Saturday, January 13, 2007

To vaccinate or not?

A US debate we will soon be having here -

Should the vaccine against cervical cancer be compulsory for adolescent girls? It's a relative question for our family. One I haven't given much thought to as yet. I would oppose compulsion naturally but that still leaves a decision which is beyond a 11 or 12 year-old to make. This is tricky stuff.

'Rape' education

Oh Crikey has drawn my attention to the type of programme Rape Crisis is running for students. It seems to me they are redefining what constitutes rape. Not legally of course, but by suggestion. Sorry if you find the following a bit off but this is an important subject. This is copied from the PDF file they use;

Is this rape?

Jo is a Year 13 Student at XX High School. She is at a party on a Saturday night. Jared is going to be there and she’s been trying to hook up with him for awhile. She’s wearing a short skirt, boots, and a low cut top –she’s sure to catch his attention –She looks great. Jo and her friends drink a few bottles of wine before
they get to the party and she feels pretty drunk by the time they arrive. At the party she starts talking with Jared, he asks if she wants to go up to one of the bedrooms –they walk up the stairs followed by comments from Jared’s mates as they close the door.

In the room they start kissing, and Jared is putting his hands up her top and down her pants, she likes it and starts touching Jared. Jared then takes off his pants and hers. Jo starts to feel uncomfortable and pulls back a bit, and pulls her underwear back up. She doesn’t want to have sex with Jared but doesn’t know how to stop it. Everyone at the party thinks they’re having sex, and she doesn’t want Jared to think she’s tight. Jared pulls her knickers back down and they have sex.

Apparently under students responses one says, "...I didn’t know the things I do are rape.”

What is your answer? I say no it isn't. Neither is it sexual abuse.

(Links still not working)

Friday, January 12, 2007

When self-esteem is more important than the truth

Sometimes we tell little white lies to spare people's feelings. I have found myself trying to explain why this is OK to my children. Maybe it isn't. This sort of censorship certainly isn't.

(Hat tip

Madame Secretary

What a stunning photo this is from The Times UK. It contrasts strongly with the images we usually get of Condoleezza Rice. There is a rawness about it I find utterly compelling. What a god-awful job.

Rewriting history

The NZ Herald is running a series of extracts from a book, New Zealand as it might have been. This one is from Jon Johansson. The words are those of Jim Bolger in a speech where he rejects Ruth Richardson's budget and we all live happily ever after.

"I utterly reject having my Government driven by ideologues who know the value of nothing other than the purity of their imported theories. I completely reject these obsessed purists who put the balancing of the country's books ahead of balancing the nation's needs."

That caught my eye because it's pretty much what Richard Randerson was saying earlier in the week. As a commenter pointed out, without resources nobody's needs will be catered to.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Luxury offices

The new Ministry of Health offices are extremely nice, better than any recently visited in the private sector and there are wall-to-wall people. Quote from my nearest and dearest.

The Cancer Society chief describes them as "amazing" and "at the premium end of the accommodation scale". (See Stuff - links still not working).

They cost $6 million.

The cost of settling the radiologists strike?


(The MOH bureaucrats probably held a meeting and made the decision thus; if we give the DHBs enough to settle the radiologists pay claim that'll open the floodgates to all manner of health professionals and we will be up for millions. So we may as well spend what we've got on ourselves.)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Health system 'morally deficient'

The Anglican Church is having a go at the government over the radiologists strike.

Bishop Richard Randerson says, "A system that fails to discern the priority of the importance of human wellbeing ahead of finance is morally deficient."

Isn't this a bit naive? Human wellbeing and economic wellbeing are intrinsically tied to each other, albeit not always exclusively.

The public health system is immoral because it takes money off people under the pretext of providing 'free health' and then it fails to deliver.

But as it monopolises the NZ health sector the government must meet the radiologists claims. We are stuck with it long term and if we fail to pay health professionals competitively then we won't keep or attract them.

(The release is a but now blogger links are not working. One thing after another.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Growth in invalid's benefit under spotlight

Media Release
Tuesday, January 9, 2007

In the 1970s around 1% of working age people were receiving a Sickness benefit, an Invalid's benefit or ACC. The percentage climbed to 5% by June 2002. So finds a new report which analyses reasons for the rapid growth of invalid benefit receipt.

Welfare commentator Lindsay Mitchell says, "The report confirms my own observation, that the large increase in numbers on the invalid's benefit cannot be fully explained by growth or ageing of the population, even though those are the reasons most commonly cited by the Minister of Social Development."

"The report finds that more than half of the growth is explained by an increase in the proportion of people aged 15-59 taking up the invalid's benefit. The inflow in all age groups was higher in 2002 than in 1993. Within the 15-59 age group around 60 percent came from other benefits, mainly the sickness benefit. (How many of these had originally been transfers from the unemployment benefit is not examined)."

"The numbers grew, in part, due to the long duration of stay associated with the invalid's benefit, transfers from other benefits and the gap between grants and cessations widening."

"When examining the types of incapacities experienced by people moving onto an invalid's benefit, the report finds that around two-thirds of the growth in inflow rates at ages 15-59 between 1996 and 2002 was associated with mental disorders. Of the total mental disorders, depression accounted for 29 percent. (Doctor's assessment forms have included tick boxes for 'stress' and 'depression' since 1995.) Substance abuse was the highest-ranked incapacity for almost 8 percent. (An individual can have up to four incapacities listed). Musculo-skeletal incapacities, which may be associated with obesity, account for most of the remainder. Cancer and circulatory and nervous system conditions did not contribute to the overall growth of inflow rates."

"The report also finds the rate of growth in inflows was most rapid for Maori and Pacific people - 41% and 36% respectively, compared to 24% of NZ European and other European grouping, although changes in recording and coding may partly account for this. "

"For Maori and Pacific people the growth has been associated with a wider range of incapacities, with schizophrenia being the largest additional contributor for Maori and for Pacific people, circulatory conditions. These ethnicities are also experiencing a greater share of the growth due to chronic disease."

"There is also speculation that the high unemployment of the early nineties contributed as people with ill health and disabilities remained 'at the back of the queue' for new jobs and gradually migrated from an unemployment benefit to an incapacity benefit. My own research has shown this is consistent with other countries which experienced high unemployment during the early nineties, including the UK and Australia."

"Quoting other work, the report suggests that over time joblessness would be measured less as unemployment and more as 'incapacity-related non- participation'."

Mitchell notes, "This, in part, explains our record low 'unemployment' rate while around 11 percent of the working aged population remain on benefits."

Additional information; There are currently around 78,000 people receiving an invalid's benefit. 21 percent are Maori, 4 percent are Pacific people, 53 percent are male. 67 percent are aged 54 or younger.

Monday, January 08, 2007


A poll in the NZ Herald asks what sentence a convicted killer should receive and gives four options;

1/ 10-20 years
2/ 20-30 years
3/ Life - without the possibility of parole
4/ The death sentence

The major problem is of course there are killings and there are killings. Someone who kills in defence or under extreme provocation is not the same kettle of fish as the character who has prompted this poll.

But even in his case should the first sentence he received be exactly the same as the next one?

That said, I am assuming the respondents have his case in mind - at least I hope they do. The results so far are respectively 5, 20, 48 and 27 percent.

Based on this poll, the current sentencing laws are well out of step with what the public wants. (This is not an endorsement of what they want - merely an observation).

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My irksome irrationality

Having grown up a risk-taker I find my increasing and irrational caution very irksome. The latest murder attributed to Graeme Burton reinforces a decision I made after Kate Alchemer was murdered by the Hutt River. I decided not to take the kids (then quite young) walking in isolated places anymore. The eastern hills firebreaks for instance, which we'ed been up previously.

I know, I know. What are the chances?? Probably safer there then in the car or at home. But I just don't feel at ease walking the reserves and hills now so the pleasure has gone.

Earlier in the year my son and I cycled out to Pencarrow on a week day. It is very remote. A motorboat appeared just offshore and I made a game of hiding us behind some rocks. My boy thought I was being funny. I was...and I wasn't. Neurotic? Probably.

Not long ago I had to haul some mongrel off my dog. It was deadly serious and it took repeated thumps on its muzzle, with me straddling it, to get the animal to release her. All the while the stupified owner gaped on. I'm over that episode and back to regarding other dogs as innocuous beasts once more. Griffy can have a decent walk, off the leash and free to roam the beach.

It's just a struggle sometimes finding the right balance between being carefree and over-careful.

Anyway, off to the garden centre. Should be out of harms way there I reckon.

Laws on the 'underclass'

In his Sunday Star Times column today, Michael Laws predicts more violence for 2007. I would agree if for no other reason than there is nothing happening to reverse the trend.

Reviewing the much-proffered causes, he lists media violence, a decline in moral standards and even consumption of KFC.

"But the truth is a little more prosaic. Simply, we have bred an underclass in New Zealand. They are disproportionately brown, uneducated, and habitues of Income Support. And we have no idea what to do with them.

They were nascent in 1987, entrenched in 1997. And they are now legion in 2007. And they are almost wholly responsible for the sharp increases in murder and violent crime statistics and child abuse reports, the spike in truancy and incarceration rates.

Indeed remove the underclass from this country's social statistics and we would be a paradise on earth. Admittedly a cold and pluvial paradise but at least your television news would feature outrages from overseas rather than some devilish deeds done domestically."

Couple of points. Any first world country would be 'a paradise on earth' if they removed their underclass statistics. We are not unique.

Law's also claims that the underclass was 'nascent' in 1987 which links its birth to the economic reforms. That is a myth.

The underclass has always been there but we didn't pay it much heed until government and academia - like modern day missionaries - decided it was a problem, something to be corrected.

It started to expand rapidly from the 60s. Maori urbanisation and Pacific migration (the second to a much lesser extent), the rise in single parent births leading to loss of family links (particularly corrosive for Maori), increasing availability and consumption of drugs and alcohol, and, of course, welfare as a 'right', all contributed to its significant growth.

Finally, "We have no idea what to do with them". He's right. But we are going to have to figure it out soon.

We could do little better than looking to the past and admitting that some practices and philosophies worked better - they weren't perfect - just better.