Friday, November 25, 2011

A selection from the Otago Daily Times

The Otago Daily Times is intellectually a cut above other New Zealand papers.

Colin James' succinct pre-election wrap. The Domininion Post stupidly dispensed with Mr James services earlier in the year. They prefer lightweight bias:

What's changed during the campaign? Not John Key's prospects for a second term as Prime Minister even though Phil Goff narrowly bested him in this week's debates. But nor have Key's support parties' problems got sorted. For tactically-minded National-leaning voters, November has been unhelpful.

The trend in the average of the five main published opinion polls points to an overall National majority but not wide enough for Key to be confident in advance he won't need support. That explains Key's late buildup of Peters as a bogey: he needed to scare National voters to the polls after an otherwise soothing campaign.

ACT has come out of the campaign worse than it went in, thanks in part to the awkward, then embarrassing, tea party antics. Published polls, plus a stack of anecdotal evidence, point to its disappearance tomorrow or at best a sickly survival on tenuous life support from National.

Colin Craig's Conservatives have polled better than ACT recently. But to get seats Craig has to win the Rodney electorate.

Peter Dunne is at risk of being an overhang MP, of strictly marginal value to Key.

The Maori party's 2008 party vote is being shared with Mana. There is a real possibility the Maori party gets four seats and three are overhangs, which would mean Key has to get 62 seats for a majority (63 if Dunne is also an overhang). The good news in that for the Maori party is that it just might have more leverage than in 2008 to push its whanau ora flagship policy.

For Labour the anecdotal evidence suggests somewhere in the upper 20s, possibly better if there has been a late swing, as some polls suggest. But Labour has bled to the Greens through the campaign after bleeding to Key from 2007. The solidity of Greens' support will be tested in the next three years if Labour manages a resurgence.

And Peters? The polls have been tantalising but the trend average leaves him short. Still, you never say never with Peters. As Goff, hoping for a (not completely dismissible) shock win that needs Peters, might say.

And this delightful letter from 100 years ago:

Prohibition punishes the whole population

In the Prohibition camp preaching to the converted goes on merrily; the proposition that if my neighbour gets drunk it is against me that a prohibition order must be taken out had never greater acceptance. What percentage of citizens get drunk I am unaware: two in every 100, says a correspondent of the Daily Times. To correct the bibulous error of the two, a prohibition order is to be taken out against the other 98.

According to the same correspondent the total number of drunkards in New Zealand is 8000, which sounds a liberal estimate. For the amendment of the 8000 a prohibition order is to be taken out against the whole population. It is not assumed or assumable that the whole population will agree to this lunatic treatment; it will be held sufficient if one-half agree, or at the most three-fifths. The remaining half, or the remaining two-fifths, are then to be put under duress - guarded, watched, spied upon, policed, dragooned, bludgeoned into submission. This done, New Zealand, it is thought, will thenceforth rank as a vestibule of the kingdom of heaven. And there are ministers of religion who, having despaired of Christianity and gone back from Mount Zion to Mount Sinai, cry Amen! It will still remain, however, that two and two make four; and in my humble opinion there are other truths, fundamental and axiomatic, that may be expected to assert themselves. For one thing Naturam expelles furca, tamen usque recurret. "You may drive out Nature with a fork, and yet she will come back."

And finally today's editorial which strikes a chord with me with its criticism of Trevor "stop your nonsense" Mallard:

The Labour Party 2011 election campaign was strategically inept, which is likely to contribute to one its worst defeats when the polls close tomorrow.

Unless Labour can get every single supporter out to vote tomorrow, and the party will try, it has the potential to remain in the wilderness for at least another six years.

Mistakes were compounded on throughout the shortened campaign period and long-serving Labour MP and campaign manager Trevor Mallard might have hard questions to answer on Tuesday if the caucus meets, as it generally does.

Mr Mallard, who spent most of his time on social networks during the campaign, was nowhere to be seen. In fact, first-term MP Grant Robertson was more active on the campaign trail.

Labour made a series of mistakes, and senior MPs should have known better.

Read more

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Labour's desperate lies

I generally avoid the word 'lie'.

But the following is a lie.

"New Zealand has the highest youth unemployment rate in the developed world."

If you are wondering where you heard it most recently, NewstalkZB is regularly running a Labour advert which makes the claim.

The rate for 15-24 year-olds is currently 17.3%

This is lower than the US, the UK, France, Finland, Sweden, Chile, the Czech Republic, Italy, Belgium and a few others.

It isn't hard to check these spurious claims. For Labour to be so brazen they must be beyond caring.

Update: Even predicated on the "highest unemployment rate for under twenty year-olds" the claim does not hold up. There are many countries with unemployment rates for 15-19 year-olds higher than NZ's.

Colin Craig - the Big Spender

Has Colin Craig broken the spending limit on electioneering?

We have received his glossy A4 pamphlet at least three times and yesterday 4 copies fell out of the middle of the Hutt News. Apparently his signs are absolutely everywhere in Auckland. He seems to have more radio ads than any other party. "Hi Colin the Conservative here..." always conjures up an image of what the Goodnight Kiwi would sound like if it could speak.

I haven't got time to look up the rules right now but perhaps he can afford the fine as well.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1200 children born today might well be dead if they had been born in the 1960s

I am watching the Bryan Bruce documentary on child poverty and am completely exasperated. So much is left unsaid. He blames Rogernomics for everything that is wrong with children's health. His slant is thoroughly political despite contrary pleading that child welfare is an ethical and moral problem.

New Zealand apparently used to be a socialist Utopia. That is stated baldly. Bryan Bruce, who looks of a similar age to me, grew up in a country where children got a free bottle of milk everyday and so we lived in paradise.

Putting aside non-fatal preventable disease, as I pointed out earlier, in 1960 the infant mortality rate was 23 per 1,000 infants. Today the figure is 4.8.

So let's frame those statistics in Bryan's terms when he says, "150 babies died in New Zealand last year who might well be alive if they had been born in Sweden, Japan or even the Czech Republic."

1200 children born today might well be dead if they had been born in the 1960s. Born into that socialist era when New Zealanders, as he put it, owned everything including electricity and the rail, and our agricultural products had guaranteed access to the British market.

Thank God we have moved on.

Sweden. He shows two Dads with their toddlers at a kindy-like centre. In Sweden parents get 480 days parental leave which they can share. Then they go back to work. Sole parent or not.

Here we have allowed sole parents to make a lifestyle out of benefits with no requirement to go back to work - if they have ever been in work. Mr Bruce didn't illuminate the circumstances of all the children on benefits be detailed. Never did he mention that most are on the DPB.

He took us into homes in East Porirua where the children and parent had moved into the one room that wasn't mouldy rendering them "over-crowded". Why didn't they clean the mould from the other rooms away? I have to do it upstairs in our house. The bathroom curtain has been bleached; then later dyed; and eventually replaced with a cheap Warehouse wooden blind. The bedroom windows and window sills need the blackened grime removed regularly. The walls feature some mould from time to time but I keep on top of it. This all happens because we can't afford to heat the whole house in winter. But we own it and want to protect it. In state houses it looks like the tenants expect someone else to do the upkeep, including cleaning.

I am angry and appalled. Not because the state is failing these people and their children. But because the PARENTS themselves are failing their children. Yes, some of their homes are irredeemable hovels needing attention but I also know that periodically the authorities come in and repair and renovate yet the results are not appreciated or cared for. Thus, over time, they degenerate once more.

Their children resemble their homes. In preventable neglected condition.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Too much input

I suddenly started thinking about sensory stimulation. The only reason is, we had another mild escalation in our house over why the heck is Master Chef on when nobody watches it? It's just a load of sound and emotion with no gain. None of us is interested in cooking. I hit the off button.

Now I am standing here in the quiet thinking. Another family member is reading. Another is drawing, and the last is listening to House music in a different room. Peace. PEACE.

I am thinking about young men who hurt babies. I, and probably you, can recognise and deal with multiple sensory imput and subsequent overload. It's prevalent across society. Can others? When young men have channels of input prioritised (eg watching a DVD, playing Xbox, texting) being compromised by an additional stream from an unattended baby, can they respond with reason? Do they have the faculties?

Newborns need dedicated attention. The degree of attention diminishes with age but when they come home after birth their need is the only one that matters.

I am sure that rather a lot are surviving against the odds, and that very act of survival will later manifest in unhappy, self-destructive adulthoods.

Labour's scare tactics regarding the DPB

Interesting to see the reaction to Labour's scare pamphlet about not seeing your child's first birthday. It intrigues me because the right tend to talk tough and then get all indignant when the opposition paints them as such. Nevertheless the pamphlet sensationalises what is in fact a sensible policy to discourage people from adding a child to their benefit.

But my view is that Labour are doing National a favour. They are drawing attention to one of National's better and more decisive welfare policies; and it does the very job the policies themselves are meant to do - send a message.

Mothers on welfare need to be getting the message that welfare is changing. That the DPB isn't going to be the free ride it has in the past (no disrespect intended to women who are on it with very high demands dependants, be they disabled children or others that would be institutionalised if not for their care.) And that they need to start making decisions based on those changes.

Is this sensationalism?

Here is the angle documentary-maker Bryan Bruce is putting on New Zealand's child poverty rate:

More than 100 New Zealand children who died last year would probably have survived had they lived in Japan, Sweden or the Czech Republic, a new documentary shows.

But not if they had lived in Australia, the United Kingdom or Canada which all cluster around similar infant mortality rates as New Zealand.

Canada 5.2
NZ 4.8
United Kingdom 4.6
Australia 4.1

The Stuff report continues:

"Last year, more than 25,000 children were admitted to hospital for respiratory infections. Doctors routinely treat cases of rheumatic fever and scabies – diseases now rare in Europe.

The reason behind these preventable diseases were appalling rates of child poverty that New Zealand could not afford to ignore, Mr Bruce said."

The biggest contributor to these diseases is, in my view, the environments children live in. These unhealthy environments are often due to nobody taking responsibility for safe standards of hygiene and cleanliness. Mould can be cleaned from walls; floors that babies and toddlers crawl on can be vacuumed and mopped; food refuse can be removed rather than left to rot and attract flies and maggots. Overcrowding is frequently a symptom of choice. Choosing to share accommodation to reap more income and choosing to have children.

Returning to the opening suggestion that 100 more children would have survived had they been born in Sweden that isn't necessarily down to lower child poverty. For instance, child death in the immediate post-natal phase can be due to premature birth. Premature births can be due to very young maternal age. Sweden's teenage birth rate is much lower than New Zealand's. So the reason for this particular difference is largely cultural.

The Children's Social Health Monitor comments:

"While infant mortality rates are generally higher for Pacific>; Māori> ; European / Other babies, males, and those in the most deprived areas , total infant mortality rates are of limited utility in guiding population health interventions, as the causes of mortality differ markedly with the age of the infant. During the neonatal period (birth–28 days) extreme prematurity, congenital anomalies and intrauterine / birth asphyxia are the leading causes of mortality, while in the post neonatal period (29–364 days) sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI) and congenital anomalies make the greatest contribution . Thus any interventions aimed at reducing New Zealand’s infant mortality rates must, in the first instance, be based on an understanding of their component causes."

The good news is, in any case, the infant mortality rate is dropping every year. In 50 years it has dropped from 23 infant deaths per 1,000 to 4.8.

I doubt Mr Bruce will provide some reasonable context for his claims. Perhaps he should stick to investigating unresolved New Zealand crimes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Green's cynical exaggeration of child poverty

The Greens are riding the child poverty issue for all its worth. According to Stuff , quoting Meteria Turei from yesterday:

There were 275,000 children living in severe poverty and two out of every five of those children came from households with parents in work but whose pay rates were too low, she said.

The figure seems to grow at each turn. That's the highest I have seen yet.

What do official measurement sources say?

• In 2010, there were 1.07m dependent children (under 18) – on the measures in Table S.2, between 170,000 and 270,000 children were in households with incomes below the low-income thresholds (ie ‘in poverty’).
• In 2010, on the Social Report measure (AHC ‘fixed line’ 60%), there were 230,000 (22%) children in households below the low-income threshold (ie ‘in poverty’), down from 380,000 (37%) in 2001.

Note though Turei's use of the word "severe".

Severe poverty would be indicated by using not the After Housing Costs (AHC) 60 % threshold but the AHC 50 % threshold which is 16 percent.

That produces a number of 171,200.

But what does it matter if you overstate a problem by one hundred thousand plus when you can trust the media to accept anything you say?