Friday, July 29, 2005

Prebble's Retirement

One of the great sadnesses of Richard Prebble's retirement is the instititutional knowledge he takes with him. In many ways, the nostalgic history of Parliament and its characters have little to do with the realities of politics or day-to-day life in New Zealand. But the rich tapestry of Parliament and its traditions--and some of the more peculiar people who have had their fifteen minutes of fame in public life--deserve to go on record.

Of those who mixed and mingled with both the lions and monkeys of the legislature of the 1960s and 1970s, now only Winston Peters remains. And unlike Winston, Prebble's recollection of the years of Muldoon is accurate in both substance and detail.

Of course, Helen Clark and Michael Cullen both entered Parliament in 1981. But they were not active in Wellington during the heady years of 1975-1978, when Muldoon was still brilliant and single-handedly dominated the political landscape. By the time Clark and Cullen arrived in Wellington, Muldoon's disastrous policies had caught up with him; he was a decadent creature of post-war New Zealand, suffering from alcohol-induced diabetes, and had lost a grip on modern life.

And unlike Prebble, Clark and Cullen have never been larger than life: they have always been policy wonks far more interested in the science of politics rather than the people of politics. From the moment Prebble entered Parliament, he revelled in sparring with Muldoon. Nobody managed to irk Muldoon more than the upstart young MP for Auckland Central. Prebble admits now the high respect that he had for Muldoon's essential instinct, which was never stronger than when Prebble first arrived in Wellington. Muldoon, too, probably saw in Prebble the Young Turk that Muldoon was when he entered the House fifteen years earlier. Both were brilliant, young, of a later generation than all of the incumbents, and were prepared to challenge the rules. Prebble went after Muldoon because Muldoon never gave an inch.

In the later years of his premiership, Muldoon was not nearly as devastating as he had been when Prebble arrived in Parliament, but was still capable of a quick retort and the raw cunning that had held him at the top of public life for so long. And both Muldoon and Prebble were deeply creative thinkers. Before Edward de Bono developed his lateral thinking theories, both men were already applying it in practice. Prebble recounted, in his valedictory speech yesterday, a favourite story about Muldoon which typified the man. The original story I heard about Muldoon's ray gun solution was somewhat longer. It went like this:

Muldoon received a briefing from officials upon being elected Prime Minister. At the end of the meeting, Bernie Galvin, then head of the Prime Minister's Department, said to him: "Prime Minister, just so you know, there are a few crackpots around who tend to call up and write to you. They're all very harmless, and we do our best to make sure that they don't interrupt your work."

Muldoon was intrigued. "Crackpots, eh? What kind of crackpots call up?"

"Well," said Galvin, "there is one guy in Auckland who calls up every couple of weeks, complaining that there is a ray gun above Parliament, which is trained on his head, and sucking out his brain."

Muldoon chuckles, and asks: "How long has he been complaining about this?"

"About fifteen years, Prime Minister."

"Right. Next time he calls up, put him through to me."

So about a week passes, and Muldoon is having a private discussion in his office with a senior Australian politician. There's a knock on the door, and Bernie Galvin walks in sheepishly, and says: "Prime Minister, I'm sorry to interrupt, but you did say that you wanted to take this call."

"What call?" Muldoon growls.

Galvin looks at the Australian politician, and suddenly feels extremely silly for interrupting the meeting. But he says it anyway. "Ray-Gun Man."

"Right. Put him through," Muldoon answers.

Muldoon picks up the phone. "Muldoon here."

The caller is shocked that he's finally managed to reach the Prime Minister personally, and stammers out his story. "Mr Muldoon, thank you so much for taking my call. I'm calling to complain about a ray gun on top of Parliament, which is trained on my head."

"What's the problem with it?" Muldoon asks.

"It's sucking out my brain," the caller responds.

"Not very comfortable then, is it?" Muldoon probes.

"No, Mr Muldoon."

"Right then. Let's see what I can do." And the Prime Minister scares the pants off his Australian dignitary, by shouting: "TURN OFF THE FUCKING RAY-GUN!"

And then Muldoon speaks back into the phone: "Problem fixed." And hangs up. And the caller never called again.

Likewise, Prebble applied ground-breaking strategies--but very simple strategies to the reform of state-owned enterprises--which nobody had thought of doing before. His direct, simple, no-nonsense approach made him an outstanding contributor to the Fourth Labour Government.

Prebble's record as a reformer made him one of the few great achievers in political life of the 1980s. And he achieved it--as Muldoon made his achievements--through dogged self-belief, and force of personality.

In later years, Prebble himself has been an anachronism: a dinosaur in surroundings that have an air of familiarity, but populated by new species who have new ways of operating. Prebble has retained his formidable wit and intellect--and still is capable of tearing apart even the toughest opponent. But he has lost the passion and will to make a difference in New Zealand. He deserves our applause both for the contribution he has made, helping redraw the way that New Zealanders understand their relationship with Government. And he deserves a second clap for understanding that it is time to bow out--before he became an embarrassment to himself, and Parliament itself.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Brilliant Work, David. . .

Yes, well, it's all very clear. Labour's student loan calculator--released as official government policy but evidently without the input of Treasury or IRD officials--has been exposed as either an outlandish lie, or a major bungle.

See David Farrar's site. Well done, David, you old cyber-sleuth, you.

Michael Cullen's Incompetence: Part 9482

Cathy Odgers has blogged on her site about the fallacy of tax cuts being inflationary, with a reference to Roger Kerr's excellent opinion on the subject. Because my motive is to drive readers to my site, and not Cathy's, I am pretending that I did not steal her idea by discussing the nonsense of Dr Cullen's claims on here.

Cullen is demonstrating with his statement that tax cuts are inflationary that he does not understand economics, and that academic historians should not be responsible for fiscal policy. Apart from the irony of a not-particularly-successful university lecturer-turned politician attempting to suggest that he knows more about monetary economics than a man who was singularly responsible for controlling inflation in New Zealand for fourteen years, I struggle with one conclusion: Is Michael Cullen lying about tax cuts being inflationary, as he has lied so extensively about the affordability of tax cuts, or is he simply incompetent by making that claim? And which is worse, to be a liar in charge of the public purse, or to be thoroughly inept?

I can only suggest that readers decide for themselves whether Cullen knows that he's wrong about tax cuts being inflationary and is lying about that fact, or that he simply doesn't know that he's wrong.

Michael Cullen is playing the gamble that voters get confused about the causes of inflation: that voters believe that he understands inflation, that they don't like inflation--due to its effects on prices and interest rates--and that whatever he says about inflation will scare them into believing what he says. In reality, inflation and its causes, are quite simple.

Traditional economics tells you that inflation is caused when the demand for goods and services exceeds the supply of those goods and services. When demand exceeds supply, prices will increase to dampen demand. Michael Cullen's argument is that lowering taxes puts more money in the hands of taxpayers, which increases demand, putting pressure on prices. It's a nice, traditional idea. It's also wrong.

It's wrong for these reasons. New Zealand is an open, relatively deregulated, relatively competitive trading economy. The biggest influence on supply prices is not domestic structural issues, but world commodity prices. New Zealand does not have a large impact on the price of goods and services traded internationally. When I go to the butcher to buy two steaks, the price I pay for those steaks is largely determined by how much the nearby butcher's competitor charges for those same steaks. The butchers are competing for my custom. The price they pay for the meat is determined by how much they pay the meat works for the meat. That price is in turn decided by how much the Indonesian butcher in Jakarta pays for that same piece of meat. If the butcher raises his prices because he thinks I can pay more, then I will have the choice to go to his competitor. If the competitor raises his price, then the Indonesian butcher can enter New Zealand and under-cut both of them. That is a function of operating within an open, trading world economy. Prices are decided by relative efficiency and international competition. If any one of those traders in the international market-place--including New Zealand traders--try to take advantage of the fact that I have more cash to spend, then I will simply shift my purchasing decisions towards somebody who can provide that product or service cheaper.

In reality, the supply of goods and services in the New Zealand market is largely based on a world supply chain. Increasing New Zealand demand for those goods and services does not affect the price in that supply chain. So simply giving New Zealanders more cash to play with does not stimulate higher prices.

The second part of Dr Cullen's flaw is just as easily debunked. What Dr Cullen refuses to admit is that taxation distorts the performance and efficiency of domestic markets. Taxation is, by its very nature, a means of distorting the decisions that individual consumers make. When the Government decides to spend a hundred million dollars buying computer equipment, the end users of that computer equipment are disempowered from the decision making process. They have become compulsory consumers of that equipment. Some may make good use of their share of the computers: others will have less use of that equipment. The end result is that the decision to bulk-purchase equipment for a large group's needs does not suit the needs of all users in the same way. On the other hand, if the Government says to that same group of people: "Here is a hundred million dollars. Buy whatever you think you need with it--be it computers, or whatever else you see is necessary for you to do your job." And that is what the government does with tax money. It makes less efficient decisions than what individuals are able to make, with the same amount of money.

So Government spending is less efficient than the decisions of individuals, because it takes on the supposed requirements of a whole group of people, as determined and decided by one decision-maker. There is no flexibility in the decision. Money is wasted. Growth is not as strong as it could be, because the individual needs of individual users are ignored.

When a Government taxes a person, that money gets spent. That is the nature of Government. Inevitably, Government spending rises in accordance with available money. So the more money that Government takes from individual taxpayers, the more projects it will find to spend that money on. The quality of those projects decreases--which is why we have seen the Government pouring ridiculous amounts of money into anything it can throw cash at. This non-productive spending does nothing to improve economic growth. This creates lower efficiency within the economy, greater capacity constraints, and higher structural inflationary pressures. The biggest contributor to inflation is not market behaviours, which are inflation-neutral, because they are highly efficient in a competitive environment. Rather, inflation is most often caused by Government making wholesale decisions--hugely inefficient decisions-- on behalf of consumers and place capacity constraints on the economy.

Conversely, lowering Government spending increases economic efficiency, and lowers capacity constraints. The economy is able to grow faster, because individual consumers are making their own decisions about how to spend their money, rather than the big-bang, one-size-fits-all Government approach to spending. And this extra growth can take place without inflationary effects.

The further impact of lowering taxation, apart from freeing up capacity constraints, is that it makes New Zealand consumers more internationally competitive. Because lowering taxation decreases business costs, there is more room for wage growth, and economic growth, without affecting prices.

Historical examples demonstrate clearly the positive--and inflation-neutral--consequences of lowering taxation on the economy. Reaganomics achieved it. So too has Australia. Reducing taxation at a time of large fiscal surpluses is the painless way of reducing the role of Government in the economy.

But now I'm ready to draw a conclusion, without asking you, the reader. I conclude that inflation is so easy to understand, that even Dr Cullen must be able to grasp it. Unless he's monumentally more stupid than we've been led to believe over the last six years, he's lying to us about tax cuts being inflationary. Again.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Labour's Ten Big Election Lies

After trolling through recent Government announcements and statements, I can reveal, exclusively to InsolentPrick readers, the ten great lies that Labour is spouting this election*.

  1. That there is no government surplus. The Government will tell you that this surplus is a freak accident of modern accounting. This lie is repeated to draw attention away from the fact that there is an actual surplus of $8 billion, but the Government doesn't believe that taxpayers should receive any of the benefits of their industry and effort, and should rather be grateful that the Government is dishing out money to its special interest friends.
  2. That despite yesterday's announcement of $300 million to reduce the interest payments of students who are too lazy to work during their studies, or who do not make voluntary repayments, there is no money for tax cuts. This lie speaks for itself.
  3. That National has made $7.5 billion in spending promises. No calculations have come from any of the Labour candidates who have made these claims. Despite this, the claims have continued to fly. Repeating lies does not make those lies real.
  4. That the National Party has a "secret bagman" who is an American. Trevor Mallard made this extraordinary allegation on Saturday, and to date has made no attempt to back the lie up with any evidence. He has retracted his statement, slightly, but has not made any apology for it. Nor has Helen Clark, despite her office lying about her being furious that the statement was made. In the real world, Helen Clark's fury at one of her ministers is followed by a public dressing-down. Given that Helen Clark hasn't made any comment, it's a sure sign that she was happy that Trevor dragged politics into the gutter. Again.
  5. That the Labour Government is responsible for the strong state of the economy. This lie is debunked by every reputable economic analyst, including the OECD, which in its most recent report stated that New Zealand's current strong growth is a direct result of macroeconomic reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, which Helen Clark and Michael Cullen have tried to distance themselves from, without fundamentally changing. The purpose of this lie is to try and make voters feel grateful towards the Government for dishing back bribes to voters in the form of miscellaneous gifts to special interest groups, rather than returning that money to the taxpayers who have created that wealth.
  6. That Labour cares for the interests of middle New Zealand. This lie is shown up by the facts: middle New Zealanders face the burden of sending their children to increasingly expensive public schools, put them through tertiary education, primary healthcare (remember free doctors' visits for under 6s? Doesn't exist anywhere in reality), higher petrol prices, higher interest rates, no choice in local schooling, lower quality tertiary education services, and substantially higher taxes, to name just a few. Meanwhile, beneficiaries, the Maori elite, Pacific Island broadcasters, former Labour MPs, hip-hop academics, and the public service--among other fringe groups--roll in the taxpayer-funded slush-fund.
  7. That National will change New Zealand's nuclear-free status. Another smear, which is not borne out by the facts. Don Brash has made it clear that he would not change New Zealand's nuclear-free status without a clear public mandate to do so, and that he does not expect to get that mandate. No change going to happen, yet Labour is lying when it claims that he will.
  8. That core health and education services would need to be cut to fund tax cuts. Another desperate lie from a desperate government, defrauding itself out of office. Figures speak for themselves. $8 billion surplus, plus a Labour Party contingency slush fund of almost $2 billion to fund promises it hasn't yet made.
  9. That there is no money to be saved by reducing public service expenditure. Wananga. Long-Term Unemployed Who Don't Want To Work. Public Service Consultants. Tertiary Education Commission. Miscellaneous Tertiary Education Providers Providing Shoddy Courses. Health Sector Bureaucrats. Business Welfare That Gives Jim Anderton Much-Needed Headlines. Kyoto Protocol Commitments That Don't Benefit The Environment, But Merely Give Cash To Highly-Polluting Russians. Ministries for the Environment, Maori Affairs, Pacific Island Affairs, Women's Affairs, Race Relations Conciliator, and the Human Rights Commission. To name just a few, among the $16 billion in further money that the Government is spending in 2005, over and above 1999.
  10. That the Government has listened to New Zealanders' demands that society deal harsher punishment to criminal offenders. Graham Capill will be released on parole after three years of a nine-year sentence, after raping and molesting children. Yet again, the Government shows that is not interested in protecting lawful, hard-working citizens, and will continue to lie its way through its next three years of Government if voters are stupid enough to vote Labour again.

*Note: Not an exhaustive list. This list is current to 27 July, 2005, and excludes any inevitable further outrageous lies that Labour Party ministers, MPs, candidates and officials make before Election Day.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

His Mouth Is Writing Cheques His Body Can't Cash!

In Labour's latest sign of desperation so far, it has promised that no interest will be charged to anyone who has a student loan, as long as they remain in New Zealand.

It's not entirely clear what the Government's motive is, or whom it is targeting for the policy. Costing the policy at $700 million over the next three years, it makes a further lie of the Government's repeated claims that there is no money left for tax cuts.

The policy discriminates against several groups of people: people who have diligently paid off their student loans voluntarily, people who minimise while at University, and people who go overseas once acquiring their degrees, in order to gain new skills and experience. And the consequences of the policy are alarming: students will be encouraged to maximise their borrowings, make no voluntary payments, and stay in New Zealand rather than gain overseas experience.

The trouble with giving money to students, even when it is interest-free money, is that students are notoriously bad at thinking past the next dozen beer. The policy might actually have positive economic effects, if students maximised their student loans and invested what they didn't need in beneficial economic activities. But being the sort of people that students are, the money will be wasted. Students will have substantially more debt, and taxpayers will be fronting the cost of it.

Expect a massive blow-out in student loans from students who see the short-term benefit in getting free money that costs them nothing. Because of Labour's absurd fiscal model of financing capital expenditure--including student loans--from the current account, it will allow Labour finance ministers to make even more nonsensical claims about the so-called "real" operating surplus--once capital expenditure items have been paid for--being non-existent, and tax cuts being unaffordable.

The policy is unworkable, totally irresponsible, and devoid of any economic benefit, whatsoever. It screams of a Government that is panicking, and resorting to reckless promises that they cannot possibly hope to keep. It is an entirely negligent policy that has no place from any sensible, mainstream political party, is a clear indication that Labour have lost all faith that they can actually win an election and carry the policy through to implementation.

And the most bizarre part of the Government's statement is that the calculator used to determine the amount of savings takes the reader straight to the Labour Party website. Once clicking the link on the Official Government announcement, the reader is directed to a Labour Party page requiring that the reader submit their details so that they can receive Labour Party propaganda. Either the policy is developed by the Labour party, or by Government officials. If it is a properly-costed Government policy, then why isn't the calculator on the Government website? If the policy was developed by the Labour Party, then how valid are the costings and calculations behind the policy?

This promise isn't about delivering better educational outcomes. It's about delivering Labour Party propaganda in the most destructive, irresponsible way with no regard to the tax base.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bring It On, You Bolshevist Cocksuckers!

Ah, now we have an election date. September 17. Woo-hoo.

Watch the pinkos squirm as they say goodbye to the government benches for at least another nine years. View Labour cannibalise itself as it seeks to attribute blame for the last six years of graft and back-handers to every minority, fringe group it could fine. See Helen weep as she departs Premier House. Witness Trevor Mallard sour-talk his way out of office. Hail the Socialists' demise!

Yes, folks. It's only two years ago that the commentators were forecasting that National would spend another half-decade in opposition.

Now it's Labour's turn to face electoral wrath. And those subversive, anti-capitalist, anti-success shit-heads deserve it.

In just seven weeks' time, election day will be upon us. Before you go into the polling booth, ask yourself this simple question. "What has a Labour Government ever done for ME?"

And unless you're part of the Maori elite, a long-term welfare beneficiary, a trade unionist, a fringe artist, or one of the small coterie of Auntie Helen's special friends, it's pretty certain what the answer will be.

What is most telling in the Prime Minister's statement is that while she talks about spending more money--in the "basics of health, education, and services for older citizens and families, infrastructure, and law and order...", she doesn't once mention taxpayers, or those who have contributed to New Zealand's economic success. Instead, she claims that the election will be about "leadership, credibility, and values".

Fact is, Labour has not created any extra value in health, education, for families, infrastructure, or law and order. Health services are no better than they were six years ago. Education has been a hulking black hole into which money has been poured, with reduced standards in fundamental areas, and no standards in otheres. Older citizens and families have not received any benefits--unless they're social welfare beneficiaries, in which case Labour has encouraged them to remain dependent on the State. Infrastructure has gone backwards: government-owned energy assets have been hampered by resource management restrictions, and roading projects are facing massive delays while regulatory bodies continue to put minority interests ahead of national economic interest. And LAW AND ORDER? I BEG YOUR PARDON?

Bring it on, Auntie Helen. Your government shows no leadership whatsoever. Whenever you advance a policy issue that flies against public opinion, you run for cover.

Your Cabinet has no credibility: at a time when the economy can afford tax relief for those who have created our economic prosperity, you kick them in the teeth, claiming that there is no money left after you have flooded low-quality government spending with money that doesn't belong to you.

And VALUES? Well, that's just a mish-mash word trying to excuse the fact that you have no policy.

More Stupid Pinkos. . .

Check out this guy. Again, demonstrating that socialists are too stupid to understand cause and effect. But let's dissect his stupid opinions for a moment, in case you momentarily found his non-argument slightly convincing.

Firstly, this dipshit reckons that participants in the "work for the dole" scheme had employment outcomes that were "noticeably poorer" than those not on the scheme. Ah, but wait a moment! He's not considering the fact that it was only long-term unemployed who took part in the scheme, and in fact, long-term unemployed have noticeably poorer employment outcomes than temporarily unemployed people. And why is that? Because, in the main, long-term unemployed are unwilling and incapable of working. They have created a lifestyle for themselves, which they have no intention of continuing. Of course, they object to having to get out of bed and off their arses and contribute to society. Ain't taking responsibility for your own life a bitch!

The second point suggests that New Zealand monetary policy has, as a key goal, a minimum level of unemployment in order to reach inflation targets. This is an example of voodoo economics. The reality is that wage growth does not always affect inflation. Wage growth without productivity growth is inflationary. But when an unemployed person moves into a productive job, that person improves total economic output. Meanwhile, union demands for wages to rise irrespective of productivity improvements causes alarming inflationary results. It is ironically union calls for across-the-board wage increases, without reference to productivity growth, that will cause the Reserve Bank to increase interest rates, causing businesses to cut back employment, and more low-wage workers will find their jobs vulnerable. In short, policies designed to push unproductive, unemployed people into productive jobs create wealth and help low-income people. Union bullying pushing up wages without higher productivity reduces wealth and damages low-income people. Yes, it's true. Union activities harm low-wage workers.

Here's a thought. . .

So Tariana Turia has waded out of the child immunisation debate, and into the pensions one. Amusing call that many Maori, who live shorter lives, should get their pensions five years earlier.

By the same argument, Asian New Zealanders, who live the longest, should get their pensions later. So too should women.

Strangely, Mrs Turia has not made the link between Maori and total welfare expenditure. Perhaps a fairer policy, if we're going to go down the racial division of welfare money, would be to allocate to Maori in welfare expenditure, their proportion of the tax take.

The Real Domestic Threat

One of the biggest lies of the Left is that participation in the Iraq War would make New Zealand a target of terrorism.

Apart from the sheer cowardice of such a statement--that we should sacrifice our values of freedom and democracy just because our opponents resort to terror and tyranny--the analysis is flawed.

Pinko commie peaceniks have no credibility when it comes to issues of war. Those nancy-boys and girls are the first to duck and hide whenever it comes to signing up and putting their own lives on the line, and then they bitch and moan that those who are brave enough to fight for freedom muster the courage to do so.

But that's just an aside. The real issue is that while the Left claim to care about freedom and democracy, they aren't prepared to back up their words with action. The nonsensical idea that Saddam would have succumbed to world pressure--diplomacy--despite never having worked with any other tyrant, anywhere else on earth, does not concern them. As much as they would like to state that they are on the side of liberty, the fact is that unless you are prepared to stand up against terrorism, you are in fact tacitly supporting it.

The stupidest claim to come from liberals is that New Zealand would become a target of terrorism if we sent troops to Iraq. That argument slightly ignores the reality that we have had troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and that terrorists do not distinguish between combat and non-combat troops. Still, we have not been a target.

Cause and effect are difficult concepts for liberals to understand. And there is no evidence that participation in military endeavours against terrorist elements in the Middle East causes domestic terror at home. Yes, Britain has recently been targeted by Muslim terrorists, and yes, it has participated in Iraq. So has the United States been targeted, as has Spain.

But that's not the end of the story. France, one of the major opponents of the War on Terror, has been subjected to terrorist attack. So too has Russia. The conclusion: refusal to participate in actions against Iraqi insurgents does not make a country immune to terrorist attack.

Although the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Russia, India and Saudi Arabia all have markedly different foreign policies towards Iraq, and various levels of domestic public sentiment towards participation or otherwise in the war, they have all been subjected to Islamic threat.

If we look at countries that have favoured military intervention in Iraq--and the list is a long one--the voice against terror is a loud one. Former East European countries, such as Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the former Yoguslavia, and Romania are particularly supportive of US-led intervention. They have backed up their support with action. Their domestic populations have largely favoured government support. And there's good reason for this.

Countries that previously lived under the tyranny of communism understand how important it is to liberate oppressed peoples. They have suffered under outrageously cynical and self-serving regimes that exploited their people in the name of ideology, and preached to the rest of the world that all was happy and merry in the Communist Bloc. The heirs of the same long-haired hippies who criticised Ronald Reagan for taking a hard-line against Communism in the 1980s never got to hear the true Eastern voice, as it had been silenced for so long. But it is the same voice, in albeit a different accent, that has suffered under Saddam and Islamic fundamentalism, and is seeking the same rights and liberties that socialist-loving Left-wingers take for granted in Western democracies.

Eastern Europeans treasure their new-found freedoms. They treasure them, and are prepared to defend those freedoms for all peoples, because they know the reality of living in terror. They know that mere diplomacy did little to affect their plight under the iron fist of Soviet communism: it was only the threat of force that crushed the Union and allowed them to set their own destiny.

So back to the question. Why is it that countries that have not supported the War on Terror have been targeted, while many countries that have supported the war have been immune from threat? Well, there are two parts to that answer.

Firstly, there is widespread public support for military intervention within those countries. There is no liberal elite jumping up and down trying to convince the populations that they are wrong, when reality dictates otherwise. People in the former Eastern Bloc understand that in order to gain liberty and freedom, there is a cost to be paid. And they are prepared to pay that cost, with force, if necessary. Threat of terrorist repurcussions does not cower them. They are brave, and prepared to stand by their beliefs and motives.

Secondly, the likes of Bulgaria and Romania are still not on the world radar. The reason that France is targeted by terrorists is not because of its world view on terrorism, but because France has a reputed tradition of freedom and liberty. France's other tradition, of cowardly backing down against military threat whenever it has counted, is what makes France a particularly attractive hit. Attacks in Paris make world headlines. They also make Parisians even more frightened of standing up against the threat.

On the other hand, Prague is used to being threatened. Warsaw has been decimated before. The inhabitants of Sofia become stronger when under attack. Apart from the fact that terrorists seek to maximise world exposure of their actions--a hit in Eastern Europe would never get the same effect as it would in the West--such an attack would not change domestic public opinion. If anything, it would harden their resolve.

Terrorists learned the lesson of the September 11 attacks. The Taliban is almost non-existent now, because it chose a soft target in a hard country. The United States whacked back, because Americans are strong and resilient, and have proved time and time again that they will stand up to protect their own interests when it counts, and will take unilateral action even in the face of negative public opinion, when it sees fit, for the greater good. That hard-line attitude by the world's one remaining superpower is resented by many, yet the Left refuse to understand that it is exactly that hard-line attitude by the one superpower that guarantees us the little security that we have in the world today. To the same extent, civilians in Eastern Europe are a soft target, but the people are hard enough to withstand that threat.

So what would be the consequences of New Zealand if it participated in the War against Terror? Well, the reality is that New Zealand would become a target of terrorism. But not as a consequence of its participation--because it is a target already. What makes New Zealand a target for terrorists is our belief in freedom and democracy--but our unwillingness to back that commitment up with action. We are still under a heavy liberal influence, which would buckle at any sign of terrorist threat. Unlike Australia, which participates in the world and pulls its weight, New Zealand's liberal agenda has made us soft and lacking in resilience.

And that's the great tragedy. It isn't New Zealand's actual stance in the world that makes us a terrorist threat, but the cowardice of liberal New Zealanders who, instead of supporting our international actions, constantly seek to undermine them, and give terrorists the belief that we will roll over at the slightest threat.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Sergeant Bacon Intelligence Test #294823

I admire the job that our loyal police officers do in our society. Really, I do. I think they're underpaid, under-resourced, under-valued, and earlier today, they were under here.

Listen up, boys and girls. There is no more important job you can do for your country than to join the local police force. Sure, you will need to learn some important life skills at school before you sign up: you will have to know how to wrestle a very drunk dwarf, have a good telephone manner, be respectable towards chicks--even ugly ones--and be able to recite the third article of Te Tiriti O Waitangi backwards, in Mandarin.

There are many different areas you could specialise in as a police officer. You could become a speed camera technician. You could join the drug squad, and then sue the government because unlike Bill Clinton, you've actually inhaled. If you're a particularly sharp cookie, you could join the criminal investigations bureau. Then again, if you just like beating the bejeezus out of street kids, there are abundant possibilities to work as a community constable in a remote rural area. And if both your eyes happen to point in the same direction when you look at an object, you may well be recruited to work on a promotional campaign displaying the hazards of loutish white trash who have nothing better to do on a Friday night than harass ordinary citizens who are going about their public duty of urinating in the street while pissed. Except, provided you're white, and loutish, you will be in uniform.

But prepare yourself for the isolation of being an upholder of the law. Detractors may claim that the reason you're out on a Friday night enforcing stupid council bylaws, such as "public order", and non-drinking regulations, is that you are too stupid to make real friends, and that you couldn't find your tiny penis in order to engage in urination of your own. But do not listen to such nay-sayers. Beat them up, and lock them up, and then go and squat while you take a pee. Or use a funnel. Because being the good cop is an honourable task that can only be carried out by the cream of civilisation.

And do not listen to those who point out that with height and intelligence restrictions removed, that any stupid fucker who didn't have the balls to start his own security company could become a policeman. You're starting your security company the correct way: by spending fifteen years on the force, you can fake an injury, and get paid by the taxpayer to start your own private thuggery business. That is the right road to roam.

But before you progress with your application to join the constabulary, I would like you to write an essay on how you would have handled the following scenario. I cannot guarantee that any intelligent responses will necessarily lead to rapid promotion on your part, because being a good and diligent police officer is about much more than simply possessing intellect, reason, or talent. But it will be a useful, real-life test for you all the same:

This morning a client was due to visit me in my office at 11am this morning. He was some ten minutes late, and I was beginning to write him off as a waste of space--since it's my duty to keep him waiting, and not the other way around. As I was gazing out my office window, I noticed that the street was very quiet. People were wandering about--a few less than normal, but still a reasonably steady flow. I watched a little longer, and after a while, realised what was missing: cars.

Yes, that's right. Queen Street was empty of vehicles. I looked around a little further, and realised the street had been cordoned off.

So I went downstairs, and saw a couple of police officers milling about. So in my normal, polite manner, I said (and here I am paraphrasing): "Excuse me, officer. What seems to be the problem here?"

The constable answered, in equally hospitable tones (I note, much more hospitably than the tone I normally receive when I am sobriety-deficient, and am in possession of a traffic cone or a street sign which I have not legally purchased): “We have a bomb scare across the road. Somebody left a suspicious package outside the bank.”

So I look across to the bank, and realise that this is indeed a truthful police officer who has not taken lightly his duty to be honest and helpful with concerned citizens. Because, boys and girls, I can see for my very eyes that there is a suspicious package outside the bank, just fifteen metres away from me. “Ummm. Why is this package suspicious?” I ask.

“Because we don’t know what it is,” the constable answers. “It could be a bomb.”

I look again at the suspicious package. I concede that he is correct on that point, also. It COULD be a bomb. “Do you really think it IS a bomb?” I probe further.

“Nah. Probably some bum just left his pile of junk,” this esteemed member of the Fuzzery ripostes.

“Okay, well, I’ll leave you to it, then,” I say, as I turn back into my building and take the lift back up to my floor. I relate this story back to my colleagues, who are mildly entertained for a few moments, and then return to their work.

At approximately twelve hundred hours—an hour or so later—an unidentified suspect, who otherwise looked not-so-suspiciously like my building manager, came into my office and reported that my building was being evacuated. “I see,” I answer. “Why would that be, then?”

“Because they evacuated all the other buildings nearby twenty minutes ago, because of a bomb scare, and the police didn’t realise that this building was next to the bomb.”

“I see,” I ponder, ponderously. “Did they somehow not see this fifteen-story building?”

I did not get a satisfactory answer to that question from the building manager. I am seriously considering lodging a complaint to the body corporate on that issue. But I digress. So I gathered some documents that I thought I might need over the next fifteen minutes or so, and took a few more minutes to print out some further papers that I might possibly find useful. I was very leisurely. So, it seemed, was everybody else, because I was not the last to leave my office. My lift stopped on every floor on the way down, as other people had taken longer than I had to get my stuff together, decided it was a spectacularly good idea to take the lift. I sneered at the lazy bastards on the third and fourth floors who hadn’t taken the stairs. “It’s a fucking bomb scare. You’re not supposed to use the lifts,” I informed them without the slightest hint of hypocrisy to my manner.

And then we milled around the building for five minutes, before another constable asked us to move back. I stopped him and we talked for a few minutes about bomb-making techniques. He told me how bombs could be made from ordinary household items—nail polish remover and hair bleach. I asked him what the fuck kind of psycho cross-dressing pig he was to be in possession of nail polish remover and hair bleach. And then I stepped back and my team and I went off to the pub for a long, liquid lunch.

Two hours later, the cordon was removed, and we were all allowed back in our building.

Now, here’s the test, which will determine whether you will be a successful police strategist, or whether you lack the intellect to perform as a police officer, and should be advised to join a force in an overseas jurisdiction. In light of current events overseas regarding terrorist attacks involving bombs, which of the following would you do, if you were a policeman:

1. Do precisely as our loyal long arms of the law did this morning, and take an hour and a half to clear the area once notified of a suspicious package?

2. Stop and calmly talk to all passers-by about bomb-making techniques, while in the direct, immediate potential blast-zone of the potential bomb?

3. Allow passers-by to walk directly into the alleged bomb zone, and straight past the suspicious package, before deciding that the package was sufficiently suspicious to effectively shut down half of the financial district for two hours before not actually detonating the package and declaring it as non-suspicious?

4. Or would you hope, as an officer of the state, that the police would have a clear plan and strategy to deal with suspicious packages, and have emergency procedures in place to clear the area immediately and deal with the package as soon as possible?

Like all intelligence tests, there is, of course, no absolutely right or wrong answer. Of course, you could well argue that the Police could have used this opportunity to show the community that they know how to handle acts of potential terrorism. But that argument is no more valid, when you think about it, than sending a policeman to attend a 111 callout. And we know that there are many good arguments against that.

Friday, July 15, 2005

From the Crazy Shrinks File. . .

Prominent Connecticut psychologist Lisa Berzins, an American authority on eating disorders and self-esteem issues among young women, has been arrested for allegedly huffing in the supermarket.

This story is just too funny. Yet another reminder to start running whenever somebody tells you they've studied psychology. Bag of cats, people. Bag of cats!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Six Rules To Executive Success

Since I’ve started writing this blog, I have received a lot of correspondence from readers who want to learn the secrets of my success in life. Realising that I have some important information to impart to this world, and before I drink myself to death, I will start small. Don’t want to break off more than I can chew.

The key to becoming a valued employee in your organization is to misbehave. Many academics will talk about productivity and value, and profitability, but these issues are red herrings. The true measure of your performance is not how much good you’re doing for your employer, but how much bad you get away with.

The thrust of this view-point is the general philosophy that you own your own intellectual worth. It assumes that you are actually capable and diligent enough to do the job for which your employers pay you—if you wanted to—and that even if you were fired for your bad behaviour, or if you just got bored working with the assholes that you work with—you could very easily pick up a job somewhere else. You do not fear job insecurity.

I’m not advocating that you lie, cheat, and steal from your boss. Far from it. The trick is to be open with your mis-deeds. If nobody saw you shag your new hot receptionist, then for all intents and purposes, it didn’t happen. It can only ever become a rumour. And rumours about you are bad. Very bad. Rumours provoke curiosity. Curiosity leads to investigations. And investigations become a critical analysis of your bad behaviour, in isolation from the good things you are doing for your company.

Rule Number 1 of success as a workplace asshole: Make Sure You Get Caught.

Associated with the first Rule, is the second principle in making your mark in your company. Always Take The Blame. Make sure that whenever something is broken, or whenever the IT guy reports that an excessive amount of porn traffic has been coming through the computer network recently, that you are the first person they suspect. If your company is the kind of place that would actually fire you for such misdemeanours, then they’re a bunch of anally-retentive cocksuckers who don’t deserve your patronage anyway. By being the first person everybody blames for the slightly inappropriate, this will diminish the seriousness of major liabilities.

The Third Rule is to Always Be Prepared To Walk. This is the ultimate in risk-taking. When you start with your employer, tell him that you don’t give a fuck about what the Employment Relations Act says about unjustified dismissal or personal grievances. If you are acting sufficiently badly, then you should rightly be the source of any number of personal grievances. But say to your boss that you accept that they have made an investment in the business, and that if at any point they don’t feel that you’re of value, you’d like to be told so that you can walk quietly. That’s taking responsibility for yourself, and who you are. Your credibility will rise exponentially. Importantly, this attitude demonstrates to your boss that you understand your value: they will overlook transgressions if they know that they don’t have to keep a count and record of them in order to find reasons to get rid of you.

Become The Person HR Wants To Fire. If you work in a company with an HR department, make yourself the object of their disaffection. HR people are the security guards of the organization: they would have liked to have become cops if they were smart enough or tall enough (and there are some pretty stupid and short-arsed cops around); they impose stupid rules that have nothing to do with the organisation’s values in order to demonstrate their own self-worth; and whenever a real crisis happens, they throw away their cap-guns and start running. All good hiring managers know that HR is the place you put people who are spectacularly unproductive, and do not listen to what they say. Become the person that HR complains about to senior managers, and your organizational stock will increase significantly. The best way to get noticed by the CEO is when you’re having drinks on a Friday, and he comes up to you and congratulates you for being such an asshole to HR.

Be Argumentative. If somebody says something that you disagree with, or if you’re just bored, see it as an opportunity to get into a shit-fight. Case in point: for the last week, a colleague of mine, who sits near me, has been telling colleagues, clients and associates that she is working on the biggest project of its kind, that has ever taken place in the WORLD. It’s a bold call. It’s a ridiculous claim, really. Finally, this afternoon, I’d had enough of the mindless statement. So I snapped. I said loudly to her, so that everybody could hear: “Jane, that’s fascinating. Do you have a list of the second and third largest projects of this kind that have ever taken place, in the WORLD?”

Get Ridiculously Drunk At Office Gatherings. This is the best rule ever invented. Again, if they’re the kind of people who’d give you notice for getting drunk at office gatherings, then they really should go fuck themselves anyway. A few weeks ago, my team went off to Waiheke Island to celebrate a good month’s work. We started drinking at nine-thirty in the morning. Well, I did. The other fuckers didn’t start until we were on the ferry.

We were all pretty civil, until we got on the boat to come back, after a good seven solid hours of boozing. The company chairman came down to the bar with his much younger, and quite tidy wife. Now, I don’t know about you, but I consider it bad manners for big-wigs to invade at the end of a booze-up. So highlight those bad manners by being particularly ill-behaved.

My response was to tell her quite loudly that she was far too hot for him, and that she should think about getting a much younger toy-boy. I even told her I’d make room for her in my schedule each Monday, if that suited. Company chairman felt cuckolded, but laughed it off.

During the boozing session, I managed to get into a fist-fight with one of my directors (I started it!); put my finger in another director’s mouth while he was in full conversational flight (to shut him up and start talking about ME again); broke off pieces of ice sculpture in the Ice Bar and put them in my drink, to cool down; yelled at, and slapped repeatedly, a new guy at the office who couldn’t remember the name I had started calling myself; got thrown out of two pubs; made a pass at all of the hot chicks who happened to be near and denigrated any boyfriends they may have had; and hurled abuse at any colleague as soon as they announced they were leaving.

And why haven’t I been fired? HAVE YOU NOT BEEN GETTING ANY OF THIS? Because, dear reader, if you make enough of an asshole of yourself at work, then people will just assume that you are outstandingly good at what you do, to justify the fact that you are still there. In fact, they will be disappointed in you if you don’t act like a prick.

The Bright Side to Graham Capill's Soft Sentence

Two positive elements emerge from Graham Capill's sentence of nine years for rape in the Christchurch District Court today.

On the one hand, he will not serve a full term in prison. He will be placed in a special unit for sex offenders to protect him from the rest of the inmate community, and be eligible for home detention after three years. Which is a shame, really. Such an odious figure deserves to have the bejeezus pummeled out of him while he's in jail. Vigilante justice isn't always a good solution, but it's far more just than the velvety gloves that will envelope him in the sex offenders' unit.

The gentleness with which this manipulative paedophile has been treated is not, however, the whole story. Graham Capill lead a cult church, and a cult political movement, for the last twenty years. He is used to having people pawn and preen over him. He has been pampered and indulged by all those around him, who never threatened to challenge him. That is how he managed to get away with his predatory sex offending for fifteen years.

Even in the molly-coddled environment of prison life among other child abusers and rapists, Capill will face different hardships. His creepy moral indignation, which he wore like a string of war medals, is dead. And so is everything that Capill ever stood for. His life work is destroyed.

Capill is now the epitome of human frailty. A pathetic character who preached personal responsibility, while refusing to face up to his own demons. Like the school bully who is confronted by his actions, Capill is a coward. The most telling sight was his whimpering after taking a biff outside the District Court earlier this year. Blabbering like a child, the sight of him bawling gave us all some hope. Made me want to get in there and punch him out: not because it would give justice to his victims, but because he's such a pissant, pathetic creature who needs his spinelessness beaten out of him.

The reality is that Graham Capill won't physically survive three months in prison, let alone three years. He doesn't have the moral courage to stomach it. In the sense that for all intents and purposes, it is a life sentence for him, the sentence is fair.

The second point, however, is the hypocrisy of the Government ignoring overwhelming public calls for stiffer prison terms. It is this Government's policy to release non-violent criminals after a third of their sentence. That does not sit easily with voters, and if National needed an opportunity to come out firing with their tough line on criminals, Graham Capill's sentence is the perfect opportunity. And while the politically correct, liberal pinko commies in Government will claim that they're listening, the three years for Graham Capill speaks for itself.

And it's not good enough for Government to blame the judiciary. They will try, of course. But as long as Parliament offers the judiciary discretion with respect to violent and sexual crimes, the judiciary will respond with leniency. Parliament's only response is to remove eligibility for parole for violent and sexual offenders, and ensure that criminals actually serve the sentence that communities demand are imposed.

Labour submits itself to the liberal agenda, which panders to the the most destructive elements in society and allows them to literally get away with murder. And precious middle New Zealand will blame Labour for being soft on crime. Thanks to Capill, that has made the treatment of criminals one of the lightening rods for this election.

It wasn't the way he intended to make his mark in politics, but finally Capill has achieved something remarkable.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I GOT MENTAL PROBLEMS? WADDABOUT YOUR MENTAL PROBLEMS?

Journalists always need a stand-by. The feature piece they can dust off every time they're going through a slow news week, or when their slightly defamatory investigative report on the local MP who supports an underground kiddie-fiddling network gets held up by the lawyers. Normally, these reserve articles are hot-beds of crack-pottedness: interviews with fringe artists and cult religious leaders, theories on the origins of species, or how fat kids are getting fatter because they're too lazy to go and boot a rugby ball around the street.

They're not real stories. We already know about the issues, and just don't frigging care. The solutions are either non-existent, or are so insignificant to our daily lives that the effort involved in turning back the clock seriously outweighs any serious consideration of fixing the problem. Global warming? Apart from the flawed science (which is ignored by the Green liberal lobby), global warming doesn't affect me, and frankly, I don't care. I do care when the Government taxes me more and gives that money to Russia, as a penalty for my economic success. But this is not particularly a rant against Kyoto.

Triple Bottom Line reporting used to be a business journalists' favourite topic: they got to hob-knob with mediocre business people who took a holier-than-thou attitude and did their best to portray themselves as moral crusaders fighting the good war against evil. Triple Bottom Line businesses were kind to their environment, caring to their employees, and benevolent towards charitable causes. We knew all of this because they claimed it was a fundamental part of their business strategy. Seldom did these companies talk about their customers, or, shock horror, their shareholders.

The New Zealand Companies Act 1993 is typical of all legislative regimes within a capitalist society. Directors have duties not to act recklessly, to discontinue trading when there is a potential loss to creditors, to keep accurate accounting records, and to act with diligence and skill. In brief, the role of company directors is to act in the best interests of the company at all times.

This regime recognises that companies create wealth, and that businesses will only attract investors when those investors believe they are going to receive an economic return from that investment. Making money is what businesses are good at. They're not particularly good at distributing wealth--because it is inherently contrary to the interests of the company, and the entire market system. Which is why Triple Bottom Line reporting is flawed: in principle, it doesn't work. If people want to give their money away, they might as well just voluntarily increase their tax payment, or give it to Bob Geldof.

In practice, over the past few years, Triple Bottom Line--despite some touchy-feely proponents such as Dick Hubbard and Stephen Tindall--doesn't work either. TBL companies have been exposed as a con: TBL is a marketing gimmick, often proposed by companies that want to distract from their poor economic performance by claiming they are doing good things for the community.

Take, for example, the treatment of employees. Businesses for Social Responsibility will claim that they have special obligations towards their workers. But this is illogical. In the market system, if my boss is a cocksucker, I will go and work elsewhere. I don't need him to care about me any more than is his legal obligation to pay me for the work I do. Common sense says that bad employers face lower productivity, lower staff retention, and higher costs. As an employer, it's not in my corporate interest to treat my good employee like crap.

Now take my community. If I am exposed as a polluter of my local environment, my customers will get pissed off, and not buy my products anymore. That is not sensible, either. But it has nothing to do with social responsibility. It is all about maximising my commercial value by not acting recklessly against my shareholders, employees, and customers. By acting in ways that are contrary to my commercial interest, I am undermining my brand.

Dick Hubbard proudly stated that he did not spend a single dollar on advertising his cereals at Hubbard Foods. Yes, perhaps. But he did devote a lot of time conning people into believing that he was a nice guy to buy breakfast from. He knew his brand. He went about establishing committees and groups that were dedicated to similar causes as himself. He got substantial media exposure when he took his factory workers--once, eight years ago--on a trip to Samoa. It was a cunning business strategy, designed to maximise his commercial interests. I salute him for such cunning. But companies who claim to be outstandingly more moral than others set themselves up for the ultimate fall.

The loudest proponents of Triple Bottom Line reporting throughout the world have diminished the philosophy, and exposed "social responsibility" as a corporate scam. Cases such as Enron--which trumpeted itself as taking care of its "stakeholders", paraded as one of the ten best companies to work for in the United States, and as an environmentally-responsible corporate--was engaged in the biggest financial collapse and corporate fraud in US history. Enron created an image of friendliness and benevolence--which was unquestioned by the media and the public, as long as they continued to claim that they were nice, warm, fuzzy people and criticised corporate greed.

Since Enron, among other major corporate shysters who distinguish themselves only by being far removed from the accountabilities of delivering shareholder value as their prime objective--we haven't heard much about Triple Bottom Line reporting. And that is a good thing. Whenever you ask a business manager about their profitability, and they attempt to steer the conversation towards how much care they about their communities and their "stakeholders", then you should stab that manager. He is lying to you. And even if he isn't lying, and is being genuinely honest about his personal motives, then you should still stab him, because he is not creating wealth, has lost all connection with his shareholders who believed that he was actually making money for them. If he doesn't feel proud about making money for his shareholders, that business manager is a waste of space.

The new bandwagon that media have been jumping on of late has been the supposed existence of the corporate psychopath: it's an easy story, because we've all worked with people we don't like, and it makes us feel better about our own insecurities to label them as mentally unstable. Australia's publicly-funded ABC Online have even come up with a survey on what constitutes a corporate psychopath, along with the unfounded claim that "one in ten managers is a psychopath".

It's psychobabble, of course. Caught up in the whirlwind of depicting business-people as evil, left-wing reporters who have never had to face the pressures of being successful in a successful organisation, are easy targets for the kind of demented theories that wannabe psychology gurus come up with to get their own names in the paper.

One of the things that struck me at university was the extent to which psychology students were freaks. They were deeply disturbed individuals. The guys were invariably geeky and closeted: the only friends they had were a small coterie of themselves. They didn't actually talk to each other. They talked over each other. About themselves. They played strategy games at the pub. When they did talk to normal people, they'd be constantly trying to assess the other person's mental state.

The chick psychology students were even more crazy. They had no concept of self-control. They studied clinical psychology because they wanted to understand their own mental problems, and felt that was the ideal basis for treating other nutcases. They had no social inhibitions--of which I normally approve--but they were all ugly. I am deeply uncomfortable around obese young women with eating disorders who are constantly trying to get into my pants.

So initially, I am deeply skeptical about assertions about the number of corporate psychopaths in the world today. Because those armchair diagnoses are coming from anti-business journalists with nothing more exciting to write about, and endorsed by second-rate psychologists who are making a name for themselves. But even putting those considerations aside, the analysis itself is shonky. Earlier this week, the Herald asked whether Lions coach Sir Clive Woodward is a psychopath. I'm not one to defend Sir Clive--and I'm not doing so here, but the reasoning used to support that argument is the same that is commonly used with respect to "corporate psychopaths":

"There are eight classic "corporate psychopath" traits as identified by Hare and others, including insincere charm, arrogance, manipulation, pathological lying, a lack of remorse, a limited range of real emotions, callousness and the refusal to accept blame. "

And while, if you don't like Sir Clive, it is easy to diagnose him as having all of those traits, that is a subjective assessment. I say he is arrogant, because I do not like the style in which he presents himself. I believe he has a limited range of real emotions, because all the situations I have seen him in, he only ever displays that limited range of real emotions. Insincere charm? Haven't seen much charm at all from Sir Clive, but if I were to classify it as charm, it would only ever be of the insincere variety. Manipulation? Yes, absolutely. Sir Clive is absolutely manipulative, in every respect except that he's spectacularly unsuccessful at manipulating his audience, so it's not exactly manipulation. Pathological lying? Don't think so. He's merely presenting a view of his team that paints it in the best light.

In short, Sir Clive is doing his job as a coach and key spokesman for his multinational team, among a crowd of enemies. For various reasons, we don't like him, but the main reason for our dislike is that he coaches the enemy. And it's fun to call him a psychopath, because while we don't envy him at the moment, we do kinda envy the success he's had, and would much rather put that success down to deep-seated mental problems.

And so is much of the talk about corporate psychopaths. Disaffected, lack-lustre, mediocre workers who are envious of successful people in their organisation need to resort to a pop-psych reason that they have not succeeded in life.

Sounds like the typical psychological profile of a journalist, just quietly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Isn't This Guy Dead Yet?

No, apparently. There he was this afternoon at St Andrews on the Terrace, reviving long-disproved "economic" theories. I emphasise that word, because the claim from the left that Brian Easton is an economist is preposterous. He is nothing of the sort. No, dear reader. He's a pinko commie liberal, and an overweight and repulsive one at that, who feeds off Government grants and Government-funded research organisations to bleat his propaganda.

I was shocked to read that Brian Easton is still alive. Here was me, innocently assuming that some patriotic chap had finally lynched him for boring an entire community of Listener readers to death. But it warms my heart to see such a relic of the past attempt to claw his way back into the political debate.

It is one of the great joys of election time that characters previously considered extinct re-emerge every three years. Pseudo-intellectual "economists" attempt to impart their socialist political views as economic analysis. They invent obscure arguments along the lines of "a surplus isn't really a surplus", ignore the difference between capital and operating expenditure, and then pompously shout down as ignorant anybody who disagrees with them.

Not for them the basic facts of world economic truth, which has been relatively constant since the first cave-man decided to harvest a mammoth, and then got cranky when a few of his lazier cousins started demanding their "fair share". Not for Brian Easton the essence of economics: that people create wealth, rather than governments.

But let's have a look at one of Easton's recent statements:

"Governments do not deliberately encourage waste, and are prompt to deal with cases brought to their attention. There is no question that there is inefficiency in the government sector, just as there is in the private sector. "

No, Brian. Despite spending forty years on campus--some of us got away with just six--you have not learned some fundamental rules about reality. Labour Governments DO encourage waste. They will hide expenditure wherever they can, in the most obscure possible special causes, so that they can then claim that there is no money left for tax cuts. And they typically do not hide that expenditure in health and education--although even there there is considerable scope for economising. And comparing the private sector to the Government sector is just patently dishonest. The private sector is exposed to constant competitive pressure. If I allow inefficiency in my business, then my competitor will make more money than me, and be able to produce his goods and services more cheaply, and be able to drive me out of business. Government has no such commercial pressure. Government is the biggest monopoly in the New Zealand market, and as a monopoly that isn't subject to any commercial controls, it is inherently extremely inefficient.

But Easton continues with this gem:

"Some tertiary spending has been wasteful: short courses with little educational value, poorly monitored by the funder. The government is addressing the problem: hopefully it will redirect the savings into higher quality long term courses. A National government could use the savings for income tax cuts. That would be regrettable, because our tertiary sector is underfunded. To take the money from it would increase user charges on students."

Priceless stuff. And equally disingenuous. Hard to claim that the Government is addressing the problem, when after six years of the Tertiary Education Commission, which was supposed to improve education and standards, the standard of tertiary education has gone backwards. Easy, crude solution: abolish the TEC, abolish all publicly-owned tertiary providers with the exception of the seven original universities, and only fund non-University courses that have been partly-funded by Industry. Yes, that's right. Unless you're an apprentice who's being sponsored by an employer, you've got no right to waste your stupid life away on the Government purse, pursuing stupid happy-clappy "media studies", with no future. If you want to cut yourself off from the real world, pay for it yourself.

As for asserting that eliminating wasteful courses will increase user charges on students, that is simply illogical, Brian! Listen up, Brian. I know you're bung-eyed, and all, but are you looking at me? WITH BOTH EYES? Just think about it, Brian. If Bob is doing a hip-hop course, and Jane is doing a business degree, and Bob's hip-hop course is eliminated, that doesn't mean that Jane's business degree becomes more expensive.

There are two hundred thousand students studying at polytechnics. Simple solution: cut them. Let's be easy on polytech students, and assume that a whole half of them are actually studying things that will get them a job down the track. So half of them move into industry-sponsored apprenticeship training, and the other half won't be wasting a half billion dollars of taxpayers' money.

Likewise, get rid of the wananga. They are a waste of space, full-stop. Seventy thousand students receiving tax-payer's money to learn obscure culture courses does not equate to good educational value. But let's pretend, again, that half of the resource at Wananga can be redistributed to the high-value academic, university institutions. There, you've just saved another hundred and fifty million.

Then scrap the Tertiary Education Commission. Get rid of all the mindless bureaucrats who have caused tertiary education to go backwards, despite massive increases in funding. Then bring in some fiscally astute and responsible people--twenty should do it--to monitor expenditure across the sector. There. Another hundred million saved.

And woooo! Guess what! We've already paid for substantial tax cuts!

It's not hard to do, Brian. As long as you're not limp-wristed and looking for every excuse possible to rob the taxpayer of what he's rightfully earned for himself and his family.

Monday, July 11, 2005

The Eternal Search For Greater Stupidity

A week after starting work, I told the new PA that she wouldn't be working here if I'd known that she were vegetarian. For the same reason I wouldn't knowingly hire a Bhuddist, a Labour Party supporter, or an ugly person, non meat-eaters are frankly beyond the pale.

I admit that I am a walking human rights commission complaint. Thankfully, while human rights legislation forbids discrimination on the basis of age, sex, sexual orientation, or religious belief, in this case, there is no specific regulatory impediment that says I cannot take dietary preference into account when deciding who should work for me.

Vegetarianism is a sign of major personality flaws. Specifically, if a person feels so strongly about animals that she thinks it a perfectly acceptable hobby to go out and feed stray cats, then that person is fucked in the head. "Don't you think you're better off poisoning the little fuckers so that they stop killing native birds?" I ask.

"No," she says. "Cats are so cute, and they have a right to life."

"It's that kind of comment that will compel you to live all your life on this earth in mediocrity," I answer.

I put up with her mindless crap day in and day out. She has a screensaver of three kittens standing next to each other, all looking up at something. The other day I told her that if I were taking that photo, I would have snapped away, and then taken a scythe and killed three cats with one blade.

Far be it for me to sound controversial, but I just do not get people who form relationships with pets simply because they are incapable of relating to ordinary people. It's sick, and for far too long these people have been tolerated and protected by society.

Having a pet is not normal. It is unnatural to have a dog as your best friend. A cat is even less useful. Unless you have a dog to bite burglars, or a cat to eat mice, then you are seriously demented. Or, you need to seriously get some real friends. If you have so little control over your life that you need to compensate by having a pet that you can tell what to do, then you are afflicted with serious mental problems.

Incidentally, I was having an argument with another colleague--another vegetarian, who was upset because one of her cats died at the age of seventeen. I told her that I was disgusted that she put so much affection into a non-human. Then she ranted back that she finds animals much better than people, and that she'd choose a cat over a human child any day. "Good thing your parents didn't think the same way," I mused, and then proceeded to plan the rest of my week in such a way as to be eating a different variety of meat at lunchtime every day. One of the advantages of working among a bevvy of Chinese food establishments. The high point of that week was when she asked me what the smell from my lunch-box was. As I stuffed a bit in my mouth, I reported: "The guy who sold it to me called it 'Suckling Pig', but I suspect it barked before it was beheaded."

Vegetarians and animal rights activists are typically socialist, and green-party supporting. In both respects, they have no concept of the real world. They will quite happily support obscure, quite futile, and anti-human causes, and then complain that we're not doing enough to support starving people. "Send them a can of corned beef," I typically answer. And THEN they have the gall to complain that their performance-related work incentive hasn't been properly authorised by their union representative.

Worst of all, as a group, vegetarians cannot deal with stressful situations. This is a crucial flaw in any business context. When a client wants something right NOW, they don't care whether or not the budgie is looking peakish. Because vegetarians have not had to deal with the real-world pressures of life, and assume that the world owes them a GE-free lifestyle, they have no right to claim to be treated as ordinary human beings. Because they're not. And it's time we stopped pandering to them.

On Tuesday, my vegetarian junior colleague reported that she was late to the office that day because she had to drop her partner off to work first. "Don't really care why you're late," I say, "but I suppose you're going to tell my why anyway, huh?"

And then she proceeded to tell me. The story goes like this. About six weeks ago, her boyfriend bought a car from auction. He didn't have the cash to pay in cash, since living his left-wing lifestyle, he doesn't have enough ambition in life to have a job that affords such privileges. So instead, he turned to a credit card, which had just arrived on his door-step with a six thousand dollar credit limit.

Now, a responsible person who earns forty grand a year might ask themselves how they are going to repay six grand at twenty-two percent interest if they max out their card immediately. But not this chap. Armed with his new Visa, he buys himself a Subaru Legacy. It's a great deal at auction. It's so cheap, because he bought it wholesale. That's what he tells himself. Oh, and he's such a good negotiator.

A week after buying the car, without either an AA check or a mechanical break-down warranty, because he's so good at spotting a great deal, the car starts making noises. Yes. With forty-one thousand kilometres, the mystery fault is two CV joints. CV joints are directly related to the wear and tear on a vehicle: they typically go at around a hundred and twenty thousand kilometres. Eight hundred dollars later, and the vegetarian's boyfriend hasn't learned any lessons in this car-owning endeavour yet.

But that is just a prelude to the boy's stupidity. On Tuesday, the PA says that the reason she was late was the car got stolen that night.

"Oh, that will be a relief for you both," I say. "The odometer was fraudulently wound back, and you couldn't have sued Turners for it, but at least you can get back what you paid for it on insurance, and do a mechanical check with your new car. Well done. Good news at last."

But no. "Actually, my boyfriend didn't insure the car."

I laughed out loud. I laughed so hard I almost sneezed. As I gathered myself after a good half hour, I asked her where it was when it was stolen. She then reported that it had been sitting on the street, because it was her turn that night to park her (insured) vehicle in the car-port. "Nice that you treat such things democratically," I say. "Have you dumped him for being so stupid?"

No. He's too lovely, apparently. Despite the fact that he bought a car he couldn't afford, on his credit card, didn't do a mechanical check on it, didn't insure it, and then left it outside in the street, even though Subaru Legacies are the most frequent target for car thieves.

And while I understand the hazard of generalising people, my experience of vegetarians is that they are all like that. They are simply incapable of making real-world decisions. Sure, they provide amusement in your work-place. But they should not ever be trusted with any decision-making authority.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Other War of the Worlds

Last night as I was finishing work, I opted to pop up across the road to take in a new "pic-cha". I often go alone. Seems to me pointless to take somebody else along, because it's not polite to talk to the other person when you're seated, and you don't have to put up with somebody beside you and have a spare seat on one side to stash your popcorn, and a spare seat on the other to put your lolly wrappers. I use both facilities liberally. Figure that if the frigging cinema complex is going to charge me fifteen bucks for a ticket, I should make all available use of the cleaning services.

While taking somebody on a hot date to a movie does have the distinct advantage of not having to listen to them talk for two hours, I firmly believe that if some chick is hot enough for me to take her out, it's a much better use of my time and money to be pouring alcohol into her, rather than popcorn.

Popcorn isn't what it used to be. Some vegetarian fucker has come along and removed all the butter. And although it's fresh and crunchy in a tooth-shattering kinda way, it has the flavour of staleness. As for the drink prices, which are positively usurious, the movie theatre should just be frigging honest and employ a Shakespearean Jewish character to serve people at the counter. Not even Shylock would have tried to charge nine dollars for a tiny ice cream that drips chocolate onto my shirt, stale-tasting popcorn, and a miniscule cup of coke that rapidly turns to watery cordial.

Last night was the War of the Worlds. As usual, I turned up knowing nothing about the film, apart from the fact it was expensive to make, and had some big-time Hollywood folksy types behind it. That's as much as I care about movies. Not the worst way to pass a couple of hours scoffing junk food, but a passive, mindless activity at best.

And so, passive and mindless was what I was hoping for. Call me old fashioned, but the best kinda flick you can just nod off to quietly and ignore. But not this movie. No. Not a chance.

In the push to make movies bigger and better and faster and stupider, Steven Spielberg has made a film that simply assaults the senses. Not wanting to spend money on a decent scriptwriter, he just turns up the volume. Not able to lend his hand at characterisation, he has a bunch of not-very-kosher aliens strobe-zapping as many people as they can strobe-zap, and then a few minutes later harvesting humans for food. Supposedly brilliant but evil creatures, they wait a million years underground to come up, and incinerate half their food supplies before they liquify what's left for their nutritional value. Doesn't quite compute, Steve. Methinks the laser guns were really just another means of keeping the audience awake.

Sure, the technology behind the film is outstanding, and the tripods are evil, and man has no show of beating the ugly alien fuckers. But unlike Independence Day, which had actors and characters strong enough to carry off the absurdity of the plot, and pulled off the suspension of disbelief, Spielberg has us seeing Tom Cruise find a way of bringing the evil aliens down. Excellent, I think. Man's going to win this through his own ingenuity.

But no. Then, just as man's figured out a way of bringing down those mighty machines, they all die out on their own. And it's all too sudden. There's no clue or lead-up to it. It's as if the director ran out of time, and pulled out the "And Then He Woke Up" strategy. Man had nothing to do with it. These super-smart ET-types, for some reason, buried themselves into the ground a million years ago, and decided they'd start feasting on us now. Great technology, and all. But couldn't work out that whole immunity to natural organisms thing.

I don't fucking care that that was how the book was written. To expose the same ending a hundred and seven years later in the film makes the audience feel cheated. In the same way that the pathetic allegories to 9/11--the dust-covered swarms of people running, terrified from falling buildings, the crashed plane, and the walls of photos of the missing, doesn't do it for me. Frankly, if these really clever aliens couldn't just nuke everybody at the start, then I don't frigging care what happens next.

So as I walked out of the theatre, I wasn't in a happy mood. I needed to piss on something. As is my habit when I'm sober, I have a preference for urinating in a specially-designated abode, built for such a purpose. Yet at 10:30pm on a Thursday night, as I wandered through the maze of upstairs-downstairs that is Sky City's cinema complex, I could not find such a place. Alas, my intention to miss the urinal and get some more value out of my ticket price passed me by.

It was deliberate, no doubt. Instead of classifying movies by how terrifying or graphic the violence or sex or drug use, or how loose the language, they should really start grading them on how cheated the viewer feels afterwards, and how much we want to take a slash on the cinema attendant.

So as I wandered home, as news was breaking on the radio about the multiple bombings in London, I reflected on the original Orson Welles radio play: the panic that he caused in pre-war US, and the pandemonium portrayed in its latest post-Al Queda cinematic interpretation from Spielberg. The English, on the whole, are decidedly more stoic and peaceful about terror. Just a day after, the Brits are getting on with their lives, brave in the face of evil in a way that limp-wristed Spielberg couldn't contemplate.

Bravo, chaps. Bravo.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Not Quite Getting The Point. . .

I'm the kinda guy who is easily distracted. My eyes wander. Not in a bung-eyed, lazy-optic sort of way. But I don't particularly mind if I'm in a restaurant or a pub with a hot chick, if I start ignoring her silly babble and start perving at another hot chick. I will feel all warm that a chick is doing her best to fulfill her principle role in society, by staying hot, rather than simply letting herself go. Just as I will happily pretend to listen to a pinko commie rave about some new injustice that white men have placed on society, provided that she is hot. Not that it ever happens, tho', since invariably greenie/pinko chicks are hideous and butch. The grass is always greener, and all that.

Campbell Live on Tuesday night did a special on the environmental damage caused by white people throwing out perfectly good electronic equipment: computers, televisions, and cellphones. I emphasise that it was yet another attack on white people by a liberal, pinko, commie white presenter, who has nothing better to do with his time than make us all feel guilty for not being born in poverty with a horrid, disfiguring disease. John Campbell roped in a woman from Greenpeace China. This display intended to suggest that Greenpeace actually has a movement in China.

Convincing us that Greenpeace is a successful movement in China is the political equivalent of pushing a pile of panda shit up one of the Tibetan Himalayas, using a couple of broken toothpicks as chopsticks, using no Sherpas as guides. In the middle of winter. When the panda shit is runny, but for some strange reason, won't freeze.

Gotta respect the Chinese for their indifference to Greenpeace. So little attention is being paid to general environmental issues in China, that the one person in a billion who does actually care, has nothing better to do with her time than to come to New Zealand and speak to John Campbell. Apparently, having a couple of New Zealand Greenies speaking out about how the Chinese Government doesn't care that whole towns in China are willingly accepting European and American e-waste, despite an official government ban on the practice, is more valuable to Greenpeace than having Chinese people lobby their own government directly.

And right there, the Green movement has missed an ideal opportunity to convince the Chinese Government to pay more attention to the problem. Because pinko liberals do not understand human nature, they do not have an impact on the world policy debate where it matters. A much better strategy to get the Chinese to pay attention to Green issues would be to fly over Rod Donald and Sue Bradford, and present the two of them as the downstream by-products of e-waste. "Yes, Mr Wu. If you keep importing broken-down American motherboards and circuitry, your local villagers will start believing in obscure and illogical economic theories, and will lose all capacity to contribute to society. I present to you two examples of New Zealand's worst-affected e-waste victims."

And hopefully not let either of them back in.

Throughout John Campbell's oh-so-soft treatment of the Chinese greenpeace activist, there was an even more curious sight. Jim Tully, the David-Bellamy-like anthropologist from Victoria University, was expressing a general tirade against technology. "We live in an age where we have to have the newest, the best of everything," he said blandly.

Ho frigging hum. Get a real job, you sad old bastard. But I digress. For six televisual minutes--precious moments of my time--he droned on about consumerism and its ill effects. And he did so from a rather comfortable loungechair, surrounded by the latest electronic gadgetry. Location: the exclusive, high-end audio-visual store, Absolute Audio, in Wellington.

Yes, that's right. Like all pinko commies--and in this case a luddite one--Jim Tully and TV3 did not understand the simple fact that the audience has moved on. We don't particularly care to be ranted at for just wanting cool stuff. I mean, if we actually shared Jim Tully's ideas, and rejected technology from our lives, then we wouldn't be watching fucking John Campbell, WOULD WE? And sitting in a TV shop surrounded by the latest Bose and Sony products, hoping to trip that good old guilt-thing is not smart message-making.

Because, dear reader, the entire time that the good Doctor Tully was making his slanted spiel about materialism leading us nowhere, I was gazing at those cool, huge, LCD Sony TVs in the background. And I resolved there and then that they looked so frigging excellent that the next thing I would do is go out and buy one. Even though I've bought five big TVs in the last five years, and not cared what happened to the last one.

It occurred to me, after experiencing such an outlandish robotic hard-on, that the Greenpeace/John Campbell/academic/pinko commie propaganda against materialism did more to encourage me to go out and buy a new TV than Sony could ever do. I've even looked at Sony's website. The 60-inch Sony Grand Wega LCD screen, absolute extortion at eight grand, looks absolutely uninspiring when Sony promotes it. But with Jim Tully sitting in front of one, I'd buy a dozen of them if it meant I could bitch-slap him on my way to the counter.

And I wouldn't buy a Sony TV because it might be more environmentally friendly than a Panasonic, by Greenpeace's own admissions. No, dear reader. I would buy one just for the chance to assault a hippie, bearded pinko, and because it looks cooler.

And do I care that a bunch of Chinese kids will be breaking apart my old perfectly good TV and destroying the environment in the process? Probably slightly more than the Chinese Government, for sure. But not a whole lot. If Chinese villagers want to poison themselves with mercury, lead and cadmium, and want to make a living for themselves by dumping all that shite into their own water supplies, then I congratulate them for their ingenuity.

But I blame John Campbell, Greenpeace, and Jim Tully for subliminally making me buy that new TV.

Extreme Personalities

Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers' personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace. Full details and explanation can be found on the original posting: http://pixnaps.blogspot.com/2005/06/meme-worth-spreading.html

Instructions (to join in the experiment):

1) Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.

2) Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use 'compose' mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)

3) Replace the answers in the "survey" section below with your own.

4) Add your blog information to the "track list", in the form: "Linked title - URL - optional GUID".

5) Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.

6) Post it to your blog!

Survey:

Age: 34

Gender: Male

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Religion: Catholic

Occupation: Consultant

Began blogging (dd/mm/yy): 03/07/05

Political Compass results
Left/Right: 9.75
Libertarian/Authoritarian: 5.79

IPIP-NEO results

EXTRAVERSION:
Friendliness 94
Gregariousness 49
Assertiveness 99
Activity Level 95
Excitement-Seeking 91
Cheerfulness 67

AGREEABLENESS: 1
Trust 5
Morality 2
Altruism 1
Co-operation 1
Modesty 1
Sympathy 1

CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: 18
Self-Efficacy 75
Orderliness 7
Dutifulness 1
Achievement-Striving 83
Self-Discipline 52
Cautiousness 4

NEUROTICISM: 19
Anxiety 6
Anger 72
Depression 5
Self-Consciousness 0
Immoderation 91
Vulnerability 16

OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE: 5
Imagination 3
Artistic Interests 33
Emotionality 0
Adventurousness 66
Intellect 66
Liberalism 1

Track List:1. Philosophy, et cetera - pixnaps.blogspot.com - pixnaps97a2
2. Insolent Prick www.insolentprick.blogspot.com

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Eat Shit and Smile, Dr Cullen!

Never in the history of New Zealand has a Minister of Finance been jittery about the prospect of receiving positive praise from the world community for the state of the domestic economy. But that is precisely the impact of the recent OECD report on New Zealand, released yesterday.

The thrust of Michael Cullen's campaign this election was going to be that New Zealand couldn't afford tax cuts because the outlook for the economy is weak. Rather, the OECD report debunks this myth, stating conversely that the economic outlook is very positive, provided that the Government takes heed of capacity concerns.

In particular, the OECD points out that "education services need a sharper focus on results"--a less than subtle dig at the NCEA system. The report further states that "labour market flexibility should be preserved", rather than last year's changes to labour laws. And the third key aspect of the report--that regulatory constraints on increasing electricity generation capacity--is as direct an attack that the OECD can make on the Government's overly-restrictive resource management regime.

Labour has made no commitment to raising productivity growth. On the contrary, the fact it is in bed with the union movement absolutely limits its ability to liberalise labour markets.

And the final nail in the coffin for Dr Cullen and his doom-merchants is the comment:

"While the country is now reaping the benefits of earlier reforms and real GDP growth has been very strong, it cannot afford to rest on its laurels if it wishes to catch up to the living standards of the top half of the OECD."

Those key "earlier reforms", of course, are the Reserve Bank Act, the Fiscal Responsibility Act, and the Employment Contracts Act--the latter of which Labour has unwound through its union-friendly Employment Relations legislation. Labour has attempted to claim the credit for New Zealand's economic success over the last decade, when the OECD clearly identifies recent history as being due to historical structural reforms.

So read it and weep, Dr Cullen. We've got good reason to feel positive about New Zealand's economy. And we don't have you to thank for it. Provided we have a government that has the courage to allow hard-working New Zealanders to reap the benefits of their efforts.