Friday, November 30, 2012

Ron Smith: Terrorist rules

A commentator on my previous posting (of 19 November) explicitly makes the argument anticipated but dismissed there, that weaker parties in these irregular wars will tend to see themselves as not bound by humanitarian law.  He says: “Having and obeying the rules of warfare tends to be something that only the strong can do. Without supporting one side or the other it is obvious that Hamas or the PLO is not militarily able to take on the IDF in the open.  To do so would be suicidal.  Were I a freedom fighter (which in their eyes they are) I’d use the means I had available and stuff the rules.” (emphasis added).

It is easy to understand the sentiment that lies behind this kind of observation, and the commentator is right to observe that Hamas cannot take on the Israeli Defence Forces in conventional conflict, with any prospect of success.  But it is a long way from this observation to justifying killing arbitrary Israeli citizens (not members of the military forces), which is the dominant Hamas tactic.  This, as noted earlier, is simply terrorism and has been universally condemned (in United Nations resolutions, international conventions and humanitarian law) and it doesn’t matter whose ‘eyes’ we are using.

Karl du Fresne: Shafted by their own council

So this is what it has come to. The Kapiti Coast District Council, according to today's Dominion Post, has identified 40 "sacred" Maori sites on which owners will not be allowed to subdivide, alter existing buildings, or disturb the land.

As I write this, I'm fervently hoping the citizens of the Kapiti Coast will be laying siege to the council offices and that the mayor, the councillors and the council functionaries (who I suspect are the real villains of the piece, because that's usually the case) will be cowering in terror in a basement panic room.

Muriel Newman: Bicultural constitution threatens race relations

As a result of MMP politics, a new ‘written’ Constitution based on the Treaty of Waitangi as superior law, may well be imposed on New Zealand. Such a bicultural constitution would enshrine Maori privilege, turning non-Maori New Zealanders into second class citizens in their own land. It would give un-elected Judges supreme power over our elected Members of Parliament, ensuring that no future Parliament could ever remove the Treaty from our constitution. New Zealand would forever be locked into a divisive race-based future.

This plan to give the Treaty of Waitangi constitutional status is being driven by the Maori Party representing the tribal elite. After the 2008 election, they not only demanded ownership rights to New Zealand’s foreshore and seabed - in return for supporting a National-led government - but they set in train a constitutional review as well.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mike Butler: Deeds, half-truths, water rights

Waters, rivers, lakes, and streams were included in the sale and purchase of the Upper Waikato on September 15, 1864, as well as trees, minerals, and all appertaining to the land or beneath the surface, according to the deed that is freely available on a Victoria University of Wellington website. Ownership of water is the latest “gimme” demanded by the New Zealand Maori Council and was at the root of the Maori legal challenge to the government's partial asset sale that was heard at the High Court in Wellington this week.

Justice Ronald Young reserved his decision, on Wednesday, on the challenge by the New Zealand Maori Council and Waikato River tribes at the end of a three-day hearing in the High Court in Wellington, saying he would have a ruling by Christmas. The Maori Council and river tribes argued partial privatisation of energy companies Mighty River Power, Meridian, Genesis Energy and Solid Energy would compromise Maori water interests and could affect Treaty of Waitangi claims.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Mike Butler: Execution site called sacred

A spot on Auckland’s Queen St where the first Maori was executed by the British should be registered as a sacred site, says Ngapuhi leader David Rankin. A 17-year-old named Maketu was executed on the corner of Queen St and Victoria St West on March 7, 1842, the location of one of the biggest commercial buildings in New Zealand – the Phillips Fox Tower.

Rankin said: “He was a rangatira, or chief, and his execution at this spot makes it sacred to Maori – the spot where any rangatira is killed is extremely tapu”. Rankin will be seeking the support of the Auckland Council’s Maori Statutory Board in his application, to have the location officially designated as a waahi tapu.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Mike Butler: Same-sex marriage in Canada

Canada’s 10 years of same-sex civil marriage has brought restrictions on free speech, restrictions on parental rights in education, and restrictions on religious institutions, according to Bradley Miller, who is an associate professor of law at the University of Western Ontario.

When same-sex relationships became the equivalent of traditional marriage, he wrote, a new orthodoxy was adopted. Therefore, “anyone who rejects the new orthodoxy must be acting on the basis of bigotry and animus toward gays and lesbians.”

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Matt Ridley: Mad Biomass Dash

Never has an undercover video sting delighted its victims more. A Greenpeace investigation has caught some Tory MPs scheming to save the countryside from wind farms and cut ordinary people's energy bills while Lib Dems, Guardian writers and Greenpeace activists defend subsidies for fat-cat capitalists and rich landowners with their snouts in the wind-farm trough. Said Tories will be inundated with fan mail.

Yet, for all the furore wind power generates, the bald truth is that it is an irrelevance. Its contribution to cutting carbon dioxide emissions is at best a statistical asterisk. As Professor Gordon Hughes, of the University of Edinburgh, has shown, if wind ever does make a significant contribution to energy capacity its intermittent nature would require a wasteful "spinning" back-up of gas-fired power stations, so it would still make no difference to emissions or might make them worse.

Richard Epstein: The Flat Tax Solution

To step back from the fiscal cliff, we need to simplify our tax policy.

This past Friday, I gave the “Presidential Address” at the Southern Economic Association (SEA) in New Orleans, on the topic of what President Obama’s reelection means for the future of liberty in the United States. As a classical liberal, my outlook is best captured in one simple proposition: a system of sound governance needs to promote a mixture of individual liberty and private property in order to allow individuals to maximize the gains from individual effort and social cooperation.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Ron Smith: A kind of terrorism

I am looking at the picture on the front page of the ‘World’ section of this week’s Weekend Herald.  It shows the vapour trails of missiles departing in the direction of Israel.  Around the picture and on the following page, there is extensive reporting of the human consequences.  You fire on your adversary from amongst the buildings of your own down-town (Gaza City, in this case) and then you protest when your adversary fires back.  What sort of nonsense is this?  And the media dutifully reports on it: “Innocents pay cruel price in conflict!”

If the people of Gaza are really concerned about this loss of innocent life, they should be protesting that their militia is firing from the cover of a civilian area, and thus exposing their civilian population to harm, when the inevitable retaliation occurs.  As a matter of fact, using civilian cover for military operations in this way, is explicitly forbidden by humanitarian law.  Both Geneva Convention No IV and the Statute of the International Criminal Court refer to utilising ‘the presence of protected persons (civilians), to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations’.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Mike Butler: Flaky Ngati Whatua report fisked

Sometimes, light-weight bleeding-heart commentary needs to be taken to task. Today, Brian Rudman of the New Zealand Herald is in the gun for his article “Joe Hawke gains victory”. A “fisking”, according to the Urban Dictionary, is where a commentator is beaten through his words, often interspersing criticisms with the original article's text. The term is named after Robert Fisk, a reporter known for anti-western writings.

Rudman: Yesterday in Parliament, the long struggle for justice, reignited by Joe Hawke and his fellow squatters in the 1970s, finally came to an end with an apology from the Crown, and ritual compensation by way of cash and land.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mike Butler: Fudged treaty push, part 2

Here is one article that shows the meaning of the Maori text of the Treaty of Waitangi, the three exact differences between the Maori text and the so-called Littlewood Treaty as a document written by British Resident James Busby on February 4, 1840, has come to be known. By reading the official English text and the Kawharu redefined treaty, reproduced below, every reader of this article will be able to cut through a lot of the fog around the treaty.

The treaty is a three-paragraph agreement with a preamble and a post-script signed by Governor William Hobson on behalf of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and 512 chiefs at 34 locations around New Zealand between February 6 and May 21, 1840. All but 39 chiefs signed the Maori language text.

Mike Butler: Review fudges two-world treaty push

The Queen is sovereign and Maori are her subjects, with the rights of subjects, including possession of property is a widespread interpretation of the Treaty of Waitangi that goes back 172 years. Another interpretation that goes back about 30 years is that it confirmed Maori sovereignty over all things Maori while giving to the Crown limited power to control new settlers. Which interpretation are you familiar with?

The Constitutional Advisory Panel is reviewing the role of the Treaty within New Zealand’s constitutional arrangements without mentioning that there are two opposing views about the meaning and intent of the Treaty, one of which asserts Maori sovereignty and limits government control to non-Maori who have been written out of the treaty.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Lindsay Mitchell: MSD cover-up

The front page story in Monday morning's  DomPost has left me very angry. It concerns an employer who took $5,000 wage subsidies from Work and Income and then failed to pass them on to beneficiaries sent to him.

I'd heard complaints from other employees of Washworks/Shop n Shine back in May this year and started asking the Ministry of Social Development questions. According to my source employees had complained to Work and Income after being short paid or not paid at all, then sacked.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fiona Mackenzie: Sycophantic Journalism Undermines Democracy

In a normal working week, I’m like many others when it comes to the news.  It’s a quick flick through the headlines, appraising the articles as “not relevant, relevant, or salacious gossip”.

Busy people rely on journalists to find out the important news, the stuff we really need to know and do something about. Unfortunately, this era of quick sound bite entertainment has turned the focus from the profoundly investigative to the superficially sensational - a “shark, babe or tears” level of news.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Mike Butler: MPs wise to reject oaths bill

The rejection of Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell’s Oaths and Declarations (Upholding the Treaty of Waitangi) Amendment Bill may indicate that the claimed political unanimity on treaty matters is not so united. A closer look at what Flavell was trying to achieve shows that his oaths bill was part of a wider Maori Party campaign to weave a “cash cow for Maori’ version of the treaty into law and into the day-to-day activities of as many people as possible.

The purpose of Flavell's bill was "to ensure that a person taking any oath set out in statute may, in addition to the words of the oath, elect to state that they will uphold the Treaty of Waitangi", which would recognises "that the Treaty of Waitangi is New Zealand’s founding document and the Government is committed to fulīŦlling its obligations as a treaty partner". (1)

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Mike Butler: Pulling out of Kyoto makes sense

The New Zealand' government has shown some good sense by deciding against signing up to the legally binding second Kyoto Protocol commitment period from 2013. Climate Change Minister Tim Groser announced on Friday that the government would work on its pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the parallel and non-binding United Nation Convention Framework. (1)

The announcement came three days after the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill was passed after a late volley of Labour-Green amendments failed.

Karl du Fresne: Since when was Coke cheaper than water?

Is it something in the water down Dunedin way? The University of Otago seems to produce more than its share of moralistic, finger-wagging academics, especially when it comes to matters of health and nutrition. They have a knack for turning every negative health statistic into an attack on free markets and, by implication, a government that is callously indifferent to the needs of the poor. It doesn’t seem to matter that their statements often fly in the face of logic and common sense.  

The Dominion Post reports that poor dental health is the most common cause of avoidable hospital admissions for pre-schoolers in the Wellington region. Pacific Island and Maori children are particularly susceptible, with rates of hospital admission several times higher than other groups.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Ron Smith: Some thoughts on democracy

One of the riveting features of the US Presidential election just finished, is the billions of dollars spent in advertising on behalf of the contending parties.  The little girl who was filmed in floods of tears, spoke for many in expressing the sentiment that it was all too much (though she might not have been thinking purely of the cost).  On the other hand, it seems clear that it was effective, in the ‘swing states’ and particularly in the early stages, when attitudes were being formed.  It looks as if this, together with superior long-term organisation, was key to the Democratic victory. 

Of course, there is nothing wrong with planning ahead and deploying appropriate forces for the task in hand, and an incumbent president can do this in a way that a candidate who emerges from the protracted primary process, cannot.  But there is something wrong with the vast amounts being spent on television material and the careless negativity of its content.

Monday, November 5, 2012

ICRP: BULLETIN 1 - Written, treaty-based constitution puts judges above MPs

A written constitution overrides parliamentary sovereignty and gives un-elected judges the final say on all the line-drawing choices related to abortion, same-sex marriage, how to deal with those claiming to be refugees, where tobacco companies can advertise, and myriad other such debatable, highly disputed issues, constitutional law expert James Allan has warned.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Richard Epstein: The Obamacare Election

The Romney-Ryan plan is maddeningly vague, but at least it reduces the role of government in health care.

As the fractious 2012 presidential campaign careens down to a photo finish, no issue presents a starker contrast between the two candidates than health-care reform. President Obama is committed to implementing his elaborate reform of health-care markets by creating state exchanges, extending Medicaid coverage to some 25 million new enrollees, retaining the current reimbursement system for Medicare, and implementing an individual mandate.

Phil McDermott: Redesigning a City - Planning an Affordable Future for Auckland

At last some urgency ... The Government has responded to the analysis of housing affordability by largely adopting the multifaceted approach proposed by the New Zealand Productivity Commission.

My interest is in what it says about boosting the supply of houses, a necessary but not sufficient condition to improve affordability and sustain the liveability of our two largest cities.  The government response acknowledges the urgent need to boost dwelling numbers in Auckland and Christchurch, and to do so by providing for sufficient brownfield and greenfield land accessible to the market in a regulatory environment that no longer unduly impedes development. 

Mike Butler: Top-ups to make richest tribes richer

The two richest tribes will become $138.5-million richer since treaty settlement top-ups were triggered, the Otago Daily Times reported this week, with a former tribal negotiator in charge of handing out the settlement spoils. (1)

The Ngai Tahu and Waikato-Tainui tribal corporations, which operate as charitable trusts, negotiated relativity clauses of the sort that used to characterise union wage negotiations, entitling each to a percentage of all future treaty settlements once they exceed $1-billion in 1994 dollar terms. The government has calculated that the amount payable to Ngai Tahu was $45.6-million, or $68.5-million when adjusted for inflation. Waikato Tainui will receive a cash payment of $70-million.