Saturday, January 03, 2009

'More-money' Maharey

And staying in the Manawatu, 'more-money' Maharey has poked his head up again. The Dominion Post has a piece today about his goals as Vice Chancellor of Massey University.

"The top of my tree is that they give us more money...

" ...we can help the government to get outstanding policy, as long as they give us some more money."

"We just can't be world competitive if we are not given more money."

Got your chequebook out?

One man's opinion

A Manawatu 'artist' has been spray painting messages on high traffic walls. He is upset that his art is being described as tagging. I started reading this story feeling antagonism towards the artist but by the time I had finished I was grinning. If his views are not a by-product of religious conviction they are certainly unusual.

"At this time, the message I want to put out there is about love."

He said that for so long he had been saddened to see families torn apart, and husbands and wives or partners being unfaithful to each other.

"It saddens me that people live like this, but more so infuriates me because it happens. Most men are so weak and are just out there trying to impress their peers and all that bulls**t!"

The messages of love he had placed on the wall of the high-traffic area near the art gallery and the City Library were to affirm that love was about being faithful, honest and loyal, he said. This was love's true and only essence.

"It's about how your heart is for one person and one person only.

"People throw their heart around like it's nothing and [part of] a desolate, worthless life."

Men treated women poorly and had no respect for them, but women were even worse to men.

Yes. I quite like this guy. He has his eyes wide open.

It takes time to come to the realisation that love isn't lust, sentimental gesture or statement, physical displays of affection, or obsessive infatuation. It's commitment. I don't believe in a golden age passed but there is certainly a lot less of it about right now.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

What's in a year?

Putting to one side that Stuff polls are not scientific, etc, etc, this one reveals something about the psyche of some New Zealanders I find most interesting. I'm not sure why Stuff put the options in the order they appear instead of in a continuum and there are more positive options than negative.

How was your 2008?

Average (2998 votes, 25.2%)

Good (2928 votes, 24.6%)

Excellent (1659 votes, 14.0%)

The best year of my life (511 votes, 4.3%)

Bad (1546 votes, 13.0%)

The worst year of my life (2239 votes, 18.8%)

Only 4 in 100 thought last year was the best year of their life compared to almost 19 in 100 thinking it was the worst. Nearly a third thought it was the worst or bad. It's be interesting to know how those people would have voted at the end of 2008. I suspect many, similarly. Is it events or attitudes? That is probably as futile a rumination as the nature vs nurture argument.

I would be fascinated to see the same poll run in other countries to compare responses. My expectation would be that New Zealanders are comparatively gloomy and pessimistic. Many are spoilt and not particularly resilient. Perhaps also because there is a high proportion of New Zealanders living elsewhere, and they may tend to be more optimistic types, the poll is skewed.

Of course 43 percent had a good (my selection - every day above ground is a good one), excellent or best year so there are still plenty of smiling faces out there.

Why was my year not excellent or best? I hated the campaign. I have never felt like such a crock in all my life. And it tended to dominate my year. But on the positive side of the ledger my children keep surprising me especially with their musical talents. They have made me very happy and proud when performing. But more than that their developing characters and humour make them fine companions. My husband continues to be my rock. And the rest of my extended family are happy. Perhaps I should have ticked excellent on reflection.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Fairness" or foolishness?

According to today's NZ Herald,

Mr Maharey - made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit - has a concrete reminder of the measure he considers his greatest achievement during his 18 years in Parliament (nine of them in Cabinet).

In a frame on the wall of his new office is the law - complete with the Governor-General's signature - that introduced Working for Families, a gift from staff at the Ministry of Social Development. "It's not just a piece of legislation," Mr Maharey says. "It represents to me the high point trying to address that issue of fairness. That's what I was in politics for."

This is a politician whose idea of fairness rests on what he and his colleagues decide it is. In other words fairness is an arbitrary line drawn subjectively, not according to any principle of property rights or individual rights.

Under Working For Families it is considered fair to take the fruit of one individual's efforts and give it to another deemed more worthy or deserving.

My definition of fairness (as described in the Concise Oxford Dictionary) is " just, unbiased, equitable, legitimate, in accordance with rules."

Only the last requirement is met because the rules are set by those who do not understand the preceding.

But even putting aside matters people with different philosophies will argue about, WFF will ultimately have negative effects due to the inherent distorted incentives. It will reduce productivity, entrepreneurship and personal responsibility. Is that 'fairness' or foolishness?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Science and Steve Maharey

Kiwiblog has drawn my attention to a post by Steve Maharey, former Minister for Social Development, at The Pundit. He writes about the looming ETS select committee hearing;

Evidence from competing points of view will be heard by New Zealand’s elected representatives. This evidence is to be treated equally. Public officials will be asked if they have been impartial. Those who advance the position that human activity is contributing to climate change are to be set against those who oppose this view – as if they are equals.

Of course they are not. The overwhelming view of the science community is for the former view. A tiny minority oppose this view. They may be right – minority views can be right – but in this instance they will have to work very hard if they are to be taken seriously given the depth of the evidence they are seeking to question.

It is a little like asking for a committee to be set up on the evidence that smoking causes cancer and then treating all submissions equally. It would be funny if it were not so absurd.

Steve Maharey's idea of science is well captured by these words from 2003;

"I know of no social science that says the nuclear family is more successful than other kinds."

When it comes to science, Mr Maharey doesn't look very hard. And he is now Vice Chancellor of Massey. What chance critical thinking?

On columnists

There are not many I read. But two have come to my attention this morning, both with exceptional pieces albeit very different in subject and style.

What is the NZ Herald thinking of letting Colin James go? Are we, the-readers-with-more-than-fluff-between-our-ears, of such little consequence? Just as the Dominion Post made the indefensible botch up of sacking Michael Bassett, the Herald seems oblivious to the vast political knowledge and perspicacity of thought possessed by the endangered likes of these two writers. Ah, but the past is not important. Perhaps James inadvertently confirmed his own apparent redundancy by touching on this phenomenon today. Then again, perhaps that is why we go on and on doing what doesn't work. Because we refuse to listen to - or have a dumbed-down media preventing us from listening to - those who have seen it all before.

I understand Mr James will continue writing his thought-provoking pieces. I have always subscribed to them directly anyway so bugger the Herald. You can too ( subscribe that is) by e-mailing

The second columnist, who helped dissipate - slightly - the anger I am feeling towards the Herald (a letter to the editor may also assist) is Jeremy Clarkson, who has written a hilariously rude piece of advice for street retailers. Brilliant.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The evolution of language

Yet another case of child murder where the alleged perpetrator is a beneficiary. According to the NZ Herald,

The arrested man, a beneficiary, will also face a number of drug-related charges.

Somebody has to say what we all think, " No surprises there."

The term 'beneficiary basher' has developed quite an ambiguous meaning. In an ironic twist, those who coined the term were apologists for lifestyle beneficiaries, the literal bashers. But it was never enough to deter those of us who could see the overlap between welfare dependence and violence widening and worsening.

How awful that our support, voluntary or otherwise, for supposed 'need', enables the sort of circumstances to develop whereby children are now, as Deborah Coddington points out today, at greater risk of death through violence than prostitutes.