Saturday, March 18, 2006

Conservatives out-breeding Liberals

Conservatives are having more children than Liberals according to this research, which has some interesting implications;

The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and '70s, will leave no genetic legacy.

There seems to be a suggestion that conservatives will breed carbon copies of themselves but then, where did the "feminist and counter-cultural" ideas come from? Children with conservative parents?

There is also no mention here of the much higher US fertility rates among hispanics and blacks who are more likely to vote democratic, which by my definition makes them Liberals.

I wanna be a hero

Defending plans to introduce congestion charges in parts of Auckland, Dick Hubbard described the transformation of regard for London Mayor "Red" Ken Livingstone, after the implementation of the Congestion Charge in 2003, as going from "zero to hero". Their plans are to extend the chargeable areas and contrary to what Dick says, everybody is not thrilled about the prospect. This report is recent and reasonably well-balanced.

Domestic violence "out of control"

This report doesn't entirely surprise me. A business owner involved in towage and contracted to the Police told me in the course of their work they monitor the Policy radio frequency. After the law banning smoking in pubs was passed the number of domestic violence incidents shot up. The explanation put to me was those men who had previously knocked off work and spent the rest of the night at the pub, were now buying their booze and going straight home, with their mates in tow. Not easy to see how this might drive up the potential for domestics to develop. Another story for the "unintended consequences" file.

These men (and some women too) would be better off all in one place picking fights with each other. A place easily and quickly accessible to the cops. And more importantly, away from children.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Blokes' night out

Apparently there are only two things men go out for. One of them is beer. What is the other? And would you go to this "Men's Health Night"? Be honest.

Special Benefit

WINZ currently pays out $2.8 million a week in Special Benefit. SB is extra assistance for cases of genuine hardship. Today's DomPost reports on a case WINZ have just won through the Court of Appeal. A Christchurch beneficiary was denied an increase in her special benefit to cover a lawyers bill. She showed dogs and had taken the Kennel Club to court over some undisclosed matter. As she couldn't get the taxpayer to fund that, she took WINZ to court as well. Hope she lost both cases.

As of April 1 the Special Benefit will be abolished...only to be replaced by something called Temporary Additional Support. The reason being case managers can use their discretion when granting a Special Benefit. This is now deemed undesirable and should be replaced with a rules-based system. The TAS bill will be even higher.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Turned off

I was trying to listen to question time. But this buffoon, who thinks he who shouts loudest shouts last, was just too much. We are being governed by big mouths and blockheads. Heaven help us.

Unemployment rising in the UK

According to the National Office of Statistics, The unemployment rate was 5.0 per cent, up both over the quarter and over the year. The number of unemployed people increased by 37,000 over the quarter and by 109,000 over the year, to reach 1.53 million. This quarterly increase in unemployment was due to more unemployed women.

The number of people claiming Jobseeker's Allowance benefit has increased. The number of job vacancies has increased.

And, The number of economically inactive people of working age rose by 65,000, to reach 7.96 million, the highest figure since comparable records began in 1971.

Get the picture?


An interesting question was posed yesterday by a letter writer to the NZ herald. I didn't read the letter so I hope I get it right. The question was who gets the interest accruing from the $8,000,000 U2 fans have deposited with the ticket agency?

Which in turn prompted me to wonder, in relation to the next post, do WINZ clients pay any interest on recoverable grants for appliances, furniture etc? Or are we looking at around $25 million worth of interest-free loans?

In debt to WINZ

Tuesday I received the following figures released under the Official Information Act. 62,500 DPB beneficiaries owe money to WINZ.

Across all working age beneficiaries the percentage of people in debt to WINZ is fifty one (155,000). For DPB recipients however, the percentage rises to fifty nine. The mean amount owed is $502.

In the 2004/05 year, thirty seven percent of the newly established debt was due to grants. The balance was made up of debt established by Benefit Control and Data Matching (23 percent) and overpayments established by WINZ (40 percent).

Two thirds of those owing money were female. Forty eight percent were Maori or Pacific Island. Only seventeen percent had some other kind of income aside from a benefit and over 6,000 people were not making any repayments.

The really worrying aspect of this situation is this debt is only part of the picture. Like non-beneficiaries, many of these people will have money owing on creditcards, on hire purchase agreements, to loan sharks, etc.

Not only is being on a benefit a lifestyle for many, so is being in debt.

(These figures were current at November 30, 2005.)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Sue Bradford - apologist for shirkers

The first reading of Wayne Mapp's Private Member's Bill "Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill" happens tonight. It would see the introduction of a three month probationary period for new employees. This move would encourage businesses to take on staff.

The anti-business Greens naturally oppose it. According to Sue Bradford;

"If Dr Mapp's bill goes through, employees will be sacked at will during the first three months on the job. Even worse, once sacked, they become liable for a stand down of up to 13 weeks from Work and Income once they register back in the benefit system. People will be scared to start jobs and scared to change them."

She has just handed another reason to layabouts why they should stay on the dole. By the way, no stand down period applies to the DPB so she will have to find another excuse for single parents, especially those 46,000 with school-age children only, not to take a job.

Maori Party reject expansion of legal aid

The speeches are coming thick and fast from Hone Harawira. And they are always so interesting. Here he is speaking to a bill which will see an expansion of eligibility to legal aid.

"By 2010, Maori will be the most imprisoned people per capita in the world. So yes, Mr Speaker, like it or not, the way things are going, Maori are going to need Legal Aid like never before. So when the Maori Party looks at this Legal Services Amendment Bill, we ask the questions do so with one focus - how will this Bill change things for Maori?"

Hone says he doesn't want Maori represented by the legal "bunnies" the legal aid system turns out. He doesn't want Maori represented in courts that are, "mono-cultural, and their language and procedures deny Maori access to justice."

In fact what he wants is an entirely separate justice system.

And so the Maori Party will oppose the bill because, "It deals with individual rights while continuing to deny Maori their collective whanau, hapu and iwi rights and in fact their human right to the same measure of justice enjoyed by all other citizens in Aotearoa."

It's raining women - or is it?

There has been talk about a surplus of women, especially in the 30-34 age group.

Demographer, Paul Callister has been researching this;
Callister said it was difficult to pinpoint exact reasons for the surplus of women but said men – particularly young men, Maori and Pacific Islanders – failing to fill in census or statistical forms was one major reason.

So I interpret this as meaning that the surplus on paper doesn't necessarily equate to a surplus in practice. (Perhaps some of these are the same "young men" that don't fill in birth certificates either.)

Fathers not named

About 7 per cent of New Zealand children have no named father on their birth certificate.

In many cases the children know their father, but they are not named on the certificate to avoid paying child support.

So says the NZ Herald. Children are usually defined as people under 15, after which they become youths. There are around 900,000 so some 63,000 don't have a father named on their birth certificate. Perhaps they should fill in the space with "taxpayer".

Do it or we will make you

Back in 2001 the radio industry was told to lift their quota of NZ product or else. I well remember the debate having got involved in a tit-for-tat with Mike Chunn (Head of Australian Performing Rights Association) through the letters page of the Evening Post. He was slagging programmers as "prejudiced and lazy" and was right behind the Minister's quota push.

It's a fine line between the threat of compulsion and compulsion itself. So I say again, the logic is very mangey. Because radio stations did what they were told under threat of complusion the argument has been twisted to, NZers must have wanted it after all. Now look where Maharey wants to go;

Mr Maharey said he would consult the Radio Broadcasting Association and the music industry to decide where to go next with the code.

He said radio in Australia and countries of a similar size to New Zealand, such as Ireland, had up to 50 per cent local music.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

More pavement art

OSH would probably rule this a "hazard"!

Mandatory and mediocre

One in five songs played on the radio are now NZ-made.

Thankfully not on the station the kids and I listen to, Hauraki. (Unless they have a whole programme devoted to such stuff of which I am unaware). If you are into 60's, 70's and eighties music there is just oodles of great stuff, only a tiny percentage of which was made by NZ artists. The state imposition of a local quota, innocuously called a "Code of Practice", is outrageous.

"This is a fantastic result for the music industry, and it demonstrates what we've known all along - that New Zealanders want to tune into more of their own music," Steve Maharey said.

What kind of logic is that? Making people have it proves they wanted it?

Private radio stations should be free to play whatever music they want to, not music deemed mandatory by the Minister. Butt out, Maharey.

Thanks - again - Minister

Here Benson-Pope is preening himself with some good news for beneficiaries. From April 1st an increase of 3.16 percent, which reflects the rise in the cost of living, will appear in beneficiary pay packets.

Umm. In December 2005 Mr Benson-Pope received a rise of 6.5 percent and it was backdated to July. Nice.

Of course, this is a government which believes in progressivity - in more ways than one.

Holidays for some

Tax Holiday Widened - Parliament is set to make more generous a tax holiday designed to attract skilled people to New Zealand, conscious that Australia plans similar enticements.

What about retaining skilled people???

Footpath art

James Jenkins sent me a dozen or so amazing pieces of footpath art. I'll post some of them over the next few days. Do you know what city they come from James?

Helen not important enough for Bono?

According to Stuff U2 announced they will be picking up their tour in November.

Bono also admitted he would seek a meeting with Prime Minister John Howard when he returns to Australia about increasing its foreign aid to poor nations.

Waiting on Labour, UF, Greens, Maori.

Good to see National and ACT supporting Barbara Stewart's private member's bill (to select committee) to reduce the number of MPs. She needs more than that though. Big govt man, Jim Anderton opposes it.

Monday, March 13, 2006

More sledgehammer ideas

Shocking video to stop baby shaking. Sorry, but I find this idea objectionable. According to the NZ Herald;

All new parents could be shown a graphic video showing the effects of severe shaking on a baby's body and brain, in an effort to cut child abuse.

It involves parents watching a video, reading a brochure and signing a "commitment statement" before they leave the hospital after giving birth.

We are all to be treated like idiots because a few people are. And what about all the potential shakers who won't see the video. The next "step-parent", the older sibling, the babysitter? What about home-births?

Listen, for a "normal" mother, just watching your newborn having the compulsory heel prick to extract some blood for the national database is harrowing enough.

Corporate tax rate only the half of it

The TTC (Total Tax Contribution) for business is explained here.

"The World Bank put the TTC in the UK at 52.9 per cent compared with just 21.5 per cent in the US and 34.6 per cent in Japan." How on earth is Britain supposed to remain competitive, and an attractive place to do business in while this is going on?

Anyone aware of similar calculations done for NZ? I figure we would be closer to the UK than the US.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

It's the avacado's fault

Avocado-lovers warned over knife accidents. These sorts of stories must be read with some sense of bemusement by more people than me. Surely.
Personally I find pumpkins and butternuts far more troublesome. But I have developed a technique whereby, having lodged the knife firmly into the outer skin, I pick up the entire thing and, using both arms, slam it back down on the cutting board. This eliminates any risk of cutting yourself. However it could result in being hit in the head by half a flying pumpkin. Of course, it wouldn't be my fault......

LibDems - The Right in ascendency

Britain's Liberal Democrats, the third largest party in Parliament, are a funny bunch. They don't seem to know whether they are to the left or right of Labour. But after some dirty tussling over leadership, Sir Menzies (Ming) Campbell, backed by the right wing, has been appointed.

In 2004, a number of leading Liberal Democrats produced The Orange Book: Reclaiming Liberalism....In a series of 10 essays, the Orange Book came down firmly in favour of ...calling for the party to refashion itself as the champion of “free market” capitalism....David Laws, the party spokesman for work and pensions, argued for abolishing the state-run National Health Service and replacing it with an insurance scheme embracing the private sector....Clegg has made clear he intends to drive forward the policies of “tough liberalism” by sharpening up the party’s line on crime and rebutting claims that it is “soft” on law and order....David Laws, unveiled plans to remove welfare benefits from lone mothers.

Radical? Well not quite. Laws wants lone parents to support themselves when, wait for it, their youngest turns twelve. And in the May 2005 general election, the Liberal Democrats called for an increase in taxes on the rich to finance health and education. They do oppose ID cards and the war in Iraq.

It always surprises me how many political parties seem to tackle each issue in isolation without any underlying and guiding principle. A quick look at their website tells you diddly squat about what they actually stand for. Yet they win seats. Proof that the public vote for people - not policies, philosophies or principles.

Message to stay-at-home mums.

The collective way many people want us to look at life really is loathsome. From today's Sunday Star Times we learn that at least one judge is prepared to stand against this rubbish, to the ire of the editor. A married couple split after many years. They have considerable assets. The judge orders a fifty/fifty split which gives them $4.5 million each. The wife isn't happy with this. She puts in a claim for 70 percent of their assets or a further $1.7 million on the basis her future earning potential has been corroded because she stayed at home with the kids. Judge observes that she had ample opportunity to return to work once the children were settled at school. She chose to stay home. The judge turns her down.

So the editor construes this as a message to (or from, take your pick) society that we do not value at-home mothers. Balderdash.

In reality we are individuals making our own value judgments about our families. There is no collective right or wrong way. Each couple, and their children, will be different and each will have contributed in different and unequal ways. It is quite adequate for the law, in a case like this, to uphold a fifty/fifty split.

My personal observation is that many men work very hard and have far more constraint on their time than their partners. Stay-at-home mums have a great deal of freedom and choice, particularly in the case of those with high household incomes. Staying at home with the kids is a privilege. It isn't a sacrifice. Above all it is a choice. Having made your bed, expect to lie in it.