Saturday, March 12, 2016

"Prawn addiction"

I hope Jenesa Jeram, a smart young woman from The NZ Initiative doesn't mind my posting her piece from their newsletter this week. She is a breath of fresh air. And this is very clever at more than one level:

Too many New Zealanders are walking around with a shameful addiction.

Your family members, colleagues or even spouse may be secretly struggling. Deluded by unrealistic expectations of romance and physical attractiveness, they should know it is okay to seek help.

I am, of course, talking about the embarrassing yet unshakeable addiction to TV3’s The Bachelor.

Just kidding. The Bachelor is awful, but apparently socially acceptable. Olympian Nick Willis’ prawn addiction* on the other hand? That’s shocking enough to make mainstream news.

My problem with this coverage is not that it made me feel uncomfortable. It is that the whole story is so utterly boring.

I probably should have stopped reading after such insightful gems like “It [prawn] is not sexy nor appealing.” Why watch it then? I don’t think The Bachelor is sexy or appealing, but I don’t expect the Herald will trip over themselves to publish my opinion. It’s a matter of taste.

More problematic is the modern characterisation of addiction: defined as pleasurable activities that become compulsive and interfere with normal life.

How very perceptive. People like doing things that make them feel good, and may even go out of their way to do them. Things that are pleasurable stimulate the pleasure centres of the brain.

But with such a loose definition, why just stop at prawn?

Last year health experts tried convincing us that cheese is as addictive as crack cocaine. Yet cheese-related crime rates remain low. Even in Remuera, where they supply the good stuff (Roquefort, of course).

Other addictive foods identified by Otago University’s National Addiction Centre include ice cream, muesli bars and mayonnaise.

I think I’d be more scared of meeting a methamphetamine addict than an ice cream addict at the end of a dark alleyway. And I can’t imagine a muesli bar addict experiencing Trainspotting-esque withdrawals.

Maybe Willis sharing how compulsive behaviour affected his marriage could help other couples going through the same.

But labelling everything enjoyable as addictive (thus dangerous) is unhelpful. Let’s not forget that love messes with the brain too, and can make people do crazy things.

Besides, what is problematic in one marriage may be the secret to another marriage’s happy ending.

*I’m not talking about prawns here, but the more common term for “adult entertainment” may not have made it through the work email filters. 

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

HRC calls for adoption laws to stop discriminating

It amuses me that the Human Rights Commission is calling for  adoption laws to cease to discriminate. Here is a list of how that currently occurs:

• The requirement for sole male applicants to prove “special circumstances” before being permitted to adopt a female child (when there was no such requirement for a single female to prove “special circumstances)
• The ability for the Court to dispense with the consent of birth fathers in some circumstances before a child was adopted (but not birth mothers )
• The inability of civil union partners or same sex de facto couples to adopt.
• The absence of a requirement for unmarried opposite sex or same sex partners of a sole applicant for an adoption order to give consent (even when the couple is living together at the time of the application).
• The ability to dispense with consent of a disabled parent or guardian before his or her child is adopted.
• The prohibition on persons under the age of 25 adopting a child.
• In relation to the Adult Adoption Information Act –the prohibition on a person under the age of 20 obtaining a copy of his or her original birth certificate.

But the greatest discrimination of all is that non-Maori must observe whatever is dictated by adoption laws yet Maori are exempt.

Adding further irony, only days ago parliament was debating the inclusion of whangai adoptions in entitlement to paid parental leave:

Employment law reforms to extend paid parental leave has included the eligibility of family guardians of whangai children.
The term whangai is used to describe the traditional Maori custom of informal adoption, and had never been formally recognised in legislation on parental leave.
The Government's Employment Standards Legislation Bill passed its second reading on Thursday. Among other changes, it looked to extend paid parental leave from 16 to 18 weeks. The changes would need to be in effect from 1 April to fulfil Government announcements.

So whangai should have official legal status if there is some benefit to be attained.

Maori want to think carefully about what might/will follow. Certainly loss of sovereignty over this particular traditional custom.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Quote of the Day

Worrycrats, as I call them, are a special breed of totalitarian bureaucrats who spawn rapidly as society is socialized. These people concern themselves with our health, education, welfare, auto safety, drug intake, diet, and what have you. Worrycrats today outnumber any other professionals in history, so rapidly have they proliferated.

Leonard E. Read, The Freeman [April 1971]

And that was in 1971!

(Hat tip FFF)

Update: And right on cue here comes another addition

Monday, March 07, 2016


Whale Oil has carried a response from one of the Charter Schools. Excellent work SB.

The writer included the DomPost among the "faceless" critics. This is just an excerpt from his full response.

Here is the thing though. Every person who is writing this nonsense in their distant and/or faceless mode ignores the children and their extended families. They have come to SAMS to receive an outstanding academic education and a high level of care. We work 24/7 to the best of our ability to provide that. They have exercised a choice to come and get an education that they do not believe is being offered elsewhere and they want to break the cycles the see parts of their communities.
Mr Hipkins has been asked to visit many times. He hasn’t had time during the last two years and three months. He could even come and explain to our families why he intends to shut down their school. To Mr Hipkins and the faceless commentators here is a photo of our kids – each of them represent families and communities. I have only shown you their backs to be consistent with your approach. When any of you can make some time to build some integrity into your thoughts and writing – come and meet them – I think you will like them and love hearing about their experiences and ambitions.
– Academic Advisor Alwyn Poole

How to stop children being added to existing benefits?

Below are a couple of slides from my presentation to the recent ACT conference. I talked about the successful (thus far) reforms and the failures. These graphs show a particular policy failure.

National, to their credit (and unlike Labour)  got to grips with welfare numbers and what drives them quite quickly. They acknowledged that adding subsequent children to an existing benefit was a big problem. A cabinet paper explored the situation and recommended a policy solution. This is the official advice now provided by Work and Income:

I compared data from 2006 to 2014 because the number of births in those two years was almost the same. As you can see, even more children were added after the reform. And last year, although fewer children were added, so too was the total number of births.

Work testing is ineffective in areas where there are no jobs. There are towns in NZ that are dying. They are not great places to raise children. But they are homes to beneficiaries - especially inter-generational - only because they provide more affordable living.

And taking a more cynical view, children continue to provide an opportunity to increase income by an additional $3,328 annually (subsequent child under 13 qualifies caregiver for $64 weekly) - not to mention the April benefit increase that is coming.

Meal ticket children must have the worst prospects of all NZ children.

Government should stop being held hostage by their parents, and by bureaucrats and politicians who believe that "suffer the little children to come unto me" means dishing out more cash for kids.

These parents should be supported via assistance-in-kind only. Ensure their children have adequate housing, food and power (more than what some have now) and that's it. It's do-able. It's called 'income management' and the technologies already exist and are applied to those on Youth and Young Parent Payments.

I don't think many people on welfare (many people full-stop) would relish the prospect of losing their cash income. But a radical disincentive to poorly-motivated procreation is overdue.

Sunday, March 06, 2016

"VOTE FOR CHANGE" missed the bus

This morning I found a pamphlet sitting on the dining room table. It must have come up with other junk mail yesterday.

How badly organised was that bit of politicking?

All our ballot papers have been returned already.