Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Reasons to be fascist...

Appropos of nothing much, here is a summary of why each of New Zealands political parties have authoritarian tendencies - even the ones you wouldn't expect to:

New Zealand First get their core support from grumpy old gits who feel that life has given them a raw deal and no-one else should have any fun.

National divide NZ into the worthy (white middle class males) and the unworthy (everyone else) and feel the best interests of the former are served by clamping down hard on the latter.

ACT were founded on the basis of liberal social policies and free market economics. However, they have never succeeded in convincing the poorer 90% of the populace that they wouldn't lose out big-time from an unfettered free market. As a result, they've dumped the "liberal" bit for a dose of good old-fashioned bigotry.

United Future take their ideology from God and "the man in the golf club". Both of whom have no time for gays and pinkos.

Labour, being mostly teachers and lecturers, see the rest of us as a bunch of naughty students. Plus, they are terrified that enough bigoted old gits will forget who keeps them in booze and fags and run off to vote for a right-wing party.

Jim Anderton is just anti-fun - hence that's the policy of his personal party, the Progressives.

The Greens are mostly pretty liberal - except that some of their aspirations, like banning motor cars, are not going to be popular with many people and will need a firm dose of the jackboot (is there such a thing as a jack sandal?) to implement.

And one that doesn't get MPs elected:
Libertarianz believe in personal freedom above all else. However, they also believe that unfettered use of private property is the highest personal freedom. Consequently, while they oppose state funded stormtroopers, they're perfectly happy for people and corporations to form their own private armies.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

1914 - What if we hadn't gone

What would have happened if New Zealand had declined to participate in WW1?

(I realize this was never an option at the time - Pakeha of that era thought of themselves as British in much the same way as NZ expats of today regard themselves as Kiwi).

Would the outcome of the war have changed?
Probably not. WW1 was predominantly a war of numbers as opposed to quality of troops. Not having New Zealand troops would have made very little difference - unlike the USA, whose belated intervention was one of the decisive factors. It is possible that the Gallipoli landings would not have gone ahead without NZ troops - this would probably have helped the Allied cause, although some believe that the Dardenelles operation ensured that Turkish troops could not be deployed on the Western front, preventing German conquest of France.

What would have happened to New Zealand?
NZ relations with Britain would undoubtedly have suffered in the short term. However, Britain maintained friendly relationships with numerous states that were neutral in WW1 (for instance: the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Spain). Conversely, two of the WW1 allies (Italy and Japan) were on the enemy side in WW2. Britain had a primitive agricultural industry that was depleted of labour by the war and thus needed New Zealand's exports both before and after WW1 - thus making friendly relations even more imperative.

Non-alignment would however have removed the sense of NZ as an offshore province of Britain. NZ may well have followed a path similar to Eire - as a country linked by family, language and commercial ties but politically fully separated).

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Da book thingy

Joe Hendren passed me this...

1) You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451 (explanation; plot) which book do you want to be?
We had it as a set book in English lit - which I came pretty close to failing. I'd recommend "The Fall of Berlin" by Anthony Beevor as a very readable description of what happened to a people who thought extreme nationalism was the answer to their problems.

2) Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Hayley from (UK radio soap) "the Archers" of course.. If we are talking about written fiction, then no-one springs to mind - there are quite a lot of characters that I identify with as a role model, notably Cameron Colley in Iain Banks "Complicity".

3) The last book you bought is:
John Keegan - "Intelligence in War" - I suspect that this is more an account of various military campaigns that Keegan is interested in, sexed up by the link to 21st Century intelligence failings. Not a bad read though - and quite strong on the effect of improved communication techniques on naval warfare (the effect of the telegraph and later electronic communication techniques on world history being something I take an interest in).

4) The last book you finished is?
Vikram Seth - "From Heaven Lake". An interesting account of an Indian student's journey across China and occupied Tibet.

5) What are you currently reading?
Jonathan Raban - "Hunting Mister Heartbreak". One of a series of books exploring the history and literature of US settlement in the form of a modern travellers journal.

6) Five Books you would take to a deserted island:
Donna Tartt - "My Secret History" - brilliant narrative and characterisation - a pity she has only produced one book of this calibre.
Iain Banks - "Espedair Street" - excellent and (in the end) cheering fiction, rooted, like all Banks' better novels, in the West of Scotland.
Richard Rhodes - "The Making Of The Atomic Bomb" - sets a standard in scientific history, as well as being a brilliant, detailed account of the most important Kiwi invention of the last 100 years.
Brian Thacker - "Rule No 5 (No Sex on the Bus)" - brilliantly funny account of what happens on the big OE. (all his other books are poo by comparison, BTW)
Lonely Planet - "Deserted Pacific Islands on a Shoestring" - an indispensable and occasionally accurate guide to where to find beer/chicks/airline offices - ideal for when I've read the print off the other four..

I would pass this on, but it would take soooo much research to find out which bloggers haven't done it or been sent it yet. If anyone wants to pick up and post some answers, feel free to comment..

Nothing to apologise for

Today's Star-Times carries a prominent apology from the editor over their SIS story last year. The inspector of intelligence services has "declared" their allegations to be unfounded.

I don't think any apology is called for. Maybe they were a bit over assertive about the veracity of the story, but the job of a newspaper is to bring information to readers. If they have information which is interesting and not demonstrably untrue (at the time), then they should print it and let the readers make their minds up. With personal stories (especially about people who neither seek public office or court publicity) they need to be more careful - but this wasn't such a story.

On the facts presented, the story was probably rubbish. However, if the SIS *did* decide to spy on non-violent political groups, they would undoubtedly do so in a fashion that made it as hard as possible to get found out. It's likely that the only way we'd found out would be if one peripheral figure were to blag to the media - exactly as was alleged to have happened in the case in question.

Newspapers aren't like judges or politicians - they shouldn't be accountable in the same way for what get's printed - that way lies a dull and compliant media.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Peerless hosting

No I'm not going on about the House of Lords!

I listened to Russell Brown interviewing Raymond O'Brien of Telstra Clear on the Wire today. (Update - audio here). He was attempting to justify their de-peering from the Wellington and Auckland internet exchanges.

It seems to me that as Russell suggested, and Raymond tried to rebut, that if this goes on many NZ sites will move to offshore hosting (like this and 90% of other NZ blogs, incidentally).
I am currently paying around NZD40 annually for a UK based hosting service with PHP,SQL, 10M of disk and 500M of bandwidth - the same service in NZ costs that every month! US hosting is even cheaper.

There are two reasons to use an NZ based host:
  1. Google base their country mapping on IP address, so that you need to be on an NZ address to be treated as an NZ site. Perhaps if more NZ sites migrate offshore, they will change this to use the domain suffix? Alternatively, I wonder if there is any way to have an NZ IP on a machine which is physically overseas? Perhaps someone will start a "virtual NZ ISP".
  2. If you are streaming in realtime, like a radio station, you probably need to have the server locally - I'm not sure if streaming software lets you "uplink" a single stream through a client connection and "downlink" multiple streams to the users? If you are streaming individual files, then unless you produce huge amounts of content this is not an issue.

I'm currently setting up an image intensive site (no not that sort of thing!!) and will be putting the text on an NZ server and images in the UK, avoiding the Google issue. Of course, if everyone does this users "offshore" traffic will increase, taking them closer to bandwidth caps - I suspect that once this happens ISPs will come under pressure to lift the caps rather than getting more dollars out of the end user.

Of course none of this would be necessary if we had a regulator who could say to the telcos: "you will peer appropriately if you want to continue offering services in New Zealand".

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Footballing members

The Guardian reports that "the typical MP is a football obsessive with a liking for middle of the road rock music and little interest in political ideology".

I feel this is what they feel will go down well with the electorate. The typical MP is actually a political geek with zero interest in sport, a liking for Billy Bragg (Labour) or the Spice Girls (Tory) and an obsessive interest in political gossip, if not ideology.

The have however been forced to memorise by rote the history of the local football team and to appear in the director's suite for all important matches. They also need to develop a taste for Coldplay.

(NZ MPs seem to be more honest about this - its pretty obvious that neither Don or Helen have the slightest interest in Rugby - at least Helen is genuinely into her skiing).