Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ethical dilemma

Here's a tricky one.

"Three women in Massachusetts have sued Wal-Mart over its refusal to stock emergency contraception in its pharmacies, calling it a violation of state law that requires pharmacies carry all "commonly prescribed medications." The women, Katrina McCarty, Julia Battel, and Dr. Rebekah Gee, attempted to purchase emergency contraception (EC) at suburban Wal-Marts, and were told that the store did not sell it and it could not be ordered. The women hope to force an injunction that requires pharmacies to carry EC, similar to the one currently enforced in Illinois.

Massachusetts is one of nine states where emergency contraception can be sold over the counter without a prescription, but pharmacies are not required to stock it."

Emergency contraception is the morning-after pill (which can now be purchased from New Zealand pharmacies without prescription but only one dose at a time). Assuming this is the case in the Massachusetts, it can't be stockpiled. One would think as long as there is profit to be made from selling these products pharmacies would want to sell them but some have an aversion to it, sometimes on religious grounds. Preventing conception is one thing; administering an "abortion" is another.

Walmart has been inclined to "crowd out" independent drugstores in small towns. Which means a woman trying to prevent an unwanted pregnancy by taking the morning-after pill, is prevented from doing so.

Of course there are other ways to insure against unwanted pregnancies. But what about a rape? And what about somebody who, in the sober light of day, thinks they may have done something silly? Can and should the state force pharmacies to provide this product?

Tribute to Sir John Cowperthwaite

Sir John Cowperthwaite, Hong Kong's Financial Secretary from 1961 to 1971 passed away on Jan 21, 2006 aged 90. His name came to my attention when reading James Bartholomew's, The Welfare State We're In. Here is an excerpt from a tribute by Marian L Tupy;

At some point during our first conversation I managed to irk him by suggesting that he was chiefly known "for doing nothing." In fact, he pointed out, keeping the British political busy-bodies from interfering in Hong Kong's economic affairs took up a large portion of his time. Throughout Sir John's tenure in office, the British political elite tried to impose its own ailing socialist economic model on Britain's colonies, including Hong Kong. Sir John managed to quash all such attempts and Hong Kong benefited as a result.

In 1960 Britain's productivity per capita was fives times Hong kong's. Hong Kong has always maintained the low taxes Cowperthwaite championed. Here is the effect;

Now Hong Kong has climbed to eighth and UK is 20th.
John Cowperthwaite's legacy.

In Bartholomew's words; "Cowperthwaite's most important reason for playing Scrooge was to keep taxes down. He thought high taxes slowed economic growth. Low taxes would eventually produce more revenue than higher ones, he argued, because of the growth they would encourage. Fast growth would also benefit the poor by boosting demand for labour and pushing up wages. Fast growth produced a 'rapid and substantial redistribution of income'. Successful capitalism benefited the poor."

He was right.

Collective wisdom moves slowly but surely

The headline reads Kiwis blame poor for being lazy.

A survey has found New Zealanders are more ready than 32 other countries to blame the poor for being lazy.

The survey gave people only two options for the question, "Why are there people in this country who live in need?"

In the last survey in 1998, exactly half picked the option, "They are poor because of laziness and lack of willpower." The other 50 per cent said, "They are poor because society treats them unfairly."

In the latest survey in 2004, the number picking "laziness and lack of willpower" soared to 73 per cent. Those ticking "because society treats them unfairly" plunged to just 27pc.

National MP, Judith Collins, welcomed the news with "great joy". Not words I would have used. It is sad but inevitable that people are beginning to see with their own eyes what the welfare state is delivering. The problem is, the realisation creates resentment. With this resentment comes greater difficulty in in getting people to help others at a voluntary level. Some people will always need help. We don't just cut it off. We have to find a less destructive way of providing it.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Priorities wrong

My only feelings about the Lee Tamahori business are repulsion for the LA police, practicing entrapment of pathetic people trying to sell blowjobs. With 518 murders in 2004 you'd think they'd have better things to do.

Welfare American- style

On Wednesday Feb 1, 2006, the House of Representatives narrowly passed (216 to 214 votes) controversial spending cuts which will further restrict entitlement programmes.

These are the welfare measures;

WELFARE AND CHILD SUPPORT: Saves $1.6 billion in welfare, child-support enforcement and other human services.
• Significantly reshapes 1996 welfare reform by requiring states to get half their welfare recipients working within one year or face penalties.
• Cuts programs that attempt to collect child support from noncustodial or “deadbeat” parents.
• Allows people getting off welfare to keep Medicaid assistance for one year.

Announcing the eighth sin

Senior churchman says it time to declare homosexuality a sin.

So apparently are anger, lust and envy yet I can't actually see how these things are trangressions against morality. And I certainly can't see what is wrong with two people caring for each other; two people doing things they want to, together.

"The Anglican Archbishop of Sydney says it is time to declare homosexuality a sin. Dr Peter Jensen says the church is on a "slippery slope" if it changes the Bible's view on human sexuality".

The "church" has been on a slippery slope for a long time - to oblivion. Is it any wonder.

David Carter predictions

The midday NewstalkZB bulletin featured an excerpt from an interview with Mike Yardley this morning. National MP David Carter, attempting to deflect questions about National leadership, said he would guarantee that NZ First would not go to the 2008 elections under Winston Peters and Labour would not go to the 2008 elections under Helen Clark.

Then again, there is no guarantee there will be a general election in 2008!

Need a job?

Spotted this yesterday smack bang in the middle of News page A7 in the DomPost.

First, I'm surprised they would need to advertise the position. Linda Clarke publicity did that. Then again, given what she said about the place, maybe that's exactly why they do need to advertise.

Otherwise, if it was just a regulatory requirement, why place it in such an expensive position? And if they placed it in the DomPost, it probably went into the Press, ODT and Herald.

I don't listen to government radio but I'm reliably told that Sean Plunkett would be a perfectly good replacement.

A suitable replacement?

Paul Ellis is quitting NZ Idol. I confess. I watch it. Me and the kids lap it up and Paul Ellis provides much of the glee with his cutting comments to people with less talent than a corpse. So who could replace the "grumpy" one? They don't need to know anything about the industry. None of the voters do. Gareth Morgan? Doesn't mince words but isn't very photogenic. Allan Duff? A straight shooter but would unbalance the PC proportionality of the panel. Pam Corkery? She seems to be at a loose end these days. Just who would be "grumpy" enough to make you still want to switch on?

Children stay at primary school

Giving credit where credit's due, the Ministry of Education deserve a mention for reversing a decision which would have forced Year 8 children to go on to a secondary school with a very poor academic record. The solution is temporary but at least the parents (and their children) have been heeded. The long term solution is to do away with the state monopolising education.

Update. You know you are on the right track when trade unionist and PPTA President, Debbie Te Whaiti, comes out condemning the Ministry's decision, saying it is a "myth" secondary schools fail

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Gearing up for the Sevens

Wellington City Council is absolutely, positively, pissed-off. It has told Phil Gorman to stop selling tee-shirts which say Absolutely, Positively, Pissed. The tee-shirts are "derogatory" and a misuse of the WCC logo.

But Mayor Prendergast says if the council had been approached about the shirts, they might have been able to reach a compromise.

What would that be? A cut (but they think the tee-shirts are injurious). A change in wording? Perhaps Absolutely, Positively, Pickled? It's a bit late now anyway. The council should just get over it.

Co-habiting does not equate to marriage

Research reveals interesting comparative spending habits of co-habiting parents vs married parents.

Cohabiting parents typically part with so much of their money at tobacco and liquor stores that they have little left to spend on their children, say researchers at the University of Chicago.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Phone a friend??

LONDON -- Pupils in an East London school have been banned from raising their hands to answer questions in class because their teachers fear it leads to feelings of victimization. "Phone a friend?" - read on

A big loss

Rodney Hide has just posted on this article from the Christchurch Press.
Out-going ACT President, Catherine Judd, sees the future party as radical and liberal. ACT will remain the small party with the big ideas. I thoroughly endorse this view. Thanks Catherine. You've stuck to what you believe. I hope your successor will have the same sort of tenacity.

Not the cat's whiskers really

The Scottish Parliament is busy passing legislation enshrining the rights of cats and dogs. They plan to spend a quarter million pounds promoting a code of conduct towards animals. Today's Scotsman reports today;

A draft of the Department of the Environment's "cat code" includes advice to keep them indoors at night and to guarantee that they have "mental stimulation".

Bedtime stories perhaps. How about a little Beatrix Potter? The Tale of Tom Kitten?

Where are the Libertarians?

Here David Boaz asks, Where are the Libertarians in the media and politics? His question is prompted by a gallup poll showing a sizeable chunk of Americans are neither conservative nor (left) liberal. And according to 2004 exit polls, 45 million Americans don't want the government used to promote "traditional values" or do things best "left to individuals and business".
There is no reserach I am aware that has bothered to ask such questions here.

Nasty stuff

Judith Tizard, on Don Brash's speech, speaking to Paul Holmes on NewstalkZB, "The idea of a man who is married to a migrant attacking migrants really does worry me."

What did Don Brash say?

"Looking ahead, we will be devoting particular attention to three more issues.

The first of these is immigration, not least because it is intimately connected to economic policy. Indeed, immigration has been thought of by many people as being relevant only to the economy. How do we fill gaps in the workforce? What level of gross immigration is needed to offset the steady outflow of New Zealanders? How do we ensure there are enough people of working age to ensure that older New Zealanders are cared for in their old age?

But just as importantly, how do we do this while retaining the common values that bind us together as a nation? New Zealand is a liberal, tolerant and secular society, a society that embraces the Western Enlightenment ideals of personal liberty, private property and rationality as the basis of decision-making. These are values so central to our society that we hardly even think about them. Immigration can add greatly to our society, but it also has the potential to undermine the glue that holds our society together.

Our current immigration policies have evolved without serious public discussion or debate, and we will be giving careful consideration to this issue through the coming year."

But so starts the ugly spin and all the people who won't bother to read the speech will believe what they hear from Labour mouth-pieces like Judith Tizard.

Update. Let's not forget the conspiratorial Greens. According to the NZ Herald, Green MP Keith Locke described the immigration comments as a "coded attack on non-white migrants" and with Mr Peters muzzled, Dr Brash was trying to fill his shoes.

State of the Welfare Nation (3)

A commentor on State of the Welfare Nation (2) suggests that the continuing growth in welfare spending since Labour took office in 1999 is due to increased Super spending.

Super spending increased by $938 million or 18 percent.

Invalid/sickness benefit spending rose by $918 million or 83 percent.

Although the sharp growth in the second group is, in part, a reflection of our ageing population, the most common reason for being on one of these benefits is a psychological or psychiatric condition. Since 1999 the number of people on a benefit due to substance abuse problems has doubled and due to stress, tripled. Numbers with an intellectual handicap have risen by 6 percent. The trends here are as important, if not more, than the raw numbers.

There is some good news. The rate of increase in incapacity benefits has slowed slightly over the past year.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Over the Hudson

The last post made me nostalgic for aviation. My PPL medical has expired and I haven't flown for a couple of years. This was taken heading north up the Hudson in the early nineties.

The US was the best place to fly. You could hire a plane from Teeterborough, just north of NY City. After a brief checkout flight, you were away. Compared to London, where I got my licence, the air restrictions were minimal.

When the twin towers fell I cried for days. The loss of life was terrible and so was the inevitable loss of freedom to follow.

Too close for comfort?

This photo, snapped by a guy at a football game near Heathrow, has shown on the TV news for the last two nights. Authorities are saying that the legal separation (1000ft vertical and 3nm horizontal) was maintained. In fact a spokeswoman said on TV3 news the two planes were 5.6km apart horizontally. The one behind is a Boeing 777, much larger than the one in the foreground but I am still skeptical about the claimed maintained separation. What do you think?

Away with the fairies's daily brickbat story;

Developer Marcus Salter says fairies have cost him big money. Well, not fairies, as much as the Scottish villagers who say they believe in them. When he started to move a big rock in the middle of his development, neighbors in St. Fillans complained he would disturb the fairies that lived underneath it. At first, he thought they were joking. But when the local community council started talking about complaining to planning authorities, he took the claims much more seriously. The planning commission's guidelines say nothing about protecting fairies, but they do say "local customs and beliefs" must be taken into account in approving development. Salter decided not to even fight. He's having the project redesigned to leave the rock in place.

Communism kills

Madsen Pirie of the Adam Smith Institute, on the Council of Europe attempts to have crimes against humanity committed by the communist regimes of the Soviet Union and other states condemned, writes;

Imagine a row of 100 people, nearly 40 deep, being bulldozed over a cliff. Almost 4,000 people killed. The communist regimes did that to their own people every day of every year throughout the 72 years of their sway. There were Western intellectuals who tried to justify this, or to make light of it. Indeed, there may still be some who do today. They told us that we couldn't expect an omelet without breaking eggs. It was a horrendous number of eggs – and we never did get the omelet.

And I know people who still believe that the theory was right - it was only the implementation of it that failed.

Recommended reading, Reflections on a Ravaged Century by Robert Conquest.

Killjoys everywhere

The state of Western Australia is going to ban kids from wearing denim next year.

"It (denim) is associated with weekend wear, with recreational time. It's just unacceptable at schools and we are trying to lift the standards," a spokesperson for Western Australia state Education Minister Ljiljanna Ravlich said.

Monday, January 30, 2006

State of the Welfare Nation (2)

Under this man's watch welfare spending continued to grow. The big drop in reported unemployment has not been reflected in total welfare spending. And as a percentage of the total welfare bill, Super spending declined.

To use the technically correct terminology, Social Assistance Benefits Paid in Cash has risen every year since 1994;

1994 10,279
1995 10,657
1996 11,075
1997 11,616
1998 12,192
1999 12,429
2000 12,483
2001 12,681
2002 12,838
2003 13,110
2004 13,352
2005 13,448

Some like it hot

Wanganui mayor, Michael Laws' new priority is to have the official temperature taker moved from the airport to the town so all of NZ will know just how "hot" Wanganui really is. What is it about him and heat? Oh yeah, that's right....

Cindy Kiro's solution

Children's Commissioner, Cindy Kiro, was interviewed by Michael Laws this morning on Radio Live. Part of the interview was prompted by Law's observation that CYFS seem unable to keep children safe. (CYFS had been involved with Jill Tito's child but taken no action.)

Kiro says, CYFS are only the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. We have to get back to fundamentals. We have to find out why families, parents and grandparents, aren't taking care of their kids.

Laws interrupts and says, "Sorry. I am looking after my kids and most of the listeners are looking after theirs."

Kiro insists that we, as a society, have an attitude that tolerates too much violence as normal. New Zealand seems to have high rates of child abuse, injury and accidents and it's more widespread than we think. The problem is a collective view about levels of acceptable violence.

She continues, the problems are so widespread every child's welfare, health and education needs to be checked regularly.

Cindy Kiro is an apologist and a time waster. In her world there is no personal responsibility, only collective. That being the case the state must monitor all families and all families will have to stump up for this time-consuming, resource wasting, heavy-handed process. Kiro, go away.

Modern day Maori Wars

Pita Sharples is declaring war on the culture of dependency.

Dr Sharples said there was too much dependency on welfare in Maoridom - something Labour had not addressed.

"It's like a kid - if you keep giving your kids everything, at the end of the day they don't have the skills and knowledge to do it themselves."

More prisons and welfare agencies were not the solution, he said.

He is right. The proportion of Maori on benefit is steadily rising. Four in ten single parents on welfare are Maori. And that will affect coming generations.

But this isn't the first time Pita Sharples has made these encouraging noises. Where is the Maori Party policy on welfare?

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Explaining liberalism

NBR news editor Deborah Hill Cone, sometimes confused with Deborah Coddington, writes an interesting piece in today's Sunday Star Times magazine titled Exit Stage Left, Being liberal ain't what it used to be.

"Back in the 1970's when we talked about racism we all knew what that meant - it was simply that you should not judge people by the colour of their skin......Of, course now it is considered racist if you don't think Maori are especially spiritual and good at playing the guitar. Go figure."

"My friends describe me as the Michael J Fox character in Family Ties. But this is not correct. Michael J Fox's character, Alex Keaton, was the conservative son who dismayed his hippy parents. On the other hand, I am still my parent's daughter, a liberal; it's the rest of the world that has gone topsy-turvy."

"These days most people who pride themselves on being liberal are nothing of the sort. They want a bossy state with lots of laws and rules and they take a dim view of human nature, assuming most people are hopeless cases incapable of pulling themselves up by their government-supplied bootstraps."

The people she describes are statists through and through and should be challenged at every opportunity to explain just why they think they are liberals. True liberals love individual liberty. Good on Deborah for tackling a tricky topic with humour and wit.

Don Brash on the welfare state

Don Brash has a guest opinion piece on Muriel Newman's site this week. Over the holidays he read UK author James Bartholomew's The Welfare State We Are In. Rodney Hide read this some time back and blogged extensively on various facets of the book.

I was surprised that Don is inclined to think the situation in the UK is worse than it is here. Personally I think it might be the other way around. But that's a big call given Bartholomew looks at the total welfare state, not just the effects of the benefit system. What I base my instincts on, I'm not quite sure. Just as I am not quite sure what Don bases his on. Some factual comparisons might be called for.

(But a solicited comment from an insider about our health system goes, "It is seriously ill yet staggering on. You have to ask yourself what is going on when you can't give away a GP practice and pharmacists sell their pharmacies to go and work for somebody else in Ireland)

What I am more optimistic about is New Zealand's ability to improve the situation. Here, our political system and relatively small population hold much more potential for positive and rapid change than can be expected in the United Kingdom.


What can be said about Jill Tito? She spills the beans to the Sunday Star Times on her sorry, sordid story.

At the root of it all, she said,was low self-esteem, a problem she had face all her life. "I'm too easily influenced, I trust people too easily. I don't get to know them properly," she says.

She dropped out of school and left home at 16. Now 24 she has never had a job, but has five convictions. She once took a bar-tending course in Hamilton, but dropped out on the first day to go drinking with her friends. She gave up her first son, born when she was twenty. His new caregivers abused him and the boy is now in CYF care. She has not seen him for two years.

She says she was a good mum before meeting Harley Wharewera, letting him and his mate move in and repeatedly beat her two year-old son almost to death.

The community say she was a bad mum. "(The child) stank, he was dirty."

A number of questions come to mind. Who filled her head with all the stuff about "low self-esteem"? What wider effect does getting paid by the media to further your notoriety nation-wide have on people with bad motivations? Does anybody know, or care, who the father and grandparents of the beaten child are? And, have you and I been paying this pathetic creature to subsist?

Tito has been advised, in order to move on she should "forgive" Wharewera and Tawa.

They don't deserve forgiveness and neither does she.