Saturday, January 24, 2009

Five more years of cliched hang-wringing

It's all very well cancelling a few talkfests but National shows no sign of dis-establishing some of the talking heads and their bands of merry meddlers. Just listed at the Ministry of Social Development.

The fight for fathers goes on

A top letter in today's DomPost from Bruce Tichbon who has tirelessly championed fathers for probably the last 20 years. And probably will for the next twenty. I take my hat off to you, Bruce.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The tax burdens of our children

When men get in the habit of helping themselves to the property of others, they cannot easily be cured of it.

— The New York Times, in a 1909 editorial opposing the very first income tax

That is the quote of the day from the Freedom Foundation.

Then I began reading a piece from the National Centre for Policy Analysis which contained this warning;

* By 2020, the average EU country will need to raise the tax rate to 55 percent of national income to pay promised benefits.
* By 2035, a tax rate of 57 percent will be required.
* By 2050, the average EU country will need more than 60 percent of its GDP to fulfill its obligations.

Nice juxtaposition.

New Zealand is in only a slightly better position than most EU countries, having a higher fertility rate. But we will still be faced with the massively increased costs the ageing population brings.

Bob Jones makes a point in the DomPost this morning that talk of burdening the youth of today with the debt taken on to get us out of the current mess is a nonsense because they inherit the infrastructure and assets. But that doesn't take into account the imbalance of demographics and the varying burdens generations carry.

There can be no doubt that our children will be required to look after a much larger dependent population than we did. Therein lies the problem with socialism and collective funding. If individuals saved and insured themselves, this inequitable and iniquitous situation would largely vanish. Even Sweden has had the good sense to recently move to individualised social security accounts. (And no, I don't want to get into an argument about compulsion. As I have said before, I would rather be forced to save for myself than forced to save for somebody else. The element of force is not going away in my or my children's lifetime.)

Here's hoping that National will start listening to Roger Douglas some time soon.

NB. I am quite schizophrenic on this issue however. Tomorrow I could just as easily write a post arguing that the state has absolutety no right to dictate how I should use my own property. And I would be right. But then again... if there is a lesser evil than the current system, and is was on offer, should I turn it down?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Nannying New Zealand style

Here is the e-mail advice I have just received from the state (with a few comments interspersed) about preparing my children for returning to school;

Caring when you're not there

Tuck in a family photo into your child's backpack or write a special note to your child and put it in their lunchbox for a special reminder that they are loved. Being away from home can be tough, even for older kids, and a simple note (or just a heart with your name might work for a younger child) can provide some much-needed comfort. If the school or caregiver allows it, let your child pick a small toy or stuffed animal to put in their backpack.

Robert says, do any of that and I'm dead. I'll be labelled a mummy's boy and never live it down. He starts at a new school this year.

Stress alert

It’s normal to have worries about your child at school. So, keep an eye out for any signs that your child is experiencing back-to-school stress once the year begins. Look for complaints about headaches or tummy aches, tension at bedtime, emotional goodbyes, or reluctance to go to school in the morning.

If this happens, try lots of extra comfort and try to spend some quality one-on-one time with your child. Then, look for ways to re-adjust routines or ways of getting ready, and check whether your child is overloaded with too many activities or hasn't made friends.

You could also try the following ideas:

Notice out loud. Say something to your child if they seem unusually quiet or short-tempered (“Did you have a rough day? You seem a bit upset.”). It should be just a comment as if you are interested in hearing more about your child’s concern.

Listen. Ask your child to tell you what’s wrong. Listen closely, calmly and without comment – with interest, patience and caring. Do not judge, blame or comment – the idea is to let your child’s concerns and feelings be heard. You could get them to tell the full story by asking questions like “And then what happened?”. Let your child take their time.

Yuck. The religion of non-judgmentalism. Jehovah's Witnesses are starting to look moderate.

Help them find a label for it. Put your child’s feelings into words, for example, “disappointed”, “hurt”, “frustrated”. Many children do not yet have words for their feelings and putting them into words helps them develop emotional awareness. This will then make them cope better next time they feel the same way.

Help them understand the feeling. If your child talks about being angry help them understand what the feeling was that led to the anger. For example, “Sounds as if you were disappointed that your teacher didn’t notice how hard you had been trying and that made you mad and yell at her”. This shows your child you understand what they felt and that you care – which helps your child feel understood and connected to you. Another child might have got angry because they were frustrated they couldn’t do the work and the teacher wasn’t helpful. Knowing what made us angry makes it easier to identify a solution.

Help them think of things to do. Suggest things your child could do to feel better and to solve the problem. Get your child to think of several ideas too. Sometimes just identifying the problem will help solve it, so don’t give it more attention than it needs.

Just be there. Sometimes your child won’t feel like talking about what’s bothering them. If that’s the case, just give them space but make it clear that you are around when they do feel like talking. Suggest an activity you can do together – go for a walk, kick a ball, watch a movie or do some baking. One idea is to ask them to do something (not school-related) you know they can do very well without help, then praise them when it is done. It helps remind them they are able to control and manage their world.

Not so easy if you are out working to pay for school 'donations', stationery, activity fees, trips etc.

Be patient. As a parent, it can be painful to see your child unhappy or worried. But try to leave your child to solve their own problems as much as possible while you act as their support. This will help them become problem-solvers in the long term.

Get the irony in that last paragraph. Unbelievable. Nanny telling us to let our children figure things out for themselves!

Overbearing obsessives run amok

I am having trouble keeping food down, let alone using up left-overs, reading this;


British households will be visited by officials offering advice on cooking with leftovers, in a government initiative to reduce the amount of food that gets thrown away. Home cooks will also be told what size portions to prepare, taught to understand "best before" dates and urged to make more use of their freezers.

The door-to-door campaign, which started this month, is funded by the Waste and Resources Action Program (WRAP), a government agency charged with reducing household waste.

The officials will be called "food champions," however, they were dismissed as "food police" by critics who called the scheme an example of excessive government nannying:

* In an initial seven-week trial, eight officials will visit 24,500 homes, dishing out advice and recipes.
* The officials, each of whom has received a day's training, will be paid up to £8.49 (about US $11.87) an hour, with a bonus for working on Saturdays.
* The pilot scheme, will cost £30,000 (about U.S. $42,000), and could be extended nationwide if it is seen as a success.
* If all 25 million households in the United Kingdom were visited in the same way, 8,000 officials would be required at a cost of tens of millions of pounds.

Peter Ainsworth, the shadow environment secretary, said: "You might have thought, at a time of economic hardship, that spending public money on stating the obvious is hardly a priority. With household budgets under pressure, most people are looking to spend wisely and waste less anyway."

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "This is a prime example of excessive government nannying, and a waste of public money and resources. In the grip of a recession, the last thing people need is someone bossing them about in their own kitchen.

"Worse still, the money for this scheme will come directly out of taxpayers' pockets, at a time when they need every penny to weather the financial storm."

Source: Jasper Copping, "Don't throw away leftovers, warn 'food police,' " Telegraph, January 10, 2009.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

No sense of occasion

Justin du Fresne just opened his show referring to the solitary text NewstalkZB has received in response to their ongoing coverage of Obama's inauguration. It said, "I'm changing stations. I am sick of this American bullshit."

The texter is not alone. A Stuff poll:

How will you reflect on Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th US president?

It's something I'll always remember (323 votes, 36.5%)

It's something I'd rather forget (324 votes, 36.6%)

Have no interest either way (238 votes, 26.9%)

What I will remember about today? My 14 year-old got up early to watch the ceremony and cooked streaky bacon, some of which he put on a plate and brought to me in bed. He's growing up.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

New Blog

A couple of people who occasionally comment here have started a new blog. Looks interesting so have added it to my blogroll.

If you see Kay....

Which also reminds me, if you are out there Oh Crikey, could you please get back to the keyboard. Now. I miss your black (or brown?) humour desperately. Nearly a year off is long enough. Even for a lazy Maori.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What we don't know can't hurt us

Keeping Stock has a post entitled "Did we need to know?"

I immediately knew it referred to the headlines about the voice recorder on the Airbus that went down off Perpignan. I had exactly the same response.

As an obsessive truth seeker I still attempt to instil in my children the idea that sometimes, just occasionally, the truth is better left alone. There can be now earthly good in revealing or speaking it. What you don't know won't hurt you.

Once upon a time that sentiment got me into more trouble than I cared for.

One morning I discovered a dead but intact black cat on the grass verge outside our home. I knew it didn't belong to any of my immediate neighbours. Dilemma. Do I leave it there for the unfortunate owner or my own children to discover? Wouldn't it be preferable for the owner to be left thinking maybe the cat had just wandered off to a new home? Wouldn't that be a much kinder outcome? Yes, I decided. So I carried the corpse into my backyard, dug a hole and buried it. I know, I know. Who did I think I was interfering like that? And worse, what thought had I given to what might happen next....

My first mistake was to mention it to my neighbour, who wondered what I was having to dig such a deep hole for. I should have lied and said I was burying our cat. Then it would have gone no further. Except I would have had to kill our cat.

About three days later, early in the evening, the phone rang. It was my in-the-know neighbour saying she had been visited by a young woman looking for her cat. She had told her I might know something about it. Shit. Panic stations. It hit me. The owner will think I have run over the cat with my car and tried to hide the evidence.

There was a knock on the door. David answered it. Then I could hear him telling the distraught young woman he hadn't seen hide nor hair of said beast (following my original instructions to a tee, poor man). I could only take this subterfuge for seconds.

Actually, I saw it, I confessed, approaching the front door. Then I had to go further and admit to telling my husband to lie, given his red-faced presence in the hallway. I stutteringly told her I had found it on the grass verge and it had probably been hit by a car. But that it was in good condition so probably suffered a head injury and didn't suffer (??) And how I hadn't wanted her (how did I know the owner was a 'her'?) to find it. On and on digging a deeper and deeper hole. Do you want to see the hole ...grave, sorry? Oh my God. I had dragged our unused dog kennel over the top to stop him from digging up the carcass. I had HIDDEN it.

She was crying quite hard by now. I was feeling like the lowest of lowest, a complete heel, an utter crock. She left quite quickly, understandably.

Sometimes it's best to let nature take its course I think. Next time I discover a dead cat I will carry it around every home in the vicinity until I find the poor, unsuspecting soul, possibly a child, about to be confronted with its lifeless, no more, friend.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

On looks and ageing

Rosemary McLeod writes a very bitchy column about ageing beauties and what they look like.

We're talking gargoyles like Madonna, 50, and Jerry Hall, 52; women who were beautiful in their youth, but who now have the starved horse look that goes with being older and scrawny.

She concludes;

To paraphrase Keats, beauty is youth, youth beauty. We love it. It's fleeting. You can't get it back. You just have to get over it.

I'll reach the half century mark this year. And I know it's absolutely physically evident because more than once I have been mistaken for my young daughter's grandma. How stupid can young women be? If in doubt wouldn't it be diplomatic to plum for mother? But I expect too much. They have yet to personally experience sensitivity about ageing and what it does to your looks.

Fortunately I never had many - looks that is. Being average looking when you are young can be a source of dismay but believe me, what you never had, you can't grieve over losing.

McLeod is right. Stop looking in the mirror if it bothers you that much. I certainly don't think it is bothering anybody else particularly. In fact if more women accepted ageing gracefully ... more women would. We could all be a little more content. We can all feel a little happier when comparing ourselves to Helen Clark rather than Cher.

Look at it this way. Allowing yourself to be miserable about it is only going to make you look even older anyway. And let's face it. If your physical appearance is all that defines you, and ever has, then you have a lot of catching up to do.