Saturday, May 10, 2008


The following provoked an angry reaction from me. The twisted logic is almost worse than the motivation behind it. Read till the end to see the worst of it.

Feminist Daily News Wire
May 6, 2008

Anti-Choice Groups Launch Deceptive Campaign against Oral Contraceptives

Anti-choice extremist group the American Life League launched a campaign against oral contraceptives that will culminate with protests on June 7 outside clinics that distribute birth control. The Pill Kills Babies falsely labels oral contraceptives as abortificants, claiming that oral contraceptives are the same as abortion except that it "kills a preborn baby" earlier.

Reproductive Health Reality Check points out the disturbing lies that the campaign proclaims. The American Life League falsely claims that the pill is dangerous to women's health because it causes breast cancer, cervical cancer, infertility, birth defects, and "much more."

The anti-choice extremist groups chose June 7 as the protest day because it is the anniversary of the 1965 Griswold v. Connecticut case that overturned a Connecticut law banning the use of contraceptives on the basis of marital privacy.

According to RH Reality Check, the anti-choice extremists claim that "attempting to prevent abortion is abortion too."

Media Resources: 05/06/08; RH Reality Check 05/05/08; The Pill Kills 2008; Griswold v. Connecticut


But hold on. The usual line anti-abortionists use is abortion is murder (or genocide.) So now trying to prevent murder is murder too?? These people are lunatics.

Friday, May 09, 2008

On 'denial'

I gave this release from the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition a quick once over yesterday before forwarding it to my son at school.

It has become commonplace knowledge, and is unchallenged, that global average temperature has not increased since 1998. This corresponds to a 9-year period during which the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, in contrast, did increase, and that by almost 5%.

The greenhouse hypothesis - which asserts that carbon dioxide increases of human origin will cause dangerous global warming - is clearly invalidated by these data.

As if that were not enough, a leading computer modelling team has recently published a paper in Nature which acknowledges what climate rationalists (the so-called “sceptics”) have always asserted. Which is that, contrary to IPCC assessments, any human influence on global temperature is so small that it cannot yet be differentiated from natural cycles of climate change. The same modellers have even predicted (after the start of the event, of course) that cooling will now occur for at least the next few years.

This morning I see that Chris Trotter has titled his Dominion Post column, The moral equivalent of war. Um. What could that be about I speculate.

"...the fight against global warming must become the moral equivalent of war. The threat we face is much greater than the threat posed to the world by Hitler....indeed the argument is strong for an all party coalition dedicated to bringing us through the crisis. Nor can there be the slightest suggestion that anything other than full equality of sacrifice constitutes the guiding principle of our climate change policies. And most importantly, we must learn to recognise the nay-sayers, the special pleaders, the not-in-my-backyarders, and the climate change deniers for the Quislings that they are and treat them accordingly."

By doing what exactly?

The only war going on here is between emotion and reason.

And I will borrow a quote from this week's Maxim newsletter,

"Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they discuss it freely."

Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1800 - 1859

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Employment declines"

That's the headline at Statistics New Zealand website. By the time Ruth Dyson has got her hands on it, and the spin appears at SCOOP it's become "Labour Force Survey reflects stability (in the face of economic challenges)"

Take your pick. The facts remain. In seasonally adjusted terms, the number of people employed dropped by 29,000 (1.3 percent) in the March 2008 quarter.

Having browsed through the tables a few things stand out;

The biggest increase in unemployment is in the 20-24 year-old age group with 18,000 unemployed up at the end of March, up from 11,000 in December.

The Pacific unemployment rate has jumped from 4.8 in December to 8.2 percent in March.

One parent with dependent children only households where nobody is employed have increased from 38.9 to 45.6 percent.

Well I hate to say I said so, but I did. The downward trend of the DPB is plateauing.

But I have just realised something worse. Usually employment grows between December and March. The opposite has happened.

Who to believe

A public meeting to talk about crime in Christchurch took place last night. Contradictory views were expressed;

[Superintendent Dave] Cliff presented police statistics showing violence, drugs and anti-social behaviour offences had all increased in Canterbury by almost one third since 2003 despite a decline in total crime for the period.

The number of all recorded offences over the past four years decreased by 6% with 50,807 offences recorded in 2003 compared with 47,853 in 2007.

The figures showed violence offences had risen 29%.

This reflects the national trend.

Penal reform campaigner Nigel Hampton, QC, gave the meeting a different perspective.

Hampton said the media over-reported violent and sexual crime and distorted the perception of how violent New Zealand was.

Hampton said Christchurch was a safe place to live and he accused the media of letting interest groups use them.

Given the presence of a number of victim's families at this meeting, this was either a brave or foolish thing to say. Is Christchurch a safe place to live? I imagine it would depend very much whereabouts in Christchurch you live. But it's also about perception. If people feel frightened about being out and about after dark, or worse still, frightened in their homes, their quality of life is impaired. The statistics may show that their fear is irrational. It never the less exists. Its presence is surely what drove the convening of such a meeting.

And blaming the media is a waste of time. It is the media's job to report the news. Crime is news. Beats me how a journalist can over-report an event...unless the same crime keeps cropping up due to extraordinary length of time it takes cases to proceed through the justice system. Perhaps the QC should be advocating for reform in that area.

Blaming the media for "letting interest groups use them"? Well isn't that exactly what a QC campaigning for penal reform is? An interest group. And he most certainly will have wanted the media to report on his 'perspective'. Precious.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

"It's a free world"

Did anyone see Key on TV last night being asked about Tama Iti's release from bail conditions to travel overseas? Now-famous pictures of Iti shooting the ground predictably appeared and I recalled Stephen Frank's assiduous pursuit of that action. If he was watching I am sure he would have been somewhat frustrated to see John Key shrugging the question off with, "It's a free world." Actually it's most definitely not a free world when you are on bail.

Appalling mismanagement

How slack are our law and order authorities? I read this story from the Manawatu and then searched the offender on the Sensible Sentencing Trust database. From there we learn;

29/9/2006 A MANAWATU Mongrel Mob member was jailed for 12 months yesterday for failing to honour his parole conditions and assaulting a protected female. Leon Tuiriangi Hakaraia, 27, formerly of Palmerston North, appeared in the Invercargill District Court before Judge Murray Abbott after pleading guilty to the charges. Judge Abbott said Hakaraia assaulted his former partner at Palmerston North Hospital's accident and emergency waiting area in the presence of two security officers on March 13. After an argument and confrontation, Hakaraia punched the woman in the back of the head then kicked her twice to the torso, the judge said. He had already previously breached the conditions of his parole.

In April this year he had been granted bail yet again. This time from Manawautu prison, where he was remanded in custody awaiting trial on a charge of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

Surprise, surprise he absconded from the care of Maori wardens (are the Maori wardens a problem? Is Maori blood thicker than water?)

Now police are warning people that he and his equally violent brother are at large and dangerous. For chrissakes. Why can't those charged with keeping the public safe do their jobs properly in the first place?

"Getting it"

A team of councillors in New Plymouth have been dubbed The Razor Gang. Good on them. They have "outlined plans to slash council spending in an effort to keep rates down."

One caused a stink last night when he ripped up what he called a bad report from Venture Taranaki Trust. He called it a cover-up. He is obviously trying to control council spending on 'economic growth'.

That provoked a response from the chief executive of the Trust, also present at the meeting; "And as far as I'm concerned, economic development is like sex - as long as you're getting it, don't knock it."

Sounds like something Cactus might say. But I am sure she would appreciate that economic development using other people's money is never as productive as economic development using voluntarily invested money. And money taken from ratepayers is money that can't be spent elsewhere.

There is sex and there is sex. Just "getting it" is a pretty pathetic ambition.


I only clicked on this headline, Hungry kids fed 30,000 meals in Red Cross plan, to see if I was looking at a story about the Sudan or South Auckland.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

When a state-owned asset isn't

Just listened to the ever-energetic and sharp Richard Prebble being interviewed by Paul Henry on the issue of the rail by-back.

He calls the move 'looney'. The government paid way over the odds and are now subsidising the largest Australian-owned trucking company in NZ. Prebble says government in NZ has owned railway for over one hundred years through about 40 different governments, none of which have been able to run it successfully, so why does this Labour government think it can?

He has a neat solution for National's folly in putting their head in the noose by promising no asset sales in their first term. Since when has rail in New Zealand been an 'asset' he asked? Quite.

(My own further thoughts) The truly awful aspect of this is the PM's statement that 'we are not in this to make money'. No. They are in it to lose money. Your money.

But why stop here? Why doesn't Cullen buy Foodstuffs and run it as a not-for-profit organisation? Food prices are hurting New Zealanders much more than rail costs. Is that a good idea? And we could subsidise Woolworths at the same time, seen as profit and competition aren't important.

I am living in a nuthouse of a country.


No, I don't have a hangover. Just two comments with a morning-after theme;

On the morning-after the government bought back rail this makes gloomy reading.

When the state gets involved in projects that can be done by private enterprise, the results are almost certain to be bad. We would therefore be best off with a firm rule against such endeavors, says George C. Leef, vice president for research at the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

Government officials are apt to undertake projects that should not be done at all, explains Leef. Even if they hit upon a potentially worthwhile venture, they will approach it in a very inefficient manner. Politicians and bureaucrats are not spending their own money and do not stand to lose if they are wrong. Therefore, resources will be wasted.

And on the morning-after contraception pill. Predictably the conservatives are up in arms about a scheme to provide these pills free through community pharmacy. The Waikato Health Board wants a reduction in teenage pregnancies, a commendable goal. Should taxpayers foot the bill? It's one of those 'pay a little to pay less' situations thanks to the socialist health bind we are caught in.

But I'll make a prediction. It won't work anyway. Existing free contraception hasn't so why would more? The reporter states that the number of teenage births have been relatively stable this century. He bases that on Health department statistics (on which I must make a closing comment). He was only provided with data to 2004.

More recent Statistics NZ data shows the 15-19 birth rate hit a low of 25.6 in 2002 and has climbed back to 31.3 in 2007. Hence my comment that existing free (or subsidised) contraception isn't having the desired effect (although one could mount an argument that the teenage birth rate would be even higher without it.)

And with regard to health statistics. I haven't followed the issue closely but there is dissension from the private sector over the new Public Health Bill and it's proposed capacity to force statistical information from them. That's rich. The availability of health statistics from government departments is appalling. Their statistics are typically very dated and hard to access. They should look to their own record keeping first.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thumbs down on emissions trading

Two radio stations have mentioned the Stuff poll today so the message goes beyond internet land.

71 percent of respondents are opposed to the government's emission trading scheme.

So is ACT.

A party vote was called for on the question, That the Climate Change (Emissions Trading and Renewable Preference) Bill be now read a first time.
Ayes 119 New Zealand Labour 49; New Zealand National 48; New Zealand First 7; Green Party 6; Māori Party 4; United Future 2; Progressive 1; Independents: Copeland, Field.

Noes 2 ACT New Zealand 2.

This is Rodney Hide's contribution at the first reading;

RODNEY HIDE (Leader—ACT) : I know that Mr Harawira worries about the quality of the speeches given under urgency, but I say that the speeches on this bill have been excellent.

On behalf of the ACT party I feel as though I need to offer an explanation, because I believe that we will be the only party voting against this bill. Let me explain. I first became aware of the possibility of anthropogenic effects on the world’s climate, I believe, in 1972. There was some debate then about whether the earth could be possibly warming or cooling, and certainly there was a possibility of an effect of industrialisation and its impact on world climate. Subsequently, the consensus emerged in the late 1970s, interestingly, that the earth was cooling as a consequence of human actions. Indeed, because of my interest in such matters I went on to do a master’s degree in ecology and environmental science, and indeed lectured in environmental science for many years, and did a master’s degree also in resource economics.

Over that time a lot of scares came along and obliterated the concern people had about the possibility of human impact on world climate. These scares have come and, thankfully, gone. I am mindful of Mr Peter Dunne when he was speaking, and alarming the House about Y2K. The scare now of course is global warming, or in fact as it has now been called, climate change.

It is a worry, of course, because we are having such a large impact on the earth, and it is a worry in a host of complex ways. New Zealand is a trading nation, and the perception of New Zealand and our markets is crucial. So whatever we might think of the science, we have to be good environmental citizens. I use the word “good” not in an objective, scientific way, but in a way to justify ourselves to the very peoples we want to be selling our products to in order to maintain our access, and, more particularly, to win a preference for New Zealand goods and services. It is good that New Zealand maintains and extends its green image, and I fully support that.

Let me just run through why we are opposed to this bill. I think essentially it is that we do not want to be running ahead of the rest of the world. If we are going to constrain carbon emissions in New Zealand, it is going to be a huge cost on New Zealand. I find it interesting that not even a rudimentary cost-benefit analysis has been done on the scheme. I notice with some interest that the National Party leader, John Key, said “Oh, by 2050 we’re going to reduce what emissions were in 1990 by 50 percent.”, which is a huge stretch. It would constrain enormously New Zealand’s capacity to produce, and divert resources out of current industries from which we make a great deal of money into those that are not even on the horizon. It is hard to imagine how New Zealand could possibly meet that goal. Even holding the level of emissions has proved impossible for this Government. We can set these worthy goals without thinking about the costs, but if we are going to hold down carbon emissions it will be a huge cost on the economy, and indeed a huge disruption to the economy. So members should make no bones about it; this is a big issue.

The second point I will make is that although there is some debate about the science, I think a good working place for politicians to start is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. We can all point to that and say that, yes, this is where—I guess I am saying—there is scientific consensus, but we all know that science is not run by consensus; it is run by facts. Yet as politicians we have to come up with a response, and that is a good place to start. I should point out that that is a political response. The science does not tell us what we should do. At the end of the day it is going to be politicians, not scientists, who have to decide what the response is to any environmental scare or threat. As limited as we are in many people’s imaginations, it is hard to think of any other route whereby there can be a response, other than a political one, to the questions and issues of science and, in particular, of the environment.

When we look at it, certainly the alarm statistics we were having some years ago have somewhat diminished, so it is less scary than it was. We are talking a long time frame—a hundred years, a temperature rise of 2 or 3 degrees over a hundred years. But a lot can happen in a day, a lot can happen in a week, a lot happens in a year, and a heck of a lot will happen in a hundred years. For example, the Western World will probably be three times richer per capita. Poorly developed countries will be eight times richer per capita, hopefully, if they pursue good policies. So the world will be a richer place, it will be a different place, and it will be a technologically advanced place compared with what it is now. So the sorts of things that we are worried about—about where we are going—are quite something.

Let us think about temperature. There are a lot of cold countries in the world. Finland is cold, and it is a very successful economy. I guess its average temperature must be zero degrees or 5 degrees. If we look at Singapore, its average temperature must be jolly hot, and the temperature range between Singapore and Finland is far, far higher than any change we are talking about for the world, even in the worst case scenario from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That is the point that I would like to make in this speech. The amazing thing about human beings and modern society is our ability to adapt to our environment and, indeed, our ability to change our environment, which is what we are debating here. All this alarm that we have that we must stop climate change, and that we must stop carbon emissions, escapes the point that we can adapt to changes. We can adapt to somewhat higher water levels; of course we can. We have adapted to far worse. We can certainly adapt to different temperature regimes. Human beings demonstrate that. We can succeed in cold environments and warm environments. Yet the suggestion is that somehow some change in temperature would be a calamity. Actually, the facts do not bear that out. So my view on the science is that we should just be a bit cautious and a bit sceptical, particularly in our response.

I know that Jeanette Fitzsimons said that this bill will have an almost negligible effect on New Zealand’s carbon dioxide emissions. That is absolutely true. This bill is a political thing so that Parliament, the Government, and the political parties can say they are doing something. But the actual impact is quite small. It goes nowhere to meeting the commitments that Labour and National have signed up to; all it does is set up a soft regime. That is another point about this environmental trading scheme.

Here is my worry about it. I was involved on the side, as an academic, in setting up the quota scheme for the fisheries, so I know something about setting up market schemes. I heard Dr Nick Smith say that we need to incentivise in pricing, and I think that that is true. But what we are doing here, I think, is setting up a scheme that will be a potentially corrupt scam worldwide, because what is being traded is an odd thing—the ability to emit carbon dioxide, and eventually other greenhouse gases, I guess. Countries that are crooked will be involved, and companies that are crooked will be involved, and they will be trading in these emissions.

There will also be people sitting on property rights that are made valuable simply because of legislation such as this. They will defend those rights to the death, lobby politicians, and say: “No, you can’t do that.” We have seen that already in New Zealand with the forest owners. They said: “We thought we were planting these trees and that we’d own these carbon credits.” I think the potential for abuse and corruption on this is massive. I agree with Jeanette Fitzsimons that this is a very second-best solution. We can achieve Nick Smith’s goal of incentivising in pricing by a tax. The virtue of a tax is that it does not create a property right or therefore a political lobby group that will be arguing around that. In fact, a tax creates a lobby group that says: “Is this a good thing that we should be doing—paying this tax?” But the lobby groups will be huge on this bill when it goes through the committees, and over time.

It is a great thing to be part of the ACT party. We are just two MPs, but we have two votes against this scheme.

Some suggestions for Tapu Misa

Tapu Misa's constant theme is child poverty should be alleviated by higher benefits. The unfortunate family she uses to plead her case is led by a father with cancer. An unusual family but exactly the sort a state-provided safety net is there for. Could he be paid more?

Well here's a couple of ideas. If the 40,000-odd single parents looking after school-age children only and totally reliant on a benefit became at least partially self-supporting, considerable financial resources would be freed up. If benefit-dependent single parents looking after one child only (around half of DPB total) could look after the children of one or two others, releasing them to become at least partially self-supporting, again more would be available for cases of genuine need.

Tapu Misa can try laying a guilt trip on the 'wealthy', those who contribute through paying their taxes everyday. Maybe they could contribute more through charitable organisations. But it's people wringing resources wrongly out of WINZ who could really make a difference.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Blissful oblivion or apathetic ignorance?

Nearly one quarter million eligible-to-vote New Zealanders do not even know there is an election this year.

National Manager Murray Wicks says they are alarmed at the number of people who do not know an election is only months away.

He says over half of Pacific Islanders and young people, and just under half of Maori and Asian people do not have a clue.

Almost 240,000 people still are not enrolled to vote.

I find it hard to get excited about this bunch. When I was a teenager I was one of them. The only reason I voted was because my mother badgered me into it. My vote would have cancelled out one from somebody who had invested heaps of energy and thought into which party to choose. Leave them alone, I say.

I mean, isn't this just another example of wiping people's bottoms for them? The Electoral Commission will spend a fortune in sending out forms to every enrolled voter and the bulk will be binned. Absolute waste. Let people take some responsibility for organising and educating themselves. Voting is a right but it is also a privilege. Allow people to value it as such.

They are probably both right

Here's an exchange of views. The first from criminologist Greg Newbold and the second from Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples. They are spin-off comments regarding a documentary about the Mongrel Mob made by Ross Kemp;

Newbold said "the brown middle-class who are tending to revive Maori culture and to possibsome extent rewrite Maori prehistory" would find the links offensive, but they were based on well-researched fact.

Other social issues among Maori such as prevalent domestic abuse, alcoholism and violence had historical cultural roots, he said.

"Almost every time you hear about a child that's been beaten to death they are Maori that's not new. It's a bloody sad truth. They can keep arguing the point but it's not going to change until people acknowledge it. Everyone who's involved in this kind of work knows it... But very few people are prepared to say it because you are called a racist."

Sharples said: "Greg Newbold is talking rubbish. In pre-European times Maori did not whack their babies and there was no alcohol. What I've looked at is the impact of colonisation on Maori and the bringing in of fatty foods and flour and all these kinds of things into a group that did not fit in the mainstream.

"It's natural that the group should be over-represented in negative and low socio-economic statistics."

The reason for their disagreement is the definition of 'historical terms'. Newbold is probably talking about the Maori/European period whereas Sharples is clearly going back further. There can be no doubt that since Maori have been trading for and using alcohol there have been problems. Then throw welfare into the mix and for some reason the combined detrimental effect has been greater than on Pakeha. The difference will almost certainly have to do with different values. In particular the Pakeha culture of individualism versus the Maori tradition of collectivism. Of course that is a very black and white statement and over the one hundred and sixty years or so the line has become blurred as the races have mixed and Pakeha have increasingly embraced collectivism. Unfortunately I suspect those Maori who have embraced individualism have buggered off. We need to get them back.