 ($1 122)                 Canada 2 983 ($71 993)
Nigeria 94 ($733)                         Turkey 2 757 ($31 880)

Of course, a lot can happen in 50 years, and the actual 2050 figures wil probably be quite different. But what is much more important than these figures is these trends.

The basic reason why the US is the worlds sole superpower today is because of the size of its economy, in 2005 matching those of the next 4 countries combined. A country can not afford to spend much on its military with a failed economy.

In the future this will no longer be the case. China and India will be world powers a longside the US, and there wil be a new range of not insignificent regional powers like Brazil, whose influence can also be felt. Some of the large third world countries will have economies the same size or bigger than large european countries. In short the days of the West dominating the world are over, and a whole new age of Asian and other non-Western countries dominating the world stage is about to begin.