Saturday, May 13, 2006

It's true, Oswald!

OK. Where's 290 degrees? 250 and two notches more must be it. Whack it up. Leave one hour, as per instructions. Hell's bells. Smoke billowing out of oven, out of house... oven is still filthy. Grab conventional heavy duty oven cleaner. Spray on madly. AAAaaah. All gasping and gagging as the smoke carries caustic fumes throughout. All don emergency teatowels burkha-style. Slam oven shut. Re-read instructions.

"If using caustic oven cleaners in the Oven, remove all Self-Clean panels prior to application." (Emphasis by oven manufacturer.)

Ohhhhh bugger. Chill bottle of wine - quick. Deep freeze usually chills in couple of hours. Forgot just cleared out massive icebergs and is now ops normal. 2 hours later - one frozen solid bottle of ... oh, who cares. Anything that comes out of the bottle will do.

Could've been worse. Could've been Mother's Day.

The rich are getting richer......

How many times have you heard that? The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Why, just the other day I read it in an editorial in that lefty rag, the Manawatu Evening Standard.

This is a graph from the UK, released by National Statistics yesterday, where income inequality is falling.

It illustrates well how incomes are flattened by the tax and benefit system. I'd like to see an equivalent one for NZ, especially since the introduction of Working For Families. Note the final columns and the gap between them. That's the financial cost of state redistribution. The social costs are another matter......


Do the persons who invented a/ self-cleaning ovens and b/ frost-free freezers read this blog perchance?

If you do I have a message for you.......!@#$%^&*(*&^%$#@!......there are only two lies bigger than the ones you told.

There's got to be better ways to spend a sunny Saturday......

More on breeding in bonnie Scotland

Here's a good idea. Either put contraceptive into prescribed methadone or link the contraceptive regime to the methadone administration.

The Scotsman reports;
"Why are we in a situation where so many who are addicted to drugs are having children? As a first step, we should explore putting some form of oral contraception in methadone or using other methods. In that way we could reduce these problems and prevent some of these children coming into harm" - Duncan McNeil, Labour MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde

As long as the addict consents I can't see a problem.

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Last week we heard about the oldest mum-to-be in the UK. Now it's the youngest.

Her 34 year grandmother-to-be is very "proud" of her 12 year-old daughter who only smokes 20 cigarettes a day, according to the Scottish Sun.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Half full, half empty

The Maori Party serves at least one useful purpose. Spats periodically break out between their MPs and the Maori Labour MPs. Today it is between Parekura Horomia who is trumpeting Maori unemployment hitting a record low at 8.6 percent and Pita Sharples, Maori Party co-leader who is aghast that the Minister for Maori Affairs should be pleased with coming last.

Just as with any other group of individuals Maori have different ideas about what it takes to succeed and what constitutes success. The Maori Party believe in a collective view but, ironically, will provide the proof it can't be forced on all of their people. And I was encouraged that a few thousand Maori have actually moved from the Maori roll to the General roll during the recent electoral campaign.

On the subject of unemployment and Maori individuals, a teenage boy lives in a beneficiary home where there is genuine sickness and inability for the mother to work. He's not at school fulltime but he is involved with one-to-one educational catch-up for part of his day and has a job at Burger King for the other part. Things are looking up for him....except WINZ are set to cut his family support because he is too old to be a dependent, wiping $80 off his mother's income despite his still being at home.

WINZ recommendation to his mother is he goes on the unemployment benefit. But he doesn't want to go on the benefit, she says. He's got a job. If he has to give her his small wage he'll have none left for himself. He's proud of making his own money, but if he does what WINZ recommends he will have some to give his mother and some for himself. But he can't do that and work, unless he lies about it. Notice too, if he takes the second option the taxpayer will be even further out of pocket. It's a mess. It's so damn typical.

That's big-state bureaucracy. Their massive welfare agency can't be flexible or assess a situation based on its distinct characteristics. They have to stick to rules which keep people dependent, dispirited and directionless. Damn them again.

ME Awareness Day

No, it's not all about me. It's about ME.
Usual story. Government isn't doing enough.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Any experience or theories?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Parliament is a serious business

To Minister of Police, Annette King, regarding the use of uniformed civilians in police roles, National MP Simon Power asked, How do rural members of the public know, when they approach a person in police uniform and in an emergency situation, whether that person is a sworn and fully trained police officer, a decoy cop, or the lead singer from the Village People?

Parliament votes in more welfare

A commentor on the previous post said the lack of personal responsibility in NZ is a top-down phenomenon. He's only partly right. I see the lack of it coming from all directions. For instance, last night Parliament extended Paid Parental Leave, with cross party support.

Well, if you are going to pay unemployed mothers to stay home then it's hard to argue against paying working mums to stay home, and if you are going to pay working mums then it's hard to argue against paying ALL working mums. Now father's rights activists want it extended to them, as of right.

Rather than do away with policies which undermine personal responsibility Parliament just keeps on extending them. Has anybody ever heard of the PNR? And where was the opposition??

What a crock

"While we are disappointed our ranking has declined, this has more to do with changes in overall economic conditions, many of which are cyclical, than any genuine deterioration in our competitiveness."

That's Minister of Finance, Michael Cullen weasling his way out of dropping 6 places in the World Competitiveness Yearbook. SIX places.

Dole down - unemployment up 2

December 2005 Unemployment benefit = 51,426 Official unemployment rate = 3.6%
March 2006 Unemployment benefit = 44,549 Official unemployment rate = 3.9%


- the anomaly is caused by the lag between becoming unemployed and going on the dole
- the unemployed are on other benefits
- people went off the dole for reasons other than becoming employed eg went to Aussie
- the figures are wrong

Dole down - unemployment up

Back in early April I was critical of NZ Statistics for their sluggishness in releasing HLFS results. The US and Australia had their March 2006 quarter unemployment figures out within days. Over one month later our HLFS results are available.

Unemployment is up from 3.6 to 3.9 percent.

One area I monitor closely is the number of single parents with dependent children who are in "none employed" households. As the number of people on the DPB dropped by just under 3,000 from Dec 2005 to March 2006 I was expecting a drop in the "none employed" households. In fact, the result is the reverse of that. There was a rise of 2,700 taking the total to 46.6 percent of all One Parent with dependent children only.

Which would indicate the people who moved off the DPB did so for reasons other than work. Typically the main reasons would be transfer to another benefit, change of marital circumstances or leaving the country.

One mystery is solved though. Now I know why David Benson-Pope left it till yesterday to trumpet the March quarter dole numbers. Perhaps he knew today he'ed have to tell us the official unemployment rate has gone up. Confused? end to cats in the city!

So says the cat-curmudgeon Ray Springer. He wants $10 million from Christchurch rate-payers to operate his cat control programme which includes euthanising cats who break a curfew and microchipping.

"Get a goldfish" he says. I am sure there are plenty of Christchurch residents busting to tell him what he can get.

Blame it on the eighties

According to the NZ Herald, Members of Parliament's health select committee heard yesterday how New Zealand had experienced a "profound change" in the increase of obesity numbers in the late 1980s and a range of action was urgently needed to bring the numbers down.

Don't be surprised if some bright spark doesn't pop up today blaming obesity on the economic reforms.

Four years ago UNICEF published a report, "When the Invisible Hand Rocks the Cradle" which blamed New Zealand's child poverty problem on the eighties economic reforms. It's legitimate to consider what role they played. Unfortunately, having already decided what the cause was, the authors confined themselve's to the mid-eighties on. Any effects of the reforms were implicitly tied up with developments earlier than that. And, of course, we can never chart what the effects of NOT instigating the reforms would have been.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Good News

"The Welfare State We're In" is soon to be published in paperback AND the Sunday Telegraph will be serialising it. What we need is a New Zealand version.

Mothering isn't everything

Conservatists argue for at-home mothering but in some instances a child has improved life chances when they experience structured and quality child-care and early education.

Noble prize-winning economist, James Heckman of the University of Chicago says that the way a person's brain develops is heavily influenced by their interaction with their mother, father and any other care giver. The environment a new brain needs is one that is nourishing, nurturing and both intellectually and emotionally stimulating. Children often lack these if they come from families that are disadvantaged by poverty, the absence of a parent, the absence of wider family support or by the parents' lack of education or child-rearing skills.

Heckman did a follow-up study on a group of black children in Michigan who had been identified as having low intelligence and given special pre-school training that helped boost their IQ. The Perry intervention programme, which lifted the children's IQs initially, was later deemed a failure because the gain these children made seemed to be lost by the time they reached age 10. But 30 years later, compared to a control group, the Perry programme children had finished high school in the minimum amount of time, earned more money, owned their own homes, had never been on welfare and were less likely to have been arrested. Heckman says the difference was the "emotional intelligence" the children obtained during their special pre-school training when their brains were forming.

Emotional intelligence is how well people get along with others, how motivated they are and their ability to persevere and be tenacious. These are the attributes — combined with IQ — that helps people succeed. Heckman concludes that the emotional intelligence that disadvantaged children can gain from early childhood intervention results in their doing better in school, raises their productivity as workers, reduces welfare dependency and reduces crime. Heckman says the community benefits by eight-fold the cost of the early childhood intervention programme.

NB That's not to say I am advocating an increased role for state.

Things I would never think of

Reading this news from Australia about their "Dob-in-a-welfare cheat" scheme I was reminded of the latest dodge revealed to me. Get yourself into a position where WINZ agrees to subsidise or pay your power bill and then stick a fork in the electricity meter. Very soon you'll have a credit on your power statement. Don't know what the chances are of getting a cash refund but they were giving it a go!

State - the "parent" with more power

Reading this, by Sheldon Richman, made me feel slightly ill. Several Californian parents objected to their children, pupils at a public school, being asked sexually explicit questions as part of a mental health survey. The children were 7 - 10 year-olds. Reading the questions I would have objected too.

After filing an unsuccessful complaint with the school district, several parents went into federal court for an injunction and damages, charging that the school violated their rights to privacy and “to control the upbringing of their children by introducing them to matters of and relating to sex.” The district and appellate courts rejected those claims. At this writing, the plaintiffs have not decided whether to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The judge decided that the parents "chose" to send their children there (if you can't afford any other option due to taxation it isn't choice) and they "they do not have a fundamental right generally to direct how a public school teaches their child."

Then Judge Reinhardt invoked parens patriae, or "father of the country".

"The questioning can also be justified on the basis of an alternative state interest — namely, parens patriae.... [The] School District’s interest in the mental health of its students falls well within the state’s authority as parens patriae. As such, the School District may legitimately play a role in the care and nurture of children entrusted to them for schooling."

Again, the writer asks, did the parents have any choice but to entrust their children to the state?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Half the story 2

David Benson-Pope is congratulating his government over the lowest unemployment seen since the mid-eighties. There are now 44,549 on the dole compared to 42,405 in 1986.

If he wants to make comparisons here's a few more.

DPB 1986 62,570 2006 103,362 +65 percent
Invalid benefit 1986 21,993 2006 74,401 +238 percent
Sickness benefit 1986 9,517 2006 46,072 +384 percent

Funding the Women's Refuge

In 2000/01 the average stay in a women's refuge was 14 days. Now it is up to 44. It appears the women's refuges are becoming a source of accommodation.

"Ms Henare said the Government had identified violence as an issue, but it had been 'incredibly lax' in funding non-government organisation providers."

Work and Income already provide housing and accommodation supplements so why is the government expected to fund further services?

Women's refuge perform an important function which the public support voluntarily. We are told the current financial crisis is due to rising domestic violence but it must also be due to the length of time that people are spending there. They need to sort that out instead of calling for more government funding.

Fat, Drunk and Broke

I'd be interested in any comments on this article by ex Treasury assistant in the Reagan administration, Paul Craig Roberts.
It all sounds vaguely familiar if not on a much grander scale. Huge deficit, shrinking manufacturing, job growth in the services; health, education, social assistance and financial, living on credit, hidden unemployment and so on. It's a bit glum.

Judith Collins MP

Collins has a confrontational manner. She enjoys the put-down method of dealing with what she doesn't like and can dish out as good as she gets. Whether it will serve her well waits to be seen. If she wasn't "boorish" on this occasion she has been on others. Personally I balk at deliberate rudeness. It's unneccessary.

Too much time is spent in public institutions observing Maori cultural traditions that, on balance, serve no positive purpose but she's intentionally making a mountain out of a foothill. The place she walked out of, a CYFS youth centre, is about kids. It's about their (probably) last chance to get a life, to turn around. Getting into a row with the kaumatua shut down any possibility of working together.

I supported Josie Bullock's protest which she went about with dignity and reason. With any cause there are good advocates and bad ones. Being right doesn't give licence to behave badly. And on occasion there is a bigger issue than the barrow you are pushing.

Centrebet post odds on Dancing with the Stars

Doesn't it irk when we have to look to the Australians to tell us what we think?

As bookies are illegal in this country we turn to Centrebet to see what odds are on offer on certain outcomes. We followed Centrebet's odds on the election result. From memory, they got it right.

Can they predict the winner of Dancing with the Stars? They have installed Queen Bea as favourite, Rodney Hide as fifth, and Lorraine Downes as last (with an interesting reason why).

I mention these contestants because the talkback verdict yesterday was that public "popularity" would be divided between these three.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bad for your health

It is surprising, even to me, how quickly the public has taken a dislike to Pete Hodgson. People know there is something wrong with the health system and are past being patronised. One e-mailer to Newstalk ZB said, "The Health Minister makes me sick."

I came across a quote in a British paper, by one Tim Hames, which, adapted goes;

'The only justification for keeping Hodgson at Health is that he might save the public health system money by draining the electorate of the will to live'


No longer just fathers

The group led by Jim Bagnall, which has been protesting at the homes of family court judges and lawyers, now includes three mothers who have been denied access to their children. They are continuing with their new strategy after eight years of protesting outside family courts failed to achieve change. Homes targetted over the weekend included the Speaker Margaret Wilson's.

Half the story

Here's David Benson-Pope on the latest beneficiary numbers, down 2.9 percent in the year to March.

As he has only given you the overall decrease, here is the breakdown;

Invalid benefit - up 2,100 or 3 percent
Sickness benefit - up 2,300 or 5 percent
DPB - down 2,300 or 2 percent
Unemployment benefit - down 10,400 or 19 percent

"The government believes that ultimately work is the best way out of poverty, and provides the best social and economic outcomes for families in the long run," Mr Benson-Pope said.

There's a problem word in that sentence. ULTIMATELY. Finally, eventually, sooner or later, in the end. Why did he use it?

The power of TV

Apparently DIY shows are causing men to have DIY accidents.

So perhaps those TV ads showing blokes falling off ladders are making blokes.....fall off ladders. Afterall, this is the leading cause of DIY accidents.

Whatever, here comes the government galloping to our rescue.

".....this could soon be a thing of the past. New government rules are set to limit the size of projects handymen can tackle. At present, anyone can renovate as long as building inspectors check the work. By 2011, only licensed builders will be able to carry out the work."

Failing that the government will consider passing legislation to ban further production of DIY programmes....

Sunday, May 07, 2006

One busy boy

The Scotsman reports, Lesbians and single women are receiving IVF and other fertility treatments on the NHS in Scotland despite a nationwide shortage of sperm donors......It has also emerged that Scotland currently has just one active sperm donor, following changes in the law that removed the right to anonymity.

Couple of silly sheilas

Dopey dog and daughter. They're the same silly age. Here they are hanging out together.

Maori Party disquiet over Treaty settlement process

The Maori Party are considering calling a halt to the treaty claims process because of problems it lists in a letter posted on their website.

# Government said the country could only afford $1 billion for treaty settlements.
# That proposal has already been rejected by iwi at the Hirangi hui in 1992.
# The 2005 Budget listed a surplus of $7 billion.
# Clearly, government's settlement offer of $1.3 billion is insultingly low.

* The Crown is settling at about 2% of the real value of claims.
* Maori are being forced to accept far less than their claims are worth.

It is not our intention to oppose Treaty settlements at this point, but to signal our very clear disquiet with the process, the terms, the quantum, and the agency managing Treaty settlements.

It is because of the seriousness and the breadth of those concerns, that the Maori Party is considering a call :

"That all Treaty settlements be suspended until there has been a full review of the Treaty Settlement process".

Their "disquiet with .... the quantum" must be extreme. By my calculations the Maori Party believes the government should pay $65 billion in treaty settlements.


What is the function of a headline?

Childcare role of women, say parents

Which parents?

The survey of more than 1000 parents showed 34 per cent agreed the father should be the breadwinner, while 53 per cent disagreed.