Friday, June 13, 2008

Time for a laugh

How do these people survive?

ONE Recently, when I went to Mc Donald's I saw on the menu that you could have an order of 6, 9 or 12 Chicken McNuggets. I asked for a half dozen nuggets. 'We don't have half dozen nuggets,' said the teenager at the counter. 'You don't?' I replied. 'We only have six, nine, or twelve,' was the reply. 'So I can't order a half dozen nuggets, but I can order six?' 'That's right.' So I shook my head and ordered six McNuggets

TWO I was checking out at the local Wal-Mart with just a few items and the lady behind me put her things on the belt close to mine. I picked up one of those 'dividers' that they keep by the cash register and placed it between our things so they wouldn't get mixed. After the girl had scanned all of my items, she picked up the 'divider', looking i t all over for the bar code so she could scan it. Not finding the code she said to me, 'Do you know how much this is?' I said to her 'I've changed my mind, I don't think I'll buy that today.' She said 'OK,' and I paid her for the things and left. She had no clue to what had just happened.

THREE A lady at work was seen putting a credit card into her floppy drive and pulling it out very quickly. When I inquired as to what she was doing, she said she was shopping on the Internet and they kept asking for a credit card number, so she was using the ATM 'thingy.'

FOUR I recently saw a distraught young lady weeping beside her car. 'Do you need some help?' I asked. She replied, 'I knew I should have replaced the battery to this remote door un-locker. Now I can't get into my car. Do you think they (pointing to a distant convenience store) would have a battery to fit this?' 'Hmmm, I dunno. Do you have an alarm, too?' I asked. 'No, just this remote thingy,' she answered, handing it and the car keys to me. As I took the key and manually unlocked the door, I replied, 'Why don't you drive over there and check about the batteries. It's a long walk.'

FIVE Several years ago, we had an Intern who was none too swift. One day she was typing and turned to a secretary and said, 'I'm almost out of typing paper. What do I do?' 'Just use copier machine paper,' the secretary told her. With that, the intern took her last remaining blank piece of paper, put it on the photocopier and proceeded to make five 'blank' copies.

SIX A mother calls 911 very worried asking the dispatcher if she needs to take her kid to the emergency room, the kid was eating ants. The dispatcher tells her to give the kid some Benadryl and should be fine, the mother says, I just gave him some ant killer..... Dispatcher: Rush him in to emergency!

Life is tough...
it's tougher if you're stupid.'

You can go too

I have seen no media reports about this. (Details here)
If Dyson wanted it in the news, it would be there.

Almost looks as if the government are trying to keep it quiet. Even NZ First hasn't been jumping up and down claiming credit. Perhaps they haven't been told. Or they aren't sharp enough to pick it up.

Perhaps the government is keeping it low key because they don't want superannuitants living overseas to start lodging claims for their increased entitlement.

But they should be making a big noise. If more superannuitants retired overseas the taxpayer could save a fortune on health and care services!

Seriously, with the rate young New Zealanders are leaving at, their parents will probably jump at the chance to follow them. Perhaps that's the political implication the government is trying to avoid being splashed all over the media.

"You can bugger off too!"

Vouchers villified. But why?

In Washington DC teacher unions are trying to stop a voucher system for the poorest black and Hispanic children. Yet 90 percent of parents are apparently very happy with the scheme. What's the problem?

Opponents claim there is no evidence that the D.C. scholarship program is raising academic achievement. The only study so far, funded by the federal Department of Education, found positive but "not statistically significant" improvements in reading and math scores after the first year. But education experts agree it takes a few years for results to start showing up. In other places that have vouchers, such as Milwaukee and Florida, test scores show notable improvement. A new study on charter schools in Los Angeles County finds big academic gains when families have expanded choices for educating their kids.

Does it cost more?

The $7,500 voucher is a bargain for taxpayers because it costs the public schools about 50% more, or $13,000 a year, to educate a child in the public schools.

Does it prevent choice?

Many of the parents we interviewed describe the vouchers as a "Godsend" or a "lifeline" for their sons and daughters. "Most of the politicians have choices on where to send their kids to school," says William Rush, Jr., who has two boys in the program. "Why do they want to take our choices away?"

Because just like New Zealand's teacher union and New Zealand's political left, the US unions are frightened that success in the private sector will mean parents abandon public schools. It's not about children and it's not about parents.

The teachers unions have put out the word to Congress that they want all vouchers for private schools that compete with their monopoly system shut down.

It's about unions protecting their patch, whether it grows weeds or prize winning pumpkins. ACT's education vouchers policy is anathema to monopolists (including National?). We will be pushing it with passion.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Just desserts on both sides

A troublesome 16 year-old schoolboy promises to "shit on" his teacher's lawn and waits outside his home to ostensibly do just that. He waits on hour. The teacher arrives home and first checks his own children are OK. Then an argument develops between the two and the teacher punches the kid eight times. The teacher is prosecuted, given diversion and sent on an anger management course. He was demoted and ultimately fined by the Teacher's Council.

When I try to think about such a case, acknowledging all I know is what the media discloses (How badly hurt was the boy? What were his previous misdemeanours?), I find it useful to put my own players in the picture. My 14 year-old and a teacher for instance. Notwithstanding I am finding it almost impossible to imagine him in this scenario (but teenagers can go off the rails very quickly and kind, patient teachers can be pushed beyond their limits) I feel some sympathy with both parties.

The teacher's reaction is over the top but it is a rare man or woman who hasn't "snapped" at some point in their personal or professional lives. The problem lies in how the explosion manifests. In my younger days, I clearly remember hitting a bathroom wall so hard once I bruised by fist. I have never hit a person. And there seems to be something "missing" when a person hits someone repeatedly rather than taking their enormous anger and frustration out on something inanimate or simply turning their back and walking away. The teacher may have tried the second and been further provoked. We don't know.

As for the youth, if my son was carrying on like this I would think he was off his trolley. That he was in need of help possibly beyond that I could provide. I don't accept threats of that nature and waiting outside someone's home are just "infantile" pranks.

What I really, really, really want to know is, did the teacher's actions make an impression on this boy? Did they make his behaviour better or worse? I suspect that the father may have nullified any positive effect. I would have been very "agitated" if my son had been punched eight times but I wouldn't be making excuses for him. I would be telling him that he just learned a valuable lesson about human nature. Based on the degree of provocation I probably wouldn't have pressed assault charges. But no account seems to be taken of provocation these days. Especially if it is female provocation of a male.

Based on what we do know I am happy that the teacher was allowed to continue in his job. Violence is never desirable but if it had been 'horrendous' I doubt the man would still be teaching. We need all the male teachers we can get.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Silly advice

From the NZ Herald editorial today,

Act, however, must campaign in a way that does not make life difficult for National. Sir Roger and his economic programme may be its chief branding weapon, but it must recognise that every vote lost by National diminishes its own chances of being in government.

What bollocks. ACT has to campaign hard on its ideas and plans. National can take care of itself. Winning matters. This is an election campaign. It isn't kiddies sport where it's the "taking part that counts". ACT doesn't exist to be a bit-player to National. Increasingly the two parties have less in common but it isn't ACT that has moved away from its founding principles. The most important message ACT has for New Zealanders is that a mere change in government will not change the direction of this country. The more MPs ACT has, the more real change we can effect.


A comment from yesterday,

The rate of crime is a function of the profits divided by the chance of being caught or killed.

Also yesterday my mother rang to tell me that whilst he is in hospital recovering from open heart surgery, my brother's house has been burgled.

The police have not attended and there is nobody available yet to take fingerprints.

Fooling fools

Yesterday I had just read a piece by Roger Kerr in the Dominion Post about the futility of Cullen's tax cuts - "Clayton's cuts" - when I glanced down and saw this.

What followed was one of those 'pass me a bucket' moments.

"The Inland Revenue plays a critical role in improving the economic and social well being of all New Zealanders."

Since when??? The role of the IRD is to collect tax - no more, no less.

Oh get with it Lindsay. The IRD is now a key player in redistributing income to 'needy' families. It is the WINZ of the middle class. And we all know how much Work and Income contributes to well being by the number of security men they employ.

But this is an ad for an Investigator. Not a plunket nurse.

"Serving as an Investigator is highly rewarding through the contribution it makes to improve our customers' understanding of, and compliance with tax and social policy laws."

Seriously now, this is disgusting and scary stuff. If you ever struggle to envisage big government, this is it. First the IRD has recast itself into a so-called social organisation with one of the "largest workforces in New Zealand," when all it should be doing it collecting tax. If we had flat tax most of this workforce could be doing something productive instead of being the monkeys on the back of the engine house.

But almost worse than the size of this monolith is the language it uses to fool itself and the public into regarding it as a bastion of beneficence. In truth most people would behold the visit of an Investigator with great trepidation. We wouldn't be putting on the kettle in anticipation of a nice chat.

We've got to wake up in this country. All big government is good for is producing make-work jobs and make-believe descriptions. Voting National won't put an end to this sort of nonsense.

Monday, June 09, 2008

What now?

Can anybody imagine the grief or anger of the relatives of Navtej Singh.

In the Dominion Post there are pictures of the family of the polish tramper who lost his life just over the hills from us last week. Their pain is palpable; their faces crumple. But he lost his life because of an accident. He was pursuing his passion.

What of poor Mr Singh? Only 30. Gunned down by someone who values booze more than life, or at least someone else's life. Who will step up to make excuses for the murderer? Some bleeding heart counsel will no doubt make submissions about upbringing, poverty and more generically, skin colour. There is every possibility Mr Singh also came from an impoverished background and his race have experienced disproportionate poverty. But he was a worker. He was trying to make a crust legitimately - as far as we know.

He must have thought about the possibility of violent robbery. May have even experienced it before. He must have consciously decided that he would follow police advice and submit to the violation. He took a calculated risk, not just by choosing this course of action but by the very act of living and working in what is purportedly a dangerous area. He lost the gamble. Who to blame?

Where are the liberal left who remonstrate against apportioning blame? It's not about blaming someone, they say. The problems in South Auckland are systemic, they say. It's the gap between rich and poor driving violent crime. But there wasn't much of a gap between the perpetrator and the victim, was there?

And what next for the police? Don't defend yourselves they say. Call us. Too late. But where were you anyway? A neighbourhood as dangerous as this needs a constance presence. What am I saying. If there was a constant police presence this wouldn't have happened. If the neighbours are too terrified to speak because of gang recriminations the police are probably too scared to police.

I am sick at the state of parts of this country. I am sick at poor people being victims of other poor people who have lost all traces of humanity. But mostly I am sick of our seeming inability to deal with them. RIP Navtej Singh. I am sorry.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Poor Expectations

Sometimes numbers just breeze right past me. Then I do a double-take and think twice. One such number just presented itself in a reply to a written question from Judith Collins to the Minister of Social Development.

3,099 clients aged 16-17 years receive a main benefit (excluding partners).

There are around 120,000 16-17 year-olds. That means more than 1 in 40 is on a benefit. That's like one in a large school class. Hell, that's a lot. And it doesn't auger well for the future because many are just starting on a lifetime habit.

Yesterday a friend sent me some research from the University of British Colombia which shows that availability of welfare encourages kids to leave school.

Bill Warburton had observed that the dropout rate for children at risk of receiving income assistance rose with B.C.'s welfare caseload through the early 1990s and fell when a substantial package of welfare reforms was introduced Jan. 1, 1996, which removed about 100,000 people from the welfare rolls.

Using data from the B.C. ministries of education and employment and income assistance, Warburton found that when the New Democrats began a program of welfare reform in the mid-1990s, high school dropout rates began to fall and continued to fall for several years.

Arguably the most important aspect of welfare reform is it wards off those who would otherwise have become enmeshed. It makes them consider better options.

A good chunk of those NZ 16 and 17 year-olds on welfare are either pregnant and on a sickness benefit or a teenage mum and on the emergency maintenance allowance. Until the system changes expectations the problem-producing benefit lifestyle will continue unabated.


That's put me over my limit. Can I manage two whole books in one year? I can generally get through one. Last year it was Rodney Hide's highly readable biography.

But last week I purchased Bob Jones', Jones on Management which is very good. In fact I may finish it today. I read a good chunk last night whilst not watching the All Blacks.

And tomorrow I will buy Michael Bassett's latest, Working With David. This piece has further whet my appetite.

From the start, the clandestine affair between the married prime minister and his speechwriter aroused feelings of foreboding among his staff.

It was "like a crow on your shoulder all the time, because you're never quite sure when it's going to shit on you", former Lange press officer Ross Vintiner told historian Dr Michael Bassett.

Jolly good. This promises to be a book that goes deep into the ways in which relationships affect thinking. The too real overlay of human frailty on political actions that reach out across populations and time.