Saturday, June 27, 2009

We'll take the pleasure, thanks

What does it mean when you hear people say, I grew up with Michael Jackson? I'll tell you.

It means your bedroom walls were plastered in Michael Jackson pin-up posters; you collected all his 45s which cost $1.15 each back then and stencilled your initials on the labels; you sketched his face; you played Rockin' Robin endlessly and watched Ed Sullivan appearances with awe and excitement. Later you made clothes sporting his name or The Jacksons and paraded them up town on Friday night; you danced alone or with friends or crooned along with tracks from the best ever album, Off The Wall.

It would all seem a long time ago until you have a daughter who is genetically programmed to react the very same way. The albums are hauled out. A needle sought for the disused stylus and after much searching, located at a specialist hi-fi shop. We watch the Ed Sullivan shows on DVD; the many Carol Burnett show appearances on YouTube. She sings, dances, mimics Michael - up on the table, tilting her hat, bending the knee and pointing the toe. So many hats she collects that match his different styles at different times. She adores him. Just the way I had.

She came home from school yesterday and said a friend had said she was glad Michael Jackson was dead because she didn't like him. Why? Because her mum didn't like him. All that weird stuff, you know.

Give me my sweet pea's pleasure over the cynic's pain any day.

So my girl and me put on the Bucharest Tour DVD last night and marvelled together all over again. Marvellous, magical, over-the-top, pushing-it-to-the max, Michael. Thank you.

Friday, June 26, 2009

"... a damning indictment. "

This is possibly the best summary of the week. From the Maxim Institute;

The continuing debate over the referendum on child discipline took a turn for the surreal this week, with politicians from across the spectrum lining up to attack the referendum question as nonsensical, saying things like "the law is working" and "the question is weird."

The question we are supposed to answer does not seem hard. "Should a smack as part of good parental correction be a criminal offence in New Zealand?" Committed to his brokered "compromise" John Key can't afford to admit the law is not working. Phil Goff can't afford to offend elements in his own party, ideologically committed to the ban on physical discipline. And neither of them want to ignore the large majority of Kiwis who keep telling pollsters they support a good parent's right to make disciplinary decisions.

So, they pretend contempt for the question, and count on a low turnout.

This in itself is a damning indictment. The growing popularity of referenda and public distrust in politicians, are the products of people feeling that the government is distant, that they don't care what we think. Regardless of the merits of the question (whose limitations are unavoidable given that it must be a yes/no question) the gist of the referendum is clear to both the Yes and No campaigns, and the public should have their say on it.

Contempt for the democratic process is far too general across the spectrum—from Parliament, when it abuses urgency, to leaders when they disregard the feedback they are receiving from constituents. Luckily for the country, our democracy does not belong to them alone—it is a precious right belonging to all of us. From the end of July, we should all do our duty and value the imperfect but vital process of democracy—especially when others are not.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sleight of hand socialism

Many state house tenants are on benefits.

In 2007 only 170,000 out of 260,000 working-age beneficiaries were getting an Accommodation Supplement. HNZ tenants do not qualify for this supplement. There are 69,000 state houses so I am picking the percentage of tenants who are beneficiaries would be significant.

Beneficiaries in state houses have their rent paid for by the state, through a Housing NZ rental subsidy and their benefit. Therefore the money stays with or goes back to the state.

However, if those people decide to buy their houses, a possibility if the government raises the mortgage cap, they will instead get their mortgage paid for by the state through the Accommodation Supplement. (In 2007 43,000 people received an Accommodation Supplement to cover or contribute to mortgage repayments.) That money is then lost to the state.

So I am not quite sure how there will be (nett) extra money available for building more state houses.

I suppose it is one way to get people to save. KiwiSaver isn't dissimilar.

But it is a little philosophically mischievous for National to applaud and encourage private ownership yet achieve it by upping the degree of wealth transfer.

DPF thinks it's a great idea - Cactus doesn't.

Using the recession as an excuse

There are now 302,000 working-age people on benefits. According to a report on TV3 last night, the Minister, Paula Bennett, told a select committee yesterday that unemployment benefit numbers had climbed to 45,000.

So fewer than one in six people on a benefit is on the dole.

A the end of March the overall total was 288,959. So now there are at least 13,041 more beneficiaries. But the rise in unemployment - from 37,146 to 45,000 - is just 7,854.

As I have commented before, the numbers on all benefits will swell alongside the growth in unemployment benefit numbers. That is why using the dole queue as a measure of unemployment is faulty.

But more importantly, it is much harder to get people off the other benefits once they are on them. Letting the numbers on sickness and invalid, and especially the domestic purposes benefit swell, will prolong the effects of this recession.

Unfortunately politicians can use the recession as a cover or an excuse for continuing bad policy that can be summed up as overly easy access, too little pressure to regain independence and inverted incentives, ie greater incentive to do the wrong thing rather than the right thing.

Monday, June 22, 2009

An unhappy birthday

Yesterday was the second anniversary of Sue Bradford's legislation. Here she lauds the change and the progress made since. Today I will attend court to see for myself how well the law is working for a father charged with common assault. Not for smacking, but shoving his son.

The young people of New Zealand will look back on the law change as a pivotal seachange in our country’s culture, Mrs Turei said.

But will it be a change for the better?

In Christchurch, for the first time to my knowledge, we have reports of a rise in children abusing their parents.

Herbert said the [Battered Women's] trust had also noticed more parents being abused by their children.

"The number is not large, but it's definitely increasing. With teenagers, it's both boys and girls, and there are also cases of children who are even younger."