Saturday, April 12, 2008

Protesting EFA

Spent the morning outside the Labour Party (almost typed pastry - but more on that) Congress held at Wellington Town Hall today protesting against the Electoral Finance Act. I have never seen as many corpulent people gathered in one place; so many people wearing red and a goodly number of smokers. A mostly (but not entirely) good-humoured bunch they gave John Boscawen a fair go and security let him interact freely with comers and goers. John didn't want a party-political protest although a couple of young Nats tried to turn it into one. For the main we were pretty quiet and polite and the non-conference goers passing by frequently made comments of support. We were there from 8.30 to noon. The PM still hadn't arrived. Then a line of police formed in front of us.

I said to the officer facing me, "Look, we've been here since 8.30 and we've been peaceful.

"It's not for you," he replied, "There's another bunch coming in."

Within about ten minutes we could hear them. Mana Motuhake O Tuhoe. It wasn't unexpected and we had been tossing up whether to up sticks at that point because we did not want the two issues confused or to be tarnished by any violence. That's why we were there early. So that is what we did but quite happily. Our protest ended at around 12.30. John had engaged a good number of MPs, argued with Mike Williams and completed a few media interviews. He is doing an admirable job of engaging and keeping the issue alive. Let's hope he gets the coverage he deserves on tonight's news. It may be swamped by subsequent proceedings.

Update; This is exactly the sort of report we wanted to avoid; About 50 people protesting a grab-bag of issues from climate change to last year's so-called terror raids, the electoral finance act, and climate change screamed obscenities at delegates including Labour MPs as they waited for the fire service.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Horomia's defence

This question in parliament to the Minister of Education today, Does he have confidence in the Ministry of Education; if so, why? resulted in a supplementary from Tariana Turia about why there are 20,000 children going to school without breakfast.

Parekura Horomia, answering for Chris Carter, said that there are many reasons children go to school without breakfast one being that they are trying to stay trim (I thought he said thin but no matter.) This provoked uproar in the house. And this press release from Anne Tolley.

"It is appalling for Associate Education Minister Parekura Horomia to claim that children up and down the country are going to school hungry because they’re trying to keep their weight down.”

Mrs Tolley is referring to comments made in Parliament today by Mr Horomia, who said ‘there are a host of reasons why students and pupils don’t have breakfast. They are trying to stay trim…’

“These comments are nothing short of a disgrace. I challenge Mr Horomia to stand on the corner of every street where parents are struggling to feed their children and repeat these obscene comments.

There seems to be some confusion here. Mrs Turia was on the 'children in poverty' bandwagon. The minister was responding directly to the issue of children going without breakfast. While there might be a problem with context or appropriateness of the answer, in the minister's defence I believe he is absolutely right. Many young girls skip breakfast intentionally. Just google the words "children skip breakfast to stay thin" and you will find many references to this practice.

It makes me very uncomfortable when someone can't state facts without provoking derision.

If we want children and young people to eat breakfast a good place to start might be to stop nagging them about obesity. The next would be to find out what family support payments are being spent on, if not food for children.

The decline of marriage and family

Yesterday it was marriage in Australia and this morning I was reading about marriage in the UK;

The marriage rate in Britain has collapsed to its lowest point since its government began keeping statistics in 1862. Even when discounting population growth, the numbers are embarrassingly low. According to Britain's Office for National Statistics (BONS), in 2006, the United Kingdom recorded a little over 228,000 marriages -- its lowest number since 1895, when its population was barely half what it is today.

The BONS study notes, the institution of marriage has been steadily eroding since the early 1970s:

* For Brits who choose to marry, 45 percent of new marriages will end in divorce; added to that, the average age for women entering first-time marriages is nearly 30 -- for men, it's 32.

* Of the marriages that stay together, based on a recent column in the London Times, an incredible 59 percent of married women said they would leave their husbands tomorrow if they could be assured of economic stability; meanwhile, half of the husbands questioned defined their marriage as "loveless."

* Forty percent of British babies are now born out of wedlock; the teen pregnancy rate in England and Wales is six times higher than in Holland -- three times that of France.

* Violent crime among teenagers in the United Kingdom has increased 37 percent in just three years, according to the London Telegraph; total offenses climbed steadily from 184,474 in 2003 to 222,750 in 2006, the last year for which figures are available—a rise of 21 percent.

In response to the study, British researcher Patricia Morgan says that the government has succeeded in "eradicating" marriage. "This is what they have tried to achieve and they should be congratulating themselves," Morgan said. "But it is a disaster for children, families and society."

So what about marriage in New Zealand?

And more recently;

In terms of how related matters compare to the UK as per above;

- the average age (of all marriage not just first) was 32.6 years for men and 30.4 years for women in 2006. Same as UK.

- 47 percent of babies are now born out-of-wedlock. Considerably higher than UK.

- The UK teenage birth rate is just under ours but remarkably similar. Ours is currently 31 per 1,000 15-19 year-olds

- according to Simon Power, since 1999, violent youth crime has increased by an alarming 44%.

So there we are, holding our own quite nicely.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Franks vs Key

Stephen Franks makes a strong statement on his blog this morning;

I think H Clark will go down in our history with the same judgment as Muldoon - a political master who used her power only to hold it. She could have used her political genius on the left’s black hole welfare, education and crime policies. Instead she has bribed her supporters to protect the emergence of an illiterate, barely employable, and vicious under-class.

Those would be the same "black hole welfare, education and crime policies" that National will be supporting.

National will not be making any significant changes in these areas, especially welfare. Not if we are to believe what John Key said earlier this year;

(About the welfare state);

"It's not only the provision of welfare for people in need, it is a statement about who we are. That we don't have overt signs of poverty. That for all the frustrations we may have about the odd individual who might rip the system off we are prepared to back it because we look at New Zealand as a better country than those who don't have it."

Doesn't sound like they are talking about the same country does it?

I don't doubt for a minute Stephen's sincerity and desire for radical change - the only sort of change which will stop the rot. That is why he was an ACT MP. If he can persuade National away from the status quo - good. But I think he is going to be very frustrated in his efforts.

NZ First advertising

NZ First has a quarter page ad telling people that selling off our assets to foreigners was a dumb idea that began in 1984 and the country has never been the same since. I am not interested in the ad. But I am interested in the placement in the Dominion Post. It is opposite the editorial/letters page. I can't remember ever seeing advertising on this page before. Did Winston manage to persuade the editor to allow an ad instead of an op-ed? It would be far more effective than an op-ed for the target audience.

"Smarter women marry"

I find myself somewhat irritated by this report and in particular this statement;

"There's something new going on, particularly among women," said researcher Genevieve Heard of the university's Centre for Population and Urban Research.

The report is about how women with degrees are more likely to be married than those without - a reverse on 1996 data. One assumes they are marrying men. But nobody asks the question, what kind of men are they marrying? Are the men they are marrying also degree holders? There must be some trend occurring among males as well.

I understand the focus of the research is women. But if she is going claim something new is going on 'particular' to women, she should explain why (or the reporter should include it).

And the headline is misleading, "Smarter women marry". It could just as easily say "Smarter women don't marry," because fewer women with degrees were married in 2006 compared with 1996.

The Australian marriage rate has dropped off, but it has dropped off more rapidly among women without degrees. Therefore "Stupider women don't marry," would also describe the trend. But while it is perfectly OK to say 'smarter' it is not OK to say 'stupider'. How PC. Oh dear. I am feeling niggly today.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Too many obligations

A new survey out about peoples's attitudes to the public service appears to be a mixed bag. I say 'appears' because I can't find the actual survey - just government (good) reports about it and academic (bad) reports.

Here what Auckland University says about the response of beneficiaries;

"This finding supports my own research, where focus group participants believed many beneficiaries are treated like 'second-class' citizens and Work and Income officials and processes are the main culprit", said Dr Humpage, who is leading a new study on understandings of citizenship in New Zealand.

"Participants in focus groups gave example after example whereby Work & Income treated beneficiaries with disrespect - even while they displayed signs on the walls promoting client rights", says Dr. Humpage. Those on the Unemployment and Domestic Purposes benefits were treated the worst, while students and super annuitants did not feel as stigmatised.

"This is the result of the welfare policies we have seen since the 1990s which require many beneficiaries to run around meeting obligations that other New Zealand citizens don't have, just because they receive income support. This is having a negative impact on their sense of belonging and identity as New Zealanders".

What rubbish. DPB and dole recipients have always felt stigmatised. And it was a lot worse in the late 70s and eighties when home checks were carried out. Social welfare was given the tag of 'gestapo' at one stage.

The whole point of universalising benefits was to reduce the stigmatisation. The more people who received them the more 'normal' it would become. Unfortunately it didn't work that way. As numbers grew so did the resentment of those workers funding them.

Typically the left-wing academic rushes to blame the problem on the early 90s policies "which require many beneficiaries to run around meeting obligations that other New Zealand citizens don't have..."

Now isn't that rich. You lucky people out there running businesses, working 70 hour weeks, filing tax returns, complying with OSH regulations, paying rates, etc. You want to try having to put up with the kind of obligations beneficiaries have.

On income tax

A simple and straight forward piece by Jacob Hornberger of the Freedom Foundation. As in the US there was a time in NZ when there was no income tax, and then, for a period, very little. Government raised revenue through duties and import taxes. But that all changed and income tax has gradually grown.


With the advent of income taxation in America, the relationship between citizen and government was inverted. Prior to the income tax, the citizen was sovereign by virtue of the fact that he was free to earn unlimited amounts of money and there was nothing the government could do about it. Like it or not, it was his money, to do with as he pleased.

With the adoption of income taxation, all that changed. In effect, the income tax nationalized income. While many people would undoubtedly prefer not to think about it in this way, under the federal income tax everyone’s income belongs to the government or, if you prefer, to “society.” The power to set the tax rate is essentially the power to decide how much of their income people are going to be permitted to keep.

Thus, the income tax has converted the relationship between government and citizen into one akin to parent and child. The portion of their income that the citizenry are permitted to retain has effectively become an allowance. Sometimes the government is good to the citizenry and lets them keep more of their income. Sometimes the government is not so nice and lets the citizenry keep less of their income. But what’s important here, in terms of freedom, is not the percentage that is being levied but rather the fact that it is the government making the determination. That’s obviously a far cry from a society in which there is no income taxation at all.

Strange priorities from Children's Commissioner

New ads against binge drinking feature quite graphic physical violence against a child. There have been "multiple" complaints because they are screening at prime time and may upset children who see them.

The Children's Commissioner, who has in the past criticised advertising of food to children, is defending the ads. It's OK for a youngster to watch a man hurl a child against a wardrobe but it is not OK to expose them to "online food marketing – including interactive games and activities, downloadable screensavers and 'fun recipes'." I know which of these I would prefer my child to be experiencing. And it is not the first.

The ads can screen at any time from 4.30

The TV Commercial Approval Bureau says, "This is a social message that is going out, so it's an example of violence or something like that which is quite acceptable when it's educational. If a child was looking at it with an adult, the adult should be explaining why this is happening, the problems caused by drinking."

And what about those who won't be watching with an adult? I would suggest between 4.30 and 6pm that would be a majority. I suppose now I am in the wrong. I should be watching over my children like a hawk at every moment. They might not get a decent meal but that doesn't matter. I should be standing by ready to take my part in the educational opportunity ALAC have so thoughtfully provided. I should be on my knees thanking nanny for using my money so wisely. Her beneficence knows no bounds.

Monday, April 07, 2008

New blog

My friend Caroline has started a blog. This "rant" is a good example of what to expect. Add her to your blogroll. Not that I buy into that collectivist stuff but there aren't enough libertarian females and they add a different perspective.

Pregnant teens continue to smoke

Another reason why teenage pregnancy should be discouraged instead of encouraged. The stats for NZ are probably higher as Maori teenage smoking rates and teenage pregnancy rates are both higher than average.

Unprecedented manipulation

A woman calls the police to take away her violent partner who is beating her up. He kills himself in the prison cell so she claims $600,000 damages from the state.

The guy, a gang member, was a complete loser with a long history of trouble and prison stays. The police however knew he was suicidal and failed to properly protect him from himself. They did though protect others from him which is their first priority.

His mother says he wasted his life but supports the case, " the hope it would help provide for her son's partner and her children."

I would put money on it that the state is already providing for the partner and her five children through the benefit system.

It could be argued that the plaintiff also knew he was suicidal yet had him arrested. Not only did she fail to prevent him from suiciding - she increased the probability of it happening.

It seems to me if she wins, a new level of moral distortion will have been reached.