Friday, July 15, 2011

ACT and last chances - eg Cactus

When Brash took over the leadership of ACT I thought, here's a go. Now there will be some discipline. Some strong economic messages. Strong welfare, health and education policies. Hell, I didn't even care if they veered off the classical liberal track into conservatism if they gave us consistent small government goals. Social conservatism mostly manifests in conscience votes anyway. If some MPs are opposed to abortion, voluntary euthanasia, drug decriminalization, same sex adoption etc., so be it. For the next election, just take us in the right economic direction, for pities sake. In this political landscape, beggars can't be choosers.

But I am badly disappointed so far.

Why is ACT so susceptible to single issue groups or ideology? Law and order, climate change, and now race have featured disproportionately over the past years. Unlike leftists I do not believe in conspiracies or all-encompassing plans in which many are complicit. Infiltration or takeovers for instance. When you get close to the action in any organisation, political or otherwise, you understand that unique circumstances and connections dictate whatever happens next. Believers in the necessary spontaneity of markets see the replication elsewhere.

The only person connected with ACT giving me a reason to vote for them right now is Cactus, whose candidacy is still not official.

So Cactus, no single person can bring demands to the table but, if they (whoever they are) don't start asserting themselves as the lean mean economic party soon, give it a wide berth. Your long-standing loyalty is immensely commendable but don't let it be your Achilles' heel.

"A smaller better welfare state" ?

A smaller and better welfare state
Kristian Niemietz
14 July 2011
Liberals who support a limited public safety net are faced with a dilemma. On the one hand, they want government to fulfil the role of a provider of last resort. They envisage a situation in which people provide for the vicissitudes of life through savings, asset accumulation, private insurance, mutual assistance, the extended family, private philanthropy and an active charitable sector. The government’s job should begin when all these things have failed – but only then.


The main problem with this short column is that in the US the spending on Social Security has actually increased. Spending is devolved to individual states with federal top-ups. It may be that socially the returns are better because the dysfunction is reducing - crime, child abuse/neglect, teen birth and abortion(until the recession) all trending down - but the taxpayer is still pouring money in.

So better maybe, but not smaller yet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Still going

Eight months on and I still have my shop. It's a cold hole during the day but once I am working, I am oblivious. And there is always piping-hot chocolate from the neighbouring cafe to wrap my mitts around and make last for half an hour. Here's a recent sketch. Had to chase this critter around the master bedroom before I got the shot I wanted:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Open letter to Don Brash and Pita Sharples

Dear Don and Pita

I watched you both on Native Affairs last night. You are talking not to each other, but past each other. You are not so far apart in age that it is a generational difference in views. You have grown up in the same times and the same country. But you have grown in different coloured skins and different social environments.

Don, you approach matters dispassionately, academically and logically. That is part of your world view. Pita, you approach matters emotionally, pragmatically and intuitively, again a result of your life experiences.

For example on the matter of 'privilege'. Don uses the literal meaning. A privilege is a special right which confers advantage often at someone else's disadvantage. Pita sees privilege in the broader sense. Being privileged as in being born into homes where you are loved, protected and given the best launch in life possible.

Hence, strictly speaking, Maori are both privileged and under-privileged. You are both right. There is little to be gained from going round in circles over a word.

Pita sees the Waikato river as having deep, spiritual meaning for Maori. It has a life force. Don sees it as a body of water. It is an organism.

This is only the difference that has lived between and within cultures and races for time immemorial. It is religion versus lack of it. But faith can never be rejected in another and I think Don would agree with that. Belief is an intensely personal matter. However, for the sake of living together with the greatest degree of freedom possible advanced societies have abandoned allowing religious belief to shape law, for most part. Application of some religious beliefs would make life intolerable for some minorities. As part of a minority Pita would appreciate other minority's rights. Usurping individuals rights to develop their own property because of what are essentially religious beliefs cannot be a good thing.

But denial of another's faith is also doomed. And as long as tolerance is a two way street, unnecessary.

Many Pakeha can or have attempted to try to understand what being Maori means for Maori. The talk of blood parts is superfluous and even offensive when someone has a conviction about which culture they primarily belong to. To varying degrees, Maori feel different and feel differently. It is arrogant to fail to recognise that.

What New Zealanders are looking for is the way in which we can all progress. That is not going to happen when people talk past each other. Or when people intentionally or through ignorance misunderstand each other.

No one-on-one relationship ever truly succeeded without respect, compromise, humility and deep communication.

Don, for all the representations you receive from aggrieved Pakeha I do not think they justify an assumption that race relations are critical and we are headed down a dangerous separatist path which must be halted at any cost.

Pita, your race is generally on the 'up'. Your attention should fall to the deep disaffection felt by a minority of Maori due to urban drift, whanau breakdown and the social ills that ensue from that. The rights you seek regarding extra representation and environmental consultation will not address the disadvantage of your poorest. Resolving that lies largely in their own individual and community efforts.

Despite the fact that last night you talked past each other, at least you didn't talk over each other. You are both men who I have utmost respect for and we need more talking - not less. But it bothers me enormously that ACT and now radical Maori (in the form of the Mana Party) are polarising and subsequently dividing people along racial lines.

As a former ACT candidate I know this letter will alienate some people who have supported me in the past. The One Law For All stance cannot encompass the give and take required to get ahead. Sir Apirana Ngata has been mentioned many times over the past few days. He was not an assimilationist. He took the best from the Pakeha world, eg the acquisition of state loans for developing dairying but urged the retention of the Maori language, spirituality and culture. He is buried under a mountain that for Maori is more than just organic. If Pakeha cannot feel that same regard for natural phenomenon they should at least respect it, or at worst, tolerate it.

The way you are approaching matters differs, as I said. But neither is totally right or wrong. Please resolve to make some concessions so much of the good that has been achieved over the past decades will not be undone.

Lindsay Mitchell

Monday, July 11, 2011

Big call or bad call?

This is a big call from the new Children's Commissioner:

New Zealand's shameful child abuse rates have hit a "plateau" and will nosedive by 2014, our new Children's Commissioner says.

On what does he base that prediction?

...a combination of new campaigns and programmes, better collaboration and an increased awareness of child abuse would see the number of cases drop sharply by three years' time, if not sooner...

Why does he think that NZ has a worse record than other developed countries?

...a high rate of children in poverty, low investment in services to support parents and services that had been allowed "to drift into things that don't work"

There it is again. The Poverty Excuse.

While I can accept that material poverty can lead to poorer child health through over-crowded inadequate housing it is no excuse for child abuse. As I have shown before any correlation between the poorest children and abuse or neglect is inconsistent across ethnicities.

As for supporting parents, good luck. Generally only parents who are amenable to support are positively affected by it. Parents with criminal involvement and addictions will be indifferent to services so long as benefit money keeps arriving in their bank accounts each week and the war on drugs continues.

While I admire optimism my own prediction would be far less so. And I don't suppose he is going to be paid on performance anyway.

Update: Bob McCoskrie just sent through this:

Mon, 11 Jul 2011 5:47a.m.

RadioLive has obtained shocking new statistics on child abuse.

Figures released to RadioLive under the Official Information Act reveal Maori children are being abused at a higher rate now than ever before.

Maori make up more than half of the 21,000 children harmed in the last year, and the number abused over the last five years has also more than doubled to 11,000 in 2010.

More than half of the 4000 children removed from families and put into foster care were also Maori.

Social Development Minister, Paula Bennett, says programmes being rolled out like Whanau Ora will help.

The figures also show 64 children have died while in the care of Child, Youth and Family over the last 10 years. A third were recorded as suicide.