Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mexico decriminalises drugs

According to Newsroom; Possessing marijuana, cocaine and even heroin will no longer be a crime in Mexico if they are in small amounts for personal use, under new reforms passed by Congress that quickly drew US criticism.

Way to go, Mexico.


If the Herald on Sunday politicial columnist and Sunday Star Times political columnist can do it, so can I.

Why is it small parties need two leaders and the big parties get by with one?

Is it possible for an MP to be demoted three places on the party list and promoted to Deputy Leader in less than thirteen months?

Did anybody know that Jim Anderton's Progressive Party has five portfolio spokespeople outside of Parliament?

Who will be elected Prime Minister of New Zealand in the same year we host the Rugby World Cup and will anybody notice?

Why did DPF give Peter Dunne 8 out of 10 for his performance since the election?

Is National's commitment to Individual freedom and choice, Personal responsibility and Limited government as sincere as the US Republican's?

Would HC be better off getting her teeth and face fixed in real life or just in the photos?

Why are our political scandals so second rate when compared with the UK?

Are there any rules against turning up to Parliament in a tux or fatigues?

Does Don Brash ever allow himself the tiniest uncharitable thought about National Party ingrates?

A bridge too far

"Nats see Maori Party as future partner".

You know, this really is as bad as seeing a headline that says Nats see Greens as future partner - no, it's worse.

The Maori party is racist, socialist, separatist, tribalist and reactionary. A party of "freedom and choice" doesn't get into bed with a party like that - not on a permanent basis. They sleep with them when it suits. Which is a partnership that speaks ill of both camps and will inevitably end in tears.

Who is actually being critical of the Maori Party world-view at the moment? Nobody. Not one party is prepared to challenge their blatantly racist proclaimations and their schizophrenic attitude to welfare dependence - probably the most pressing issue Maori face.

The Maori Party has shown extraordinary energy since the election. Their MPs are passionate and deservedly high-profile but their ideas are awful. They are still caught up in the victimhood mentality and all the bitterness that entails. Some more than others. It is my sincere belief that they will not advance the social circumstances of the Maori people. Not if they stay on their current course.

And there ought to be a party prepared to point this out.

Hands-on or hands-off?

In a predictable series of reactions, the elevation of Don Brash to leader of the National Party, has garnered bouquets from the business community and brickbats from unions and workers groups.

Business and employer groups say Brash has a good understanding of their needs- less red tape, lower taxes and a hands-off approach from the government.

That's a media report about Don Brash taking over the leadership of National.

Today expect John Key, in a speech to National's northern regional conference today, to urge a more hands-on approach to the economy.

Mr Key will point to Singapore, which he has just visited, to advocate a more hands-on role for Government in setting economic direction.

My understanding of Singapore is government is more hands-off than hands-on. Here's a quote from Singapore's PM:

"In Singapore we have decided we must keep our taxes low to attract new investments and minimise labour rigidities so that companys can expand and contract flexibly as business conditions change. Singapore is also promoting innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship. This means deregulating and liberalising the economy. It means emphasisng private enterprise as an engine of growth."

Don Brash said in 2003, "The next National government will be much closer in spirit to the vitality of the Singaporean model than to the complacency of their (Labour) government."

It will be interesting to learn what Mr Key actually means.

Friday, April 28, 2006

G I Blues

Here's an e-mail I received;

Hi Lindsay-

I know all this because I employ guys from Glen Innes, one of the HNZ ghettos in Auckland.

I employ two guys usually, my number 1 man and my number 2 man. No 1 man lives with his girlfriend and three kids in a State house. Apparently she has given up the DPB now she has a job, but she no doubt gets family assistance to boost her disposable income to something approaching mine. Not only do I pay his wages, but I also pay money back to WINZ (he doesn't live with them officially and doesn't pay his liable
parent contribution) when they catch up with him and I pay his Court Fines (otherwise the State will make me liable for those fines directly!!)

My No 2 man lives with his girlfriend who is expecting his second child (first child is with another girl who is on DPB on the other side of Auckland) They are looking forward to getting their own house as he doesn't like living with their Aunty and her son. Aunty works but son wants to be a gangsta! At 16 he does nothing. Did a day's work for me but doesn't like work.

Unfortunately no 1 man has had severe headaches over the last three weeks and is off work with high blood pressure. Aunty says it is the amount of dope he smokes, although in that case it should hit no 2 man as well! They are brother-in-laws, no 1 man living with no 2 man's half-sister and no 2 man is having baby with no 1 man's cousin.. This is normal in GI...

So I have had to fall back on no 3 man, who used to work for me. He is busy looking after some of his kids (read- 'on the DPB') while living with the mother of his three kids and occasionally has the two kids over from his other girlfriend out West Auckland. This does not give him enough time to work really, and the money is only attractive if it is cash with no tax...

I hope no 1 man recovers enough to come back to work, or he will end up like his father-in-law, who has not legally worked in 20 years, suffering from angina and a bad back. This has led to him being some 30kg overweight (or more) and now has diabetes as well. No 1 man has gout already (under 30 years old) and takes handfuls of pills for it as he munches on mussels and tomato pizza. When the pills fail under the onslaught of beers he takes a couple of days off anyway.

I'm sure if I wasn't a Libertarian I would still lose faith in the Welfare State after employing these fucking useless yobbies for over ten years!!

Unfortunately too many of the deadhead middle class don't see this as they are salaried employees in a nice white middle-class job...
Murray McCully reports on the globe-trotting affairs of Holy Willie.

Upon his appointment as our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Peters was emphatic about his highest and most urgent priority: the restoration of good relations with the United States. And he even asked his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, to put in a good word.

How strange, therefore, to inspect the heavy travel schedule of Mr Peters since his appointment: Malaysia, Korea, London (twice), Malta, Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, Niue, Austria and Dublin. And last week Mr Peters’ tireless efforts to improve our relationship with the United States took him to Moscow, St Petersburg and Kiev. All signs that thus far Mr Peters’ pointy-headed MFAT officials have had difficulty in assisting their Minister with a direct route to Washington.

Oh, well. There are only around 190 countries in the world. And by a process of elimination, Mr Peters has simply got to get to Washington sometime in the next couple of years.

Depression UK's bggest social problem

In the UK, depression now has more people on benefits than unemployment.

Around 15% of the population suffers from depression or anxiety, says Lord Layard, emeritus professor at the Centre for Economic Performance of the London School of Economics. The economic cost in terms of lost productivity is huge - around £17bn, or 1.5% of UK gross domestic product. "There are now more than 1 million mentally ill people receiving incapacity benefits - more than the total number of unemployed people receiving unemployment benefits," he writes in the British Medical Journal.

In NZ benefits for pschological and psychiatric conditions run at about 75 percent (36,454) of the unemployment benefit total. (Can't tell you exactly how many people are on the dole right now as the Ministry of Social Development put up the March 06 figures yesterday but has taken them down again).

Update; The figures are back up (although UB is incorrectly labelled as March 2005). The current percentage is 82 so we are chasing the UK.

Peaceful, easy feeling...

I wonder if that's how the ratepayers of Waitakere feel about Bob Harvey's Peace City plans. Their rates jumped by 7.65% this year. There is an interesting breakdown here of where each dollar goes - 8.3 cents for "democracy". What's that a euphemism for? Window- dressing consultation processes probably.

Chickens come home to roost

An OECD economist and social policy analyst is visiting and talking about his study, Babies and Bosses;

The study showed that many New Zealand mothers found it impossible to balance commitments to both family and employment and so had fewer children or none at all.

"Declining birth rates and ageing populations will soon result in a shortage of workers so increased female participation in the labour force will be crucial to maintaining national living standards," he told the Herald.

The findings are from Dr Adema's Babies and Bosses study which looked at work and family life in 13 OECD countries.

It revealed that the "clear gap" in New Zealand was after-school care.

Although there were organisations to provide care, there was no central system, such as in Sweden and Denmark. Recently, the UK and Australia had also made it a priority, Dr Adema said.

But all of those countries have lower fertility rates than NZ.

In fact, at 1.99 our fertility rate is relatively high. Consider this article about France's "high" fertility rate, which just happens to be the same as ours.

So the measures the economist wants the government to take aren't about increasing fertility but about getting more economic productivity out of women. And what is that economic productivity primarily supporting? The welfare state.

Things really are arse about face.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Awful admission

Now the government is promoting its brand new scheme "Right job, Right time, Right from the start" because it discovered 20 percent of people applying for a benefit could actually work.

So what's been happening for the last seven years?

(There is a section in the relevant Cabinet paper which necessarily considers the legal, human rights and gender aspects of this proposal. If you didn't laugh you would cry. Govt has created its own strait jacket. )

Radio Interview

I've just pre-recorded a radio interview with Rob Holding of Radio Rhema which will play at 3.10 or 4.10 this pm. It's a discussion about what's wrong with the unemployment rate. What it covers up. And why I have a problem with the DPB.

Sickness and Invalid benefits keep climbing

Ministry of Social Development has just released benefit stats for year ending March 2006. DPB is down 2,300 but Invalid and Sickness benefits are up 4,400. Some single parents will have transferred onto these benefits.

Holy Willie

"It is one thing to highlight scandals when the public good is at risk or where genuine issues of incompetence and failure exist. It is another entirely to shamelessly indulge in the politics of personal denigration without the evidence to back it up. This playing the man without the ball at its worst."

Winston flagellating National and ACT over the David Parker case.

What can you say.

Further on NCEA

Having kept the same published table from 2003 I did a quick comparison of Wellington area schools. There are a couple of decile 1 and 2 secondary schools doing really well and I don't want to do them a disservice with my prior post. Porirua College and Wainuiomata High School have boosted their level 1 pass rates significantly and should be very pleased and proud of their achievement. Unfortunately two others, Bishop Viard and Mana have slumped significantly. Swings and roundabouts. Arguments about the merits of state education aside, if some schools can boost their performance, why can't others? All of these schools will be receiving similar funding so again, the success or failure of the students isn't about money.

NCEA results

The secondary school percentages for NCEA passes are published in the DomPost today.

The advice is to take the decile rating into account when making comparisons. In general the link between performance and decile rating is fairly evident but there are some low decile schools performing very well.

For instance, in the Hawkes Bay there are two secondary schools both with a decile rating of 1 (poorest):

Flaxmere College managed to get 5.6% of its Year 11 pupils through level 1
whereas Hukere passed 88.9 percent (The rolls are dissimilar in size with 318 vs 96).

Overall the low decile school's performance is way below national averages. Given most kids are qoing to need qualifications of some sort, the polarisation is quite alarming. And the degree of polarisation looks greater amongst Maori.

Sending a strong message

Bureaucrats are fond of talking about sending messages to society either through creating policy or passing legislation. One example is the decision to prosecute an Upper Hutt woman for not making her 14 year-old son attend school.

Mokomoko is the first person to be prosecuted in an Education Ministry and police scheme to reduce truancy in the Hutt Valley and Wainuiomata.

She was due in court yesterday but failed to turn up (I thought that was contempt). The case proceeded and she was convicted (of what I am unsure). She escaped a fine because she's on the DPB and couldn't afford to pay one (since when has being on a benefit meant exemption from fines?) For the next six months she is on notice to reappear in court if required (how does she reappear when she didn't appear in the first place?)

So that little exercise will certainly send a strong message to other parents.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

DPB - career advice

Oswald's comment on the previous post reminded of this letter I received from a nurse working in a maternity ward who says that young women she dealt with told her teachers had said there were no jobs for them so they should go on the DPB to guarantee their income. If you can't read it she ends, "DPB mums now have DPB daughters!"

Widow's benefit snapshot

Numbers on a widow's benefit;

1975 16,738
1990 12,676
2004 8,601

The decreasing numbers reflect men's growing life expectancy, the gradual disappearance of war widows and greater likelihood of remarriage. Here's what I find interesting.

Welfare state proponents say the DPB hasn't shaped people's behaviour. It is not a lifestyle choice. Single parenthood is pretty much accidental, unplanned or unforeseen. A bit like widowhood. In which case one would expect the numbers on the DPB to remain fairly steady reflecting demographic and labour market changes.

Let's see what happened to the DPB numbers;

1975 17,231
1990 94,823
2004 109,021

I accept the picture is complex and many arguments can be made for the blow-out in the latter group but I hold that the stark contrast is essentially about choice.

Gareth Morgan's road trip

Gareth Morgan is on another motorbike trip and speaking regularly to Paul Holmes on the NewstalkZB breakfast show. This time he is in the US. His comments this morning were really interesting. Riding across Virginia and North Carolina, he is staying off the interstates which he says carry big rigs doing 120-130 km. The speed limit is 100 but there is a fair degree of tolerance. On the rural roads you can go for fifty kilometres without seeing a shop but there is a church every one kilometre. On Sunday their carparks are packed with SUVs. The doors are locked and the curtains drawn. And the congregation stays all day. Goodness knows what they do in there, he says. Church attendance in the US is 47 percent but he estimates attendence in these states is more like 80-90 percent (NZ has about 5-6.)

You can see maps, photos, listen to or watch the interviews and read Gareth's impressions at the above link. Good stuff.

Crisis......what crisis?

The Christchurch Hospital has seen visits to its emergency department rise by more than 7,000. This is a perfect example of people abusing "free" services. Consider the circumstances of some of the patients. Turning up for blood tests and x-rays; because they don't have a GP to go to; for social problems; because they need a bed for the night; for non-acute psychiatric problems; for "flu, colds, upper respiratory tract infections, sprains, strains and bruises or those whose only problem was being drunk."

I've been to A&E twice. Once when my toddler first choked on, then swallowed a screw extracted from her high chair and again when my son had acute appendicitis. Both times I was surprised at the patients waiting with no apparent urgent complaint. To be fair I guess my toddler's problem wasn't highly visible.

The owl and the pussycat?

Two boaties were rescued trying to cross Cook Strait in a four-metre wooden dinghy with a single sail and oars made from broomstick handles.

Another "talkfest"

Here's a loaded question; "We are talking about using the law to save lives. Who can argue with that?"

Me. Laws are breakable. Laws do not tell us what is moral or immoral. The more laws we have the less we respect them. We should be valuing human life - not the law.

The question came out of a hui on domestic violence which was attended by 80 people over the weekend. The major complaint appears to be that the courts are not doing enough to protect women from domestic violence.

The (Domestic Violence) act expressly lowered the threshold of the level of violence considered severe enough for a protection order without notice to be granted.

Delegates and speakers said more and more protection orders were being put on notice, meaning women needing immediate protection were often being left without court order protection for several weeks.

The DVA allows for yelling at somebody to be defined as violence. And it is my understanding that the protection order facility has been abused.

Genuine domestic violence is ugly and it kills but no amount of law is going to protect someone from a partner or ex who is out of control. In the worst case scenario a protection order is about as useful as a microchip in a savage dog.

These people, as well-meaning as they may be, are barking up the wrong tree.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Take your own advice

"You all have an obligation to wake the fuck up and realise how every thing that you have now, all the rights to be free to earn money to marry when you want, to gain an education, to control your sexuality and bear children when you want – all of these rights have been fought for by women and they can be taken away."

That is an excerpt from one Kate Sutton's Womensfest speech delivered at Auckland University on April 11th. It's the run-of-the-mill feminist tirade against the oppressive male, some of which is rather extreme. But considering the above, the solution to perceived residual equality problems lies in the hands of her audience. Women have never had so much freedom and choice.

So stop whingeing about who might take it away. (I wouldn't rule it out but the day that happens everybody's liberty will be going down the dunny). Stop blaming men for your own inadequacies and stop demanding the state accommodate your ambition and fund your failure.

Take responsibility for yourselves in every respect. Why? Because you can.

(Thanks Whig)

My soldier

This is a very early effort. I found my soldier in a farewell family group photo and wanted to preserve him. He hangs on my wall. Sadly I don't know who he was or whether he returned from WW1. But not for want of trying.

Through the publisher of the book it came from, I tracked the original photo to its owner. She only knew that the very young boy in the photo was her cousin. I tracked him down by ringing every Bryant in the Wellington phonebook. I found an elderly man who was almost blind. He was Frank Bryant and could identify two of the soldiers in the photo as his father and uncle but he had no idea who the third was. Which just happened to be the one I had been drawn to. Efforts to trace his battalion through assumptions based on what I knew, or find his image in other official photos all failed. But through my search I became immersed in the history, spending time at the Defence Library and Waiouru. He remains a mystery.

The happy upshot of it all was I put two cousins together who had been out of touch for many years, one believing the other had passed on. They were able to spend some time together before Frank died. And I am still in touch with his wife.

"How Labour turned the UK into a Soviet Tractor"

This is a withering analysis (with NZ parallels). Simon Caulkin describes how, despite the right motivation, the UK's planning culture has snowballed;

Despite its professed dedication to market disciplines, New Labour is the most micromeddling administration in history, creating detailed specification and prescription for everything from school lesson planning to the way documents are processed or calls answered in local government offices.

Sanity prevails

Earlier in the month I posted about a Queenstown court case where three men were being charged with the same drink-driving offence. It's been thrown out. What a waste of time. And it isn't a flash look for the police involved.

Defence counsel Sonia Vidal had said in the Queenstown District Court on April 11 she had huge concerns about the legality of the charges.

Police charged all three men because they did not know who had been driving during the incident which brought them to police attention.

They have no proof of who the driver was, or the exact vehicle that was driven, so police have entered the house and charged all three flatmates, she told Judge Dominic Flatley.

I have huge concerns about the legality of many steps in the process, Ms Vidal said.

Deja vu

The Law Commisson wants to reduce parole eligibility. "We want to reform the parole system in a way which is consistent with the 'truth in sentencing' approach," Sir Geoffrey said at a press conference in Wellington.

Truth in sentencing. Now where have I heard that before?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Deborah Coddington on ACT MPs

Deborah Coddington does a live spot on Larry William's NewstalkZB Show each Monday. Today Mary Lambie is filling in for Larry. Asked what she thought about ACT MP's activities Deborah was critical. She surmises Heather is joining the army to glean experience and then likened this to National MP Katherine O'Regan's pointless exercise of going on a benefit to see what it was like. She refused to see any merit in the idea. They appear to be publicity hunting, Deborah says. Yet she was castigated by the ACT party for not being able to keep her personal life out of the papers and now it looks like they are going down the same path! The ACT party was supposed to be about principles, not politics, says Deborah.

There was a fair bit of egging along by Mary Lambie who wants to know who will be left in Parliament to do the work and why are TVNZ are doing an exclusive coverage deal with them. She is interviewing a undisclosed Dancing with the Stars contestant later. If it's Rodney I'm sure he will adequately answer these questions for her. Afterall, Parliament didn't grind to a halt when Deborah went off to Cambridge in 2003.

Dunne gives EPMU a dressing down

Yesterday I blogged that the EPMU 90 day notice of protest action is a threat to the smaller parties. Peter Dunne obviously thinks so too.

Let's put it on the record for future reference;

"Who on earth do the EPMU think they are that they should stoop to this sort of industrial blackmail?" asked Mr Dunne.

"This is not France where industrial legislation is decided by street rioting ? this is New Zealand where these matters are decided by people making submissions to a select committee and by the people's elected representatives in Parliament.

"United Future's votes were crucial in sending Dr Mapp's Bill to a select committee for consideration and the EPMU's threats have had the effect of firming up our support for the Bill," said Mr Dunne.

Sierre Leone

What have Sierra Leone and New Zealand got in common?

Canadian tourists have been attacked in both countries in the past few days. The difference is, in the third world nation of Sierra Leone the assailants were chimpanzees.

Trespass rights denied

An Oakura (south of New Plymouth) man is refusing to allow people to cross his land. They have been hurling abuse at him and his kids and still attempting to cross the paddock. The man is living in a house caravan in the paddock they want to cross. It isn't clear why he has decided to refuse them access but here's the thing. They can walk around the paddock quite easily. But the angry abusers think they have the right to trespass on this man's land.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel was snapped while holidaying in Ischia over Easter. Pray with me a similar calamity never befalls our dear leader.

Don't make HC Minister of Welfare

The Prime Minister is also Minister for Heritage, Culture and Recreation.

When Labour came to power, spending was $316 million per annum. Since 1999 it has ballooned to almost $1 billion. Latest Treasury Statement of Financial Performance shows that in the year to June 2005 spending was $991 million. That's a 213 per cent increase.

Put into perspective, Law and Order spending rose by 33 per cent over the same period.

For heaven sake, don't make Helen Minister of Social Welfare!

(And for the record, as an artist, I don't think we have any right to special privileges from the state.)

Extreme Trivia

Eleven days from now, on Wednesday, May 4, 2006, at two minutes and three seconds after 1:00 AM in the morning, the time and date will be:

01:02:03 04/05/06

I'll probably sleep through it....

(Ta Adam Smith blog)

Low society

The "undercover" Herald journalist who inveigled her way into the company of Mick Jagger for four days by lying (an act of omission is a lie) and then told all, including his confided mistrust of the media, is a toe-rag and a hack.

Union threatens mass protest

The EPMU is threatening mass protests. According to Newsroom New Zealand’s largest trade union is putting National Party industrial relations spokesman Wayne Mapp on 90 days’ notice of mass industrial protest over his Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill.

What is it they want Wayne Mapp to do? This is to threaten the smaller parties who supported the bill to select committee eg The Maori Party.