Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ron Smith: Questions from Benghazi

Events in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on 11 September gave rise to a host of questions which still hang in the air nearly two months later.  They are being held in suspension by the processes of the American presidential election.  The Obama administration is not talking and the American media, by and large, is not asking (and that is reflected in New Zealand media).

On that day, the American ambassador and three others were killed in a well-organised and well-armed attack by al-Qaeda terrorists.  This would not have been a surprise to local staff, or officials in the various diplomatic and security agencies.  The consulate building had been attacked in a smaller way on two occasions before and the Ambassador had asked for more protection.  The nearby British diplomatic post had also been attacked (Britain subsequently closed it and withdrew its ambassador), as had been the local International Committee of the Red Cross facility.  More generally, there was a notable build-up of Islamic activist groups in the region and plenty of unsecured lethal weaponry left over from the Libyan civil war.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Wide concerns over Maori Party's constitutional review

IT MAY be happening largely out of the public gaze, but that doesn’t mean the review of New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements isn’t being closely watched.

Critics of the constitutional review accuse it of working towards a predetermined outcome that will see the Treaty of Waitangi entrenched as supreme law and judges given powers to strike down any law deemed to be in breach of Treaty “principles”.

Frank Newman: Interest rates and ipredictions

There has been a changing of the guard at the Reserve Bank. Alan Bollard has retired after 10 years as Governor and Graeme Wheeler taken on the top job. Mr Wheeler is a former executive at the World Bank and most recently ran a consultancy in the US. 

Although the governor may have changed, the Governor’s message hasn’t. Last week Mr Wheeler left the official cash rate (OCR) at 2.5% saying it is appropriate for now. That has led to a debate about the meaning of “for now” (much like courtroom lawyers arguing about the meaning of “and”). Some say that means an imminent rise, others say a fall. Strong opinions are being advocated for both possibilities.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell: MSD's inconsistent application of work-test rationale

In an analysis of the options discussed by MSD over work-testing sole parents, the following table illustrates part-time work expectations for sole parents internationally. New Zealand has chosen the soft option of 5 years along with a soft definition of part-time work (10-20 hours).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mike Butler: Te reo, funding, and hurt feelings

A report on kohanga reo released by the Waitangi Tribunal has already been snubbed by the government so any serious consideration of its contents is unlikely. Since few are likely to have the time or inclination to wade through the 424-page report, here is what it is all about --- a never-ending story about negotiating with the government, funding, and some hurt feelings.

The first point to make is that although kohanga reo look like early childhood education centres, they are in fact language nests in which children are intended to learn and speak Maori to revitalise the language. The movement puts the survival of the language above the interests of the children at the centres.

ICRP: Abolish the Waitangi Tribunal

Press Statement from the Independent Constitutional Review Panel
- on the Waitangi Tribunal’s Kohanga Reo Report

The Waitangi Tribunal’s report on kohanga reo makes it clear why the Tribunal should be abolished, according to David Round, a spokesman for the Independent Constitutional Review Panel.

“The Tribunal is now clearly nothing more than a grandly-named Maori lobby group” he said. “Its recommendations are pure politics.” He pointed out that governments have poured over a billion dollars into kohanga reo over the last two decades, and that that was only a part of wider taxpayer support for the Maori language. “We might reasonably expect a word of thanks for this generosity. But instead the Tribunal complains that this funding is actually directed towards education rather than narrow Maori language immersion, and demands, not just more funding, but an apology for not doing enough.”

Mike Butler: Waitangi no spiritual home

The trust that owns the treaty house and grounds at Waitangi is raising funds to build a museum on the site to create the New Zealand equivalent of the Washington Monument to define what New Zealand is about and what it means to be a New Zealander. Here’s what mainstream commentator Sean Plunket wrote in the Dominion Post on Saturday:
That is a lovely idea and would certainly be a lot easier for most people than trekking to Gallipoli to feel some emotional connection with the birth of the nation.
The problem is while most of us are happy to embrace Anzac Day as special, Waitangi Day and Waitangi itself are not held in the same regard. For many Kiwis, Waitangi is simply a place where politicians go once a year to be yelled at, manhandled and spat on. The treaty itself is not regarded by most New Zealanders as a founding document, rather a troublesome relic that has become the foundation stone for political correctness, white guilt and a brazen gravy train ridden by a growing cast Maori elite, lawyers and consultants.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Kevin Donnelly: Boy's Education

FOR years, teachers and schools have been told to positively discriminate in favour of girls. Feminists argue that the way schools work and the way they teach subjects give boys an unfair advantage and it's time to push girls to the front.

Wrong. The reality is that girls outperform boys. The way teachers are told to teach and the way subjects are organised best suit the way girls learn and leave boys at the bottom of the class.

Frank Newman: Innovation not for the greenies

The BBC recently reported on a new technology that “creates” petrol from air and water. No, it was not an April fool’s hoax. The technology essentially removes CO2 from the atmosphere, combines it with hydrogen split from water vapour and turns it into methanol, which is then converted into a fuel that can go straight back into the petrol tank.  Not only is it potentially a means by which the world can reduce its dependency on seemingly villainous oil producers but more importantly it is a means of turning carbon emissions into a valuable product – a solution to so-called catastrophic global warming!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Ron Smith: On Mortification

It was reported in a recent weekend edition of the New Zealand Herald that our Foreign Minister (Murray McCully) had been ‘mortified’ by certain information that had come to him.  What was it, one might wonder, that had so discomforted the minister and caused such frantic activity in his department?

Was it a new appreciation of the continuing economic melt-down in Europe, with its clear implications for the vulnerable Chinese economy and the inevitable knock-on to our trade with China, on which we so much depend?  This, together with fresh data on the perceptible slow-down in the economy of our nearest neighbour, and largest economic partner, Australia, would certainly have been of concern.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ron Smith: More on justice and war

Two assumptions lay behind the argument in my recent posting, ‘Droning on’ (2 October).  One was that the appropriate moral framework, within which to discuss targeting in the on-going conflict between Islamic extremism and the West (the so called war on terror), is that of ‘war’, and not ‘crime’, notwithstanding that the actions of the insurgent parties are generally crimes, within the jurisdiction of the state in which they occur.  I also took it that the crucial criterion for legitimate combatant status in such conflict is ‘participation in the hostilities’.

I should add that I am taking the term ‘Islamic extremism’ to encompass both an attachment to a fundamental interpretation of Islam, which promotes a way of living as close as possible to the teachings of the Prophet, and, most importantly a commitment to violent means in order to achieve it. 
It was also assumed, in the previous posting, that the same principles (the same moral requirements) ought to govern all who are involved (on whatever side). 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Frank Newman: Housing corp tenants from hell

If anyone thinks being a landlord is easy, then here’s a story that may change your mind! I was contacted by a landlord who owns a modest two-bedroom rental that is in what was once a tidy part of a town. By all accounts it’s a very pleasant little abode - nice views, a sunny aspect, and plenty of space for the kids to run about. A good little rental, one would have thought, and it was until the Housing Corporation bought the neighbouring properties.

Within a year the area has become a hell-hole and the investor’s nice rental a nightmare. Fortunately the gang that moved into one of the houses has since vacated, but not before the landlord’s previous tenant packed their bags and left his property.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Mike Butler: Half-truths and shallow thinking

The recently concocted New Zealand Maori Council water rights claim has turned up the heat on the Maori issues debate. Two comments lifted from the blogosphere show the half-truths and shallow thinking that has allowed the “free money for Maori” industry to grow into the monster that it is.
You don’t want Maori looking after their own affairs with money they have invested around the country, employing thousands of Kiwis? So if Maori aren’t allowed to look after their own, then who will? That then falls on the state. What do you fear from Maori or anyone having their own systems? Will they cause you to turn Maori, will they take your firstborn, will they stop you watching your favourite rugby team? No no they won’t so what the bloody hell do you have against people looking after their own affairs. And no that’s not called separatism, it’s called neo-liberalism or even libertarianism, something apparently praised by many on this site.
This commentator blurs the distinction between the rights and responsibilities that everyone has to spend, save, or invest, their own hard-earned money, with the rights and responsibilities of tribal trusts handling free money from the government that came via treaty settlements and the special, separate deals via race-based affirmative action, and devolved social services.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Gerry Eckhoff: Quantitative Easing - prison, Mugabe, and the Greens!

It is rather rare for dastardly criminals planning to commit a crime to publicly disclose their forward thinking to the appropriate authorities. I do so today in order to ensure they have plenty of time to prepare a really nice suite at the Milton Hilton (our local jail) is available for me after sentencing. I hear that room service is available along with free dental and health checks and the gym is well stocked.

I hope that by admitting my guilt before the crime is actually committed, the judge will reduce the sentence he would normally impose on someone who pleads guilty after committing the crime. Most criminals apparently regret the crime after being caught or just regret being caught after the crime. Take your pick.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Karl du Fresne: Sabotage is not too strong a word

During Maori Language Week in July, my wife and I attended a kapa haka concert followed by a hangi at our grandson’s school. It was a charming event in which the whole school performed. We were impressed with the way even the younger classes had memorised the words and actions of the songs.
The kids obviously enjoyed themselves, yet I came away with a nagging feeling of unease. It is not a Maori school; in fact there are relatively few Maori pupils. It serves a suburb with an ethnically diverse population. To have mastered all those songs and actions must have taken a lot of classroom time, and I had to wonder whether there were other things the children might more usefully have been learning.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Gerry Eckhoff: Lotus Eaters

Maori claims to fresh water and the Government’s refusal to summarily dismiss the claim surely now means that all publicly owned assets are open to claim and litigation despite 2008 being the cut off point for all claims to the Waitangi Tribunal.

Why should not Maori now claim a free share of all tax revenue – toll roads – rates, down to free parking as they are in partnership with the Crown? Well, why not; if it is true that Maori have a genuine partnership with the crown. I am however unaware of the actual percentage of the so called partnership which was obviously written into the Treaty of Waitangi somewhere. Clause….. ? Is it to be a 50-50 partnership; 70-30 - 90-10%; what is it?

Barend Vlaardingerbroek: Same-sex marriage and my liberal/conservative identity crisis

I hate it when people ask me whether I’m a liberal or a conservative. I’ve tried inserting the word ‘classical’ before the ‘liberal’ in reply, but that appears to be too subtle a distinction for most. With the increasing Americanisation of the English language, ‘liberal’ has come to mean ‘politically correct’ to a lot of people, while ‘conservative’ has come to be associated with the religious far right. Oh dear, what am I to call myself, being neither?

The same-sex marriage debate has reinforced the polarity brought about by the new intellectual order, as 99% of the decibels seem to be generated by PC trendy-lefties on the one hand and stodgy old-world righties on the other. And they both spout off a lot of nonsense.

Mike Butler: Try discussing Maori privilege

Try talking about Maori privilege in polite society. You will be called a racist and reminded of all the poverty, bad housing, educational disadvantage, and general under-performance that Maori have been made famous for. This is a story of separation and privilege that we all must face some day.

In 2003, in a report commissioned by Te Puni Kokiri (the Government’s Maori affairs department), the Institute of Economic Research said that Maori were paying slightly more in tax than they received in transfers --if they paid $2.404 in tax they received $2.312 in social benefits.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Ron Smith: Droning On

In a widely-publicised report (‘Living Under Drones’), academics from Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law, have recently cast fresh doubt on the moral/legal status of the continuing use by the United States of unmanned aerial vehicles.  As is all too familiar in these cases, the conclusions and claims of the authors have been uncritically accepted in media reports.  This is a pity, since the agendas of those involved, and defects of the methodology of the report, are very obvious.  There are some important issues regarding the strategic importance/significance of the use of drone-strike capability in modern irregular warfare, and how traditional just war concepts may be applied to drone use.  Regrettably, the Stanford/New York collaboration makes little contribution to this debate.  Instead, it palliates extreme left wing and broadly anti-American interests.  The extent to which some American academics will do this never ceases to amaze!

 The main conclusions of the report are based on interviews conducted in Pakistan with 130 people who were survivors or witnesses of drone attacks, or relatives of victims of such attacks.  Specifically who might be interviewed was suggested by a local human rights organisation, the ‘Foundation for Fundamental Rights’, which had been set up in early 2011 to campaign against drone attacks.  Am I the only person that thinks that this is not a reliable research methodology?

Monday, October 1, 2012

Prof Martin Devlin: Business and the Partial Asset Sales

Business commentators are now starting to reflect upon the business consequences of the government’s decision to delay the first of the partial assets sales until the second quarter of 2013. Rod Oram, writing in the Star-Times of 9th September comments on the related issues of a glut of electricity generation, a downturn in domestic and industrial power consumption, the possibility of problems with electricity usage at the Tiwai Point smelter, and the downturn in coal imports by China as issues which will have an impact of the value of Mighty River Power (MRP) shares at float. From any prudent investor’s point of view each and all of these issues represent risks which need to be taken into account when deciding whether or not to invest.

But, he could also have included some assessment of the impact of the MRP delay and the options presented to the government by the Waitangi Tribunal, which, if taken seriously, constitute an additional raft of investment risks which possibly exceed those which Oram considers.