Saturday, January 22, 2011

Labour dives in latest poll

Just a couple of links to things that caught my eye this morning.

Labour takes big dive in the latest Roy Morgan Poll. They must be becoming resigned to sitting out another term.

And expect more of these stories in the near future as the welfare 'industry' gears up to fight the WWG recommendations.

There is no reason why provision can't be made for unusual cases. But they should not be used to prevent changing the welfare system for the majority.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Tedious nagging from the UN and repetitious waffle from Labour

News this morning seems to be dominated by the UN damning NZ again about its shameful record on children's rights. Too many children are living in poverty apparently. There isn't a Ministry for Children. Labour's response is nothing more than repetitious waffle. They would create a Minister for Social Policy; they would take a "whole of government approach"; they would "break the cycle of economic deprivation". It is just so tedious.

So many children live in relative poverty because we have so many families living on welfare. There is no imperative to work when on welfare so dysfunction flourishes. But wait for a raft of responses today calling for MORE welfare.

Update; MacDoctor has an excellent post on the subject

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Media educates MP

Isn't this where the blogoshere comes into its element?

Labour MP Ashraf Choudary creates a Red Alert blogpost using a press statement urging the government to make folic acid in bread compulsory based on new research. He criticises the media coverage of his statement as "light on facts".

Here is the response from NewstalkZB's political correspondent, Felix Marwick, in the comments section;

felix marwick says:
January 19, 2011 at 6:44 pm

the reason the story was short is because it was written for radio. Basically I have 30 seconds, or 120 words, to get a point/angle across.

Additionally I had also covered the story on Tuesday so some of the extra detail you allude to had already been included in that copy.

DPB stats - I was wrong

I predicted that in December 2010 the DPB stats might reach an all-time high in absolute numbers. The December quarter benefit statistics are just out and I was wrong. The DPB only rose to 113,000. (In December 1997 the total reached 114,799.)

Over the year to December 2010, the number of recipients of a main benefit increased by 7,000, or 2 percent.

Over the year to December 2010, the number of Domestic Purposes Benefit recipients increased by 4,000, or 3 percent.

Over the year to December 2010, the number of Sickness Benefit recipients increased by 1,000, or 1 percent.

Over the year to December 2010, the number of recipients of an Unemployment Benefit increased by 1,000, or 1 percent

Unintended consequences of US health reforms

Interesting piece from the NCPA today which reports that McDonalds has warned the US government they may stop providing health insurance for 30,000 employees. The increased cost of health insurance under the Obama reforms means that the cost of labour increases and companies will either shed jobs or wages will stagnate. Just what the US needs.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Labour wants to dig us deeper

I begin this post with an acknowledgement that it is framed around generalisations as policy should be.

Labour says it will extend Paid Parental Leave and make changes to the DPB. Specifically they do not like the work requirement when the youngest child turns six (which is only being applied to a small percentage of that group currently anyway.)

Annette King says;

"Nobody is saying it should be a benefit for life, but it is to assist people at a time when they are caring for children. Surely the aim here is to bring up responsible, well cared for kids. And those of us who have tried it know that that is hard work."

There are screeds of statistics available that show the children who do best are raised in two parent families. Good outcomes increase further when the two parents are their biological parents. And further improve when the two biological parents are married.

Now I am not a conservative. That means I do not think the state has to enforce such arrangements, or even actively incentivise them. But neither should it be constantly making laws that undermine the family as the best social and economic unit there is.

That is what leftist liberal policy - economic and social - has done for many decades. And in this country the supposed conservative party National is in that basket too.

People are born to form relationships; to form mutual dependencies on each other. A constructive mutual dependency is healthy and it is certainly the best environment within which to nurture children. But start ascribing monetary deficit to either existing partnerships or their breakdown, and then demanding the state ameliorate or correct the deficit, and it is easy to predict what the response will be. Single parents go from forming a very small percentage of society to forming a quarter to a third of all families raising children.

Then we have to take more from working families to support non-working, mostly single parent families, which means working parents, if their relationship can stand it, have to work more to keep ahead of the game. Next the same people who demanded that women should be recompensed for not being in a mutual dependency set-up start demanding that two parent families should also get more financial help and work less.

Where will it end?

When will a politician, preferably a leader, stand up and say, "Sorry folks but you are just going to have to start relying on each other again because we are not up to the job and are broke anyway"?

It ain't going be Mr Smiley.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Prohibition and prohibition reviews a new book about the Prohibition and its implications for ending the war on drugs. It sounds like a fascinating read and reveals to me how little I knew about that period.

The real puzzle, as the journalist Daniel Okrent argues in his masterful new history of the period, is how a nation that never had a teetotaling majority, let alone one committed to forcibly imposing its lifestyle on others, embarked upon such a doomed experiment to begin with. How did a country consisting mostly of drinkers agree to forbid drinking?

The short answer is that it didn’t. As a reveler accurately protests during a Treasury Department raid on a private banquet in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, neither the 18th Amendment nor the Volstead Act, which implemented it, prohibited mere possession or consumption of alcohol. The amendment took effect a full year after ratification, and those who could afford it were free in the meantime to stock up on wine and liquor, which they were permitted to consume until the supplies ran out. The law also included exceptions that were important for those without well-stocked wine cellars or the means to buy the entire inventory of a liquor store (as the actress Mary Pickford did). Home production of cider, beer, and wine was permitted, as was commercial production of alcohol for religious, medicinal, and industrial use (three loopholes that were widely abused). In these respects Prohibition was much less onerous than our current drug laws. Indeed, the legal situation was akin to what today would be called “decriminalization” or even a form of “legalization.”

...As Prohibition wore on, its unintended consequences provided the fire that wets had lacked before it was enacted. They were appalled by rampant corruption, black market violence, newly empowered criminals, invasions of privacy, and deaths linked to alcohol poisoned under government order to discourage diversion (a policy that Sen. Edward Edwards of New Jersey denounced as “legalized murder”). These burdens seemed all the more intolerable because Prohibition was so conspicuously ineffective. As a common saying of the time put it, the drys had their law and the wets had their liquor, thanks to myriad quasi-legal and illicit businesses that Okrent colorfully describes.

Entrepreneurs taking advantage of legal loopholes included operators of “booze cruises” to international waters, travel agents selling trips to Cuba (which became a popular tourist destination on the strength of its proximity and wetness), “medicinal” alcohol distributors whose brochures (“for physician permittees only”) resembled bar menus, priests and rabbis who obtained allegedly sacramental wine for their congregations (which grew dramatically after Prohibition was enacted), breweries that turned to selling “malt syrup” for home beer production, vintners who delivered fermentable juice directly into San Francisco cellars through chutes connected to grape-crushing trucks, and the marketers of the Vino-Sano Grape Brick, which “came in a printed wrapper instructing the purchaser to add water to make grape juice, but to be sure not to add yeast or sugar, or leave it in a dark place, or let it sit too long before drinking it because ‘it might ferment and become wine.’ ” The outright lawbreakers included speakeasy proprietors such as the Stork Club’s Sherman Billings-ley, gangsters such as Al Capone, rum runners such as Bill McCoy, and big-time bootleggers such as Sam Bronfman, the Canadian distiller who made a fortune shipping illicit liquor to thirsty Americans under the cover of false paperwork. Their stories, as related by Okrent, are illuminating as well as engaging, vividly showing how prohibition warps everything it touches, transforming ordinary business transactions into tales of intrigue.

The reviewer then considers whether the actions of the anti-prohibitionists - at practical and political levels - could today be emulated to end today's prohibition of drugs;

Another barrier to emulating the antiprohibitionists of the 1920s is that none of the currently banned drugs is (or ever was) as widely consumed in this country as alcohol. That fact is crucial in understanding the contrast between the outrage that led to the repeal of alcohol prohibition and Americans’ general indifference to the damage done by the war on drugs today. The illegal drug that comes closest to alcohol in popularity is marijuana, which survey data indicate most Americans born after World War II have at least tried. That experience is reflected in rising public support for legalizing marijuana, which hit a record 46 percent in a nationwide Gallup poll conducted the week before Proposition 19 was defeated.

A third problem for today’s antiprohibitionists is the deep roots of the status quo. Alcohol prohibition came and went in 14 years, which made it easy to distinguish between the bad effects of drinking and the bad effects of trying to stop it. By contrast, the government has been waging war on cocaine and opiates since 1914 and on marijuana since 1937 (initially under the guise of enforcing revenue measures). Few people living today have clear memories of a different legal regime. That is one reason why histories like Okrent’s, which bring to life a period when booze was banned but pot was not, are so valuable.

Reflecting on the long-term impact of the vain attempt to get between Americans and their liquor, Okrent writes: “In 1920 could anyone have believed that the Eighteenth Amendment, ostensibly addressing the single subject of intoxicating beverages, would set off an avalanche of change in areas as diverse as international trade, speedboat design, tourism practices, soft-drink marketing, and the English language itself? Or that it would provoke the establishment of the first nationwide criminal syndicate, the idea of home dinner parties, the deep engagement of women in political issues other than suffrage, and the creation of Las Vegas?” Nearly a century after the war on other drugs was launched, Americans are only beginning to recognize its far-reaching consequences, most of which are considerably less fun than a dinner party or a trip to Vegas.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Time to get over it

Reading Rosemary McLeod's column today which uses The Blanket Man to represent all that is wrong with Maori I initially had this response, The Bucket Man;

McLeod writes;

Blanket Man is Maori, and wears his blanket much how Maori did when Europeans first arrived here to settle.....The outcome of our arrival and colonisation has not been a happy one for Maori overall, and I hate to be starting another year with Blanket Man in his usual place. He symbolises much that's wrong with how we live together, his wilful, slow suicide an indictment of our lack of understanding.

That is rather sweeping.

Should the "overall" situation of Maori be compared to their pre-colonisation one or to that of present NZ European? On the first count there is no comparison. Life expectancy, health, housing, access to technology, etc is vastly improved. On the second count, today probably a majority of Maori have the same standard of living as a larger majority of NZ European.

And then we can go down the other avenue of conjecturing over what the outcomes might have been for Maori if a different race had colonised NZ. But really this whole colonisation thing, which is factual and undeniable, has, at some stage, to be put to bed.

I'm not prepared to call those people feral, or condemn them, without having a realistic solution for the problems that lie behind their destructive choices. Where are the jobs for them? Where are the schools designed to cater to their learning needs? Why do we continue to fail them in an education system which half of all Maori boys leave without any achievement recorded? Why don't we consider that as outrageous as serious crime? And why are Maori still so unhealthy?

Now we are firmly in the realms of paternalism and determinism. What is it? We stuffed-up for Maori and we have to un-stuff-up? The labour market and education system are to blame, not personal choices and actions or lack thereof? I am certain that in the early part of the 1900s the prescribed problem was Maori lack of access to Pakeha health and education services. Now it is the services themselves?

It's not as if we haven't been down a 'corrective' pathway with Maori immersion schools and umpteen funding initiatives aimed at improving Maori health. Fully restoring Maori property rights is yet to occur. I hope it does.

But it is a dangerous thing to describe the situation of Maori in NZ today as "overall" worse than previously. It plays to the culture of victimhood and resentment that has been perpetuating social problems for too long already.