Saturday, March 06, 2010

"Lefties too clever by half"

I couldn't resist posting this in its entirety. It comes from the Centre for Independent Studies newsletter;

Lefties too clever by half

This week’s news held an unpleasant surprise for the world’s conservatives and religious. Luckily for them, they were probably too dumb to understand it.

A long-time study by the London School of Economics (LSE) just revealed that being politically conservative or religious goes hand in hand with lower intelligence. The more respondents identified as left-wing or atheist, the higher their IQ. Conversely, conservative or religious convictions correlated with lower intelligence.

The differences were too large to be random. While young adults who thought of themselves as ‘very progressive’ scored 105 points on average, their ‘very conservative’ contemporaries only managed 95 points on the IQ scale. The gap between the atheists and the faithful was smaller, but the non-believers still beat the religious by 103 to 97.

Dr Satoshi Kanazawa, a psychologist at the LSE, has a simple explanation for these patterns. He believes that more intelligent people were better able to respond to new problems and thus willing to question traditional beliefs and values.

Unfortunately, he did not say whether this was, in fact, an intelligent strategy. True conservatives, at least the barely literate among them, could argue that it is not a sign of great cleverness to fiddle with time-tested institutions such as property rights or civility.

In the same way, we may well wonder about the wisdom behind another of Dr Kanazawa’s findings. In previous times, he said, we only cared for friends and families. But the more intelligent among us had left this ancient pattern behind to reach a higher evolutionary level. Lefties are now ‘caring about millions of total strangers and giving up money to make sure that those strangers will do well.’

This may well explain the left’s support of the welfare state and foreign aid. And yet, at least in historical terms, there is no example of a people becoming prosperous because strangers wanted them to be. Again, conservatives would intuitively understand this, although they may not be able to put this thought into a complete sentence.

The LSE findings may not cheer up conservatives, but they don’t need cheering up anyway. According to another study by the Aarhus School of Business in Denmark, personal happiness is far more widespread among conservatives than among lefties. And yet another study, this time by the University of Florida, revealed that conservatives also have higher incomes than the unhappy left-wing ‘intelligentsia.’

Considering all this evidence, perhaps being a leftie is not such a clever idea after all?

DPB - an investment?

Colin James looked at the recommendations of the expert panel on child abuse in his Press column this week and made this observation;

... Bennett -- a rarity in a National cabinet -- knows social assistance can be an investment. She got educated while on a domestic purposes benefit.

The problem is while Bennett used her time on the DPB wisely, most do not. Those who use it wisely, and temporarily, then make much of defending its very existence despite the evidence that long term dependence is bad for parents and children. Encouraging and allowing long term dependence is not an investment. Long term dependence is encouraged by admitting people into the system as young as 16 with no limit on how long they can stay there.

Personally I do not see why the taxpayer has to fork out for someone's living costs because they have a child and no partner and want to participate in tertiary training or education. Single mothers used to do things like put themselves through teacher's training college with the support and help of their families. Having a child young posed a difficulty but families managed.

However if someone is going to be on the DPB (and it isn't going away any time soon) it is better that they use that time wisely and come off it better equipped to provide. But that could happen within a regime of strict time limits.

What really annoys me is when women who have been on the DPB fight for its retention on a status quo basis because it helped them. They are not prepared to acknowledge and accept that it isn't helping a great deal of others who are still stuck there.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Why is Stephen Joyce using old data?

According to Stephen Joyce, on Wednesday, March 3, 2010;

Young drivers make up 14.5 percent of New Zealand's population and 16 percent of all licensed drivers, but in 2008 they were involved in around 37 percent of all serious injury crashes.

The latest annual road crash statistics to the end of January 2010 show that young drivers were involved in 32 percent of all injury crashes.

From the same release;

"Across the Tasman, for example, young Australians have a road fatality rate of 13 per 100,000 of population, while young New Zealanders have a fatality rate of 21 per 100,000 of population."

In NZ there were 47 15-24 year-old driver fatalities in the most recent year.

According to the HLFS estimated working age population at Dec 2009 there were 627,300 15-24 year-olds.

That means the fatality rate for young drivers was 13.3 per 100,000. The fatality rate for all 15-24 year-old drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists is 17.7 per 100,000.

If he is going to use annual statistics, why not the most recent? Because they are not as bad?

The Experts Forum on Child Abuse

A panel of experts gathered for two days and put this document together. It is only 10 pages and simply written. Marks for that. It begins;

History shows us that many projects and programmes have started with enthusiasm and promise. Many millions have been spent. And yet Forum participants do not believe the rate of child abuse/neglect is falling.

In the Forum’s view, resources are wasted in two ways:

3.1 ineffective programmes are allowed to continue and;
3.2 effective programmes are allowed to wither away.

Neglected and abused children are the taxpayers of the future. It is in the
interests of all of society that we find new ways to protect these children so
that they can grow up to fulfil their potential.

A comment on the last. I find it really offensive when children are reduced to the status of future taxpayers. Children's lives have inherent value to them. Their lives belong to them and not the state. In any case "neglected and abused children" are very often not future taxpayers. Their lives will never be productive. They will never contribute because they will be damaged. Our passive welfare system will exacerbate this outcome.

Next general principles are outlined including;

All programmes must be consistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi and responsive to Maori.

Heaven forbid the Treaty doesn't get a look in.

Next they define the issue and observe;

Nor will it ever be possible to say, even with the best policy mix, that no more children will be abused or killed by their abusers. But the Forum believes we can do better.

Agree. Considerably better.

Barriers are identified which include statutory responsibility being confined to MSD, Justice and the Police. And the Privacy Act. Not enough information sharing. Likely families are often known to various agencies who are not talking to each other. (How often have we heard this before?)

Steps need to be taken to actively foster relationships and engender a culture of shared responsibility.

Surely the culture of shared responsibility is underlying the mess. It starts with the parent of the child who refuses to take individual responsibility for their child and fans out from there.

The forum believes lots of money will need to be spent but can be obtained from existing Votes. In particular workforce capacity needs to be lifted in size and ability.

So Recommendation 1;

Universal Well-Child Support

This was the Cindy Kiro's baby and the torch is still being carried. Apply greater scrutiny and intervention with all children.

Why? The vast majority of children are not abused.

Targeted home-based support

This will apply to an estimated 15 percent of families (which begs the question why use resources screening the other 85 percent?)

Recommendation 2

Files should always stay open. Where abuse has occurred the family should be monitored. Agree. At least in the short-term. But people do have a habit of growing up and that should be recognised.

Recommendation 3

They want a statutory statement about governmental responsibility. And responsibility written into education and health acts. Ironic because child welfare used to be the statutory responsibility of the Education Department. Again all this extra responsibility is really only more fingers in the pie. And we seem to ricochet between tightening it and then broadening it, to no appreciable effect.

Recommendation 4

A focus on families with mental health problems. This is very important. The volunteer group I work with are dealing increasingly with people who have (or claim to have) mental health 'issues'. Their children are particularly vulnerable.

In conclusion they ask for data-matching, evaluation and capacity building. It gets a bit jargonish towards the end.

Anyway, am I surprised that there is no mention of the bigger picture? The social policies and attitudes that have created an environment where children needs are secondary to the rights of their poor excuses for parents? No.

The team at the top of the league table may have changed but the players are still the same.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Welfare reform reduces child abuse

Media Release


Thursday, March 4, 2010

Debate has flared on the back of calls for sterilisation of the worst child abusers. When a problem is extreme, as is the incidence of child abuse in New Zealand, people sometimes understandably react with extreme ideas, welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell said today.

"However, there is now clear evidence from the US that a massive reduction in welfare dependence has coincided with a significant drop in child abuse. This is because children in two-parent working homes are the least likely to suffer neglect or abuse."

"Beginning in the 1970s, each decade the US Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has reported to Congress on the incidence of child abuse and neglect. Early this year their 4th report was published. It found a 32 percent decrease in the rate of abuse per 1,000 children since 1993."

"Here in New Zealand there is a clear overlap between clients of Work and Income and clients of CYF. In 1996 a study showed that children whose caregivers were beneficiaries were 4 times more likely to be subject to a CYF care and protection notification."

"Unfortunately some people - certainly not all people who find themselves on welfare - regard children as meal tickets. They are seen as both a way to increase income and avoid work. Such poorly motivated parents are the most likely to neglect or abuse their children. Abuse is also associated with very young mothers who are not emotionally equipped for the stress of parenting and also have multiple partners who may abuse them or their children. These potentially dangerous partners are additionally attracted by the steady benefit income."

"Until we start to acknowledge the role of welfare dependence in the incidence of child abuse we cannot begin to tackle the problem. The US faced up to the family dysfunctionality created by welfare, by introducing time limits and family caps. They removed the incentives that encouraged people to have children they were ill-prepared to care for. By requiring families to work wherever possible they restored structure, routine, motivation and purpose."

"There is good news here for New Zealand's social policy makers. We can lower the rate of child abuse by introducing common-sense welfare reforms. There is no need for extremism."

Update on Tom

Thank you to the well-wishers. Tom is making good progress and thoroughly enjoying all the tea and sympathy. He can never get enough attention this one. As long as he keeps the leg dry and no infection sets in he should be able to bring it home with him again after tomorrow's inspection under anaesthetic.

What role the driving age?

A commenter over on Whale Oil has provided updated statistics for the NSW road crash toll and pointed out that most recently, under 26 year-olds were involved in only 20 percent of fatal crashes. A significant improvement on the average of 36 percent in the five years to 2003, the stats I used yesterday.

The question remains in my mind however.

The dri­ving age was 17 dur­ing the 5 year period to 2003 and it has remained at 17 since. The post 2003 improved per­for­mance is not related to any rise in the dri­ving age. Yet NZ is push­ing the case that rais­ing our age will bring the type of improve­ment seen in NSW?

Here are the changes implemented in July 2007.

David Garrett makes headlines again

A post appeared over at Kiwiblog yesterday (latterly identified as written by Jadis) responding to Michael Laws' call for voluntary sterilization of parents who have perpetrated the worst abuse on children. David Garret contributed a couple of comments, The Standard slammed him for it in their typically misleading modus operandi and now it has made MSM.

No discussion is possible in this country about people's rights and ability to procreate and parent without someone inevitably turning it into a hysterical accusation of advocating eugenics.

Let's not forget what is driving this discussion. The horrid abuse and sometimes possibly merciful death of children who were never wanted, got in the way, provided a target for sadism or relentless cruelty for someone who hasn't emotionally developed because they were treated the same appalling way.

I am not defending Laws or Garrett. But I am defending the freedom of expression without misrepresentation.

For the record I also made a comment;

Most (but not all) of the worst abuse goes on in benefit dependent homes. Some people have babies for the wrong reasons, one being that they are meal tickets. If you doubt that, watch the family wrangles that go on in the court over custody when a beneficiary parent stands to lose their source of income. Having had children for the wrong reasons they do not make good parents. So another approach could be to make using a long-acting contraceptive a condition of receiving welfare. In order to keep getting an income from the state the mother cannot have any more children. Anyone using the DPB the way it was intended would be avoiding having more children anyway. No need to sterilise men or women. No coercion.

At the same time, for people not already parents, change expectations. No more open-ended, easy-to-get-on and easy-to-stay on welfare. Reforming welfare isn’t the whole answer. Like others I do not think there is a total solution. Child abuse, like other crime, will always be with us. But we shouldn’t be encouraging it by attaching substantial cash incentives to babies.

That's needs further clarification. In the worst cases the children would have been removed and the welfare would be the dole. But in general anyone on the DPB should, in any event, be using contraception.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Our oldest cat Tom, 10, went missing last Wednesday. We scoured the neighbour-
hood,talked to people, checked the SPCA, local noticeboards etc. All to no avail. We figured either he was hurt - or worse - and unable to get home or had had enough of the invasion of kittens and gone on the hunt for a more suitable home for a slightly grumpy middle-aged man. The kids were very upset.

Yesterday I was painting when I heard a bit of a clatter and thump. I opened my studio door - closed against kittens who scratch canvas (expensive lesson) and there was Tom, just through the catflap, hobbling and dragging a dreadfully damaged back leg. He was emaciated, dehydrated, dirty and bleeding. Foolishly I rushed to offer him food and water not thinking that the vet may have to administer anaesthetic. Fortunately he did not want either.

He was losing a fair bit of blood but it appeared to be from a wound just re-opened. He was, suffice to say, distressed but quite malleable as I laid him in his cage on a towel and left immediately for the vets. He cried a fair bit during the short journey but at least I knew he was still in the land of the living.

Tom stayed with the vet who rang me later to say his injury was consistent with being run over or possibly trapped somehow. Much of the tissue above and below his paw had to be removed but he was hopeful that the limb could be saved. There were no fractures. They wanted to keep him in because of his condition. He was being fed a drip with antibiotics etc. His weight was down one and a half kilos - roughly a third of his normal body weight.

I rang today to be told he may come home. His temperature and appetite are good but he will need to be kept inside, away from the rest of the menagerie and return regularly for dressings under anaesthetic.

Of course we will never know what happened to him between when he received his injury, which the vet said was 5 or 6 days old, and when he eventually found his way home yesterday. But his tenacity and survival instincts are very strong. And although you cannot put a financial value on a pet, when I pay the bill today he will become an even more valuable cat. Can't wait to get him home and spoil him rotten.

Road toll statistics - how are we doing?

With all the current talk of tightening up on driver licensing and regulations I thought I would just blog some statistics.

The first shows how NZ compares to other countries in deaths per 10,000 vehicles. Not too badly;

The second shows the growing vehicle fleet and casualties compared to 1990. Not too bad;

The third shows the number of 15 to 19 year-olds involved in fatal crashes. Not good but generally going in the right direction;

The fourth shows the age distribution of road deaths for selected countries which shows NZ has a high proportion clustered in the young age group. Important point here is that those deaths include passengers. In the year to end January 2010 47 15-24 year old drivers were killed but so were 49 15-24 year-old passengers. This is the only age group which has this kind of pattern. In every other age group (bar 45-54) the ratio is around 3 drivers killed to 1 passenger.

Note on this page the completely different profile for Japan and South Korea. South Korea, which has a much higher road toll than NZ has its problem heavily clustered at the other end of the age spectrum.

Finally I had a look at NSW where the driving age is 17. What difference does it make?

People under 26 are involved in 36 percent of road fatalities.

Here people under 25 are involved in 28 percent of road fatalities (111 deaths out of 391 to the end of Jan 2010.)

(The NZ statistic includes one extra year.)

In NSW the clamouring is to raise the driving age to 18 because 17 year-olds are killing themselves and their mates on the road.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Two sides to every story

Labour is opposing a rise in GST and has taken to the roads (more David Shearer on Guitar?) with "Axe the Tax" as its slogan. Lou from No Minister has whipped around the other side with his camera;

Rack up another $240 M

Today the annual rise to benefits and Super is announced. The increase is 2 percent for most and 2.3 percent for Superannuitants. The net cost will be around $240 million.

I don't have a fundamental problem with benefits and super being adjusted for cost of living but it is easy to see why the total social security bill continues to grow and some. It is also of no comfort to people who have had their hours cut, weeks shortened, or businesses dry up to observe the relative security of those receiving their income from the state.

Poke him with a stick

Kurariki Bailey is a very disturbed, and potentially dangerous young man. He is comparable to a maltreated cur, but the media pokes him with a stick and then cries foul when he reacts.

He has legal restrictions laid on him. Its about time some were laid on the media. Our fleeting titillation is not worth the further wreckage of his and anybody else's lives.

I know I am supposed to be outraged at the ongoing refusal of Bailey to fit back nicely into society, but it is the press, and other talker-stalkers that really raise my ire.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Observation about commentary on ACT

Expressing an opinion about ACT is risky territory for me but what is the point of a blog if not used to articulate a thought or impression?

The attacks on ACT in the trail of this weekend's conference have been many. They come from the left and the right; from without and within; overtly and less overtly. And perhaps attendees are still sleeping it off, but I see no-one defending or counter-attacking (accept for the Cactus who has been multi-tasking). Perhaps because the party appears split. Split along personality, and to a lesser degree, identity lines. This is very different from the straight forward philosophical division which was survivable. Someone once commented to me that Prebble managed the liberal/conservative tension successfully.

But this current division of loyalties and purpose will quite possibly weaken ACT to the point of no return.

There are now two swinging voters in this house and our perception of what is happening - right or wrong - takes us no closer to a decision that favours ACT.

The Standard - what are they complaining about?

The Standard claims Don Brash called voters "stupid and greedy".

He actually descibed them as "venal and ignorant".

Venal - open to bribery

Ignorant - lacking knowledge

Labour have been trading on this fact since its conception.

Big rise in child deaths through family violence

Dying at the hands of a family member is becoming more common, although it is still a rare event. Of course the sort of activity which precedes a death is far more widespread than what the fatality statistics represent.

The Family Violence Death Review Committee released figures showing the number of deaths uncreased from 18 in 2008 to 41 last year. 16 were children. Typically these will be the deaths of very young children. The first two years is the most dangerous time for a child in a dysfunctional environment.

But 16. That is high.

How long have New Zealanders been collectively wringing their hands over child abuse? About 50 years. During which time it has probably worsened. One cannot say with absolute certainty that this is the case because of the hidden nature of abuse and the robustness of identifying and reporting over time.

There have been so many attempts to 'fix' this problem via the state and private initiatives, yet it persists. And I have nothing new to say. If a child is loved and wanted it will not be abused.

But I find myself agreeing less and less with the sentiment expressed by John Sax of For The Sake Of Our Children Trust;

Mr Sax says questions need to be asked about what is happening with social policy. He believes there needs to be a holistic approach to family violence, with a big focus on trying to keep children with their immediate family where possible.

That is exactly the philosophy CYF has been operating under for the last few decades.

Update; Having found the source of the figures I should include a comment from their spokesperson;

"We are working with a broader definition to ensure we look as widely as possible at the problem, and this means we have come up with a higher figure than has been suggested from previous work in this area."

The statistics come from the Police but the Death Review committee says it uses a different definition of a family violence death. As yet I haven't been able to work out the difference from reading their report.

Their definition;

Family violence death is defined in the Terms of Reference as:
The unnatural death of a person (adult or child) where the suspected perpetrator is a
family or extended family member, 4 caregiver, 5 intimate partner, previous partner of the victim, or previous partner of the victim’s current partner.

They may have broadened the relationship status beyond that considered by the policy as 'family'.

The report contains this quote;

Family violence is a global problem affecting all cultural, religious and economic groups and is caused by a multitude of complex factors (Ma¯ ori Reference Group for the Taskforce for Action on Violence within Families 2009).

And then this;

The over-representation this year of Ma¯ori as victims and perpetrators of family violence deaths signals an impact on the fabric of Ma¯ori society. Preliminary data indicates that three-quarters of family violence deaths involve Ma¯ori. While Ma¯ori have been involved in a large number of the identified cases this year, the issues are not for Ma¯ ori alone to address.

So the Review Committee is taking the politically correct line.

The Committee will work with the community as a whole, but will also engage with Ma¯ori in as many ways possible to ensure it is operating in a culturally appropriate, sensitive and responsive manner.

The committee should be working primarily, and as a priority, with Maori. That would be the best use of its resources which they complain have been too few.