Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Kill the Poor


Phil at whoar.co.nz has described the government as being like Alice in Wonderland.  I'm leaning more towards Kafka.  The genesis of the idea is the same, there is some form of cognitive dissonance within the government.  Looking at the proposed welfare reforms (and glumly accepting that they will be implemented), it's obvious that John Key never realised that the Dead Kennedys' "Kill thePoor" was satire.  Actually, I doubt John Key ever listened to DK, he seems more like a  Phil Collins-type.
I would like the principle behind the proposed reforms explained.  I can see some horrible logic, is it:
·         Women who have children must not have more children, if they are receiving a benefit (because [insert reason here – I haven't worked it out yet]).  Or
·         Women who receive the DPB should not have sex (because sex outside marriage is immoral).  Or
·         Children who are born to a woman on the DPB deserve less support than other children (to punish the mothers for their wantonness)?
The tripe that the government served up in parliament over the last two days has been appalling, and has gone almost unchallenged.  Key and Bennett have both talked about the positive side of the ledger, jobs created, and completely ignored the other side, jobs destroyed. Authors at The Standard have picked it up in several posts, but opposition parties have dropped the ball and it's gone swish over the heads of the media.
The proposal is that carers for five + year olds need to be ready for part time work, and 14 + year olds for full time work.  The cognitive dissonance here is that unemployment has steadily risen since National came to power; there are no jobs because more jobs have been destroyed than created.
At least we have had record net migration to Australia.  Imagine how bad unemployment would be if all those skilled people hadn't left the country.
The vilest part is saved for the most sinful of beneficiaries (the woman who dares to have another child while on the DPB), who are required to be ready to work when their child is one year old.  Is there any evidence to show this is a good idea?  Because to me it looks like it is purely punitive, and ideologically based.
At a fundamental level I agree with National, in fact I would go further and say the benefit system needs to be abolished.  Where we differ, drastically, is that I believe the abolition can only occur when we have a society where the payment of benefits is unnecessary because no one needs them.  National have moved us away from that goal and put us in a position where benefits, as a proxy for support from society, are needed more than ever.  Hang your head in shame, Mr Key.

Princes of the Universe


I'm not much into rugby.  I've watched two or three games in the last decade or so, the last one being the turgid affair that was the RWC final.  It's not that I dislike rugby, it's just that I like other stuff a lot more.
The Otago RFU is insolvent.  Professionalism is to blame.  Yeah, yeah yeah, whatever.  The Otago RFU has done a lot more for NZ, and especially Dunedin, than the finance companies that the government eagerly bailed out.  And they have a proud history.
I'd be happy to fund some statutory managers or receivers to trade the union out of debt, perhaps with its debt restructured and possibly eventually written off, either entirely or in part.
The small issue that the voters of Dunedin tend to favour Labour will undoubtedly influence the government's thinking.

Gone Fishing


So here's a thought or two – based on the idea National want to use taxpayer money to pay expenses like rent and electricity for young beneficiaries.
It's a dumb idea because it contradicts one of the fundamental tenets of National Party dogma – taking responsibility for yourself.  Having the taxpayers of New Zealand pay rent and utility bills directly absolves the individual of responsibility for managing this part of looking after themselves.
Has anyone considered the potential for rorting?  As a landlord I'd be tempted to push an under-resourced public service, with a new task of managing significant proportions of people's budgets, for an extra ten or twenty bucks a week, where I could.  Except of course I'm not a landlord.  But can anyone assure me not a single landlord will try this one on?
And of course if landlords do manage to push rents up, the effect will flow on through the rental and property market as higher rents and higher property prices.  Without actually creating any extra value to the country.  All in all it seems like sleight of hand from a merchant banker, and an excuse to create new troughs from which National voters can guzzle.
But let's disappear off to fairy land, for a moment, and assume National are on to something.  The principle is "the government makes payments when the people who are currently responsible, generally as a group, do not meet their responsibilities and fail to make payments, thereby depriving others of money that is rightfully theirs".
How about we apply the principle to the fishing industry?  They are not very good at paying the workers on foreign flagged fishing vessels.  So, according to the principle, the government, via the taxpayers, should guarantee at least minimum wage.  If it's not affordable to pay fishers minimum wage, then the fishery is, by definition, not sustainable.  Bring on the market forces that raise the price of fish to a point where people can make a living from fishing, or the innovation that develops methods that require less labour input.

You're Crazy


The front page of the National Party website has, as its banner, the logo, the words "less debt more jobs" and a photo of John Key.  The only true or honest part of it is the logo.  In the real world the words would read "less jobs more debt".

Where is my mind?

Gawd it's been an awful week in parliament.
How is it that the worst government in a generation is in office at the same time as the worst opposition in a generation?  And at a time when the media are at a low ebb?
Yesterday's question time was particularly awful, today was better from the Greens and Mana, but Labour and NZ First were missing in action, or letting National wipe their feet on  them.  Lucky no one pays attention to parliament, then...

My Mistake

Over at Keeping Stock, Inventory2 plays the "politics of envy" card.  And loses.

Monday, 27 February 2012

What's My Scene


"...and another thing I've been wondering lately, am I crazy to believe in ideals?..."
I worked for local government for a time, including in the 1990s when National last attacked it.
I worked in the private sector too, and I've come to a range of conclusions, none of which I intend to address in this post.
The question to the Minister of Local Government on 15 February 2012 was a cause for reflection. As an employee in the private sector I am paid about 25% more than I was in local goverment, though I have a role that carries less responsibility and is less complex. In my case, the best reason to leave the private sector is ideological, there is no financial gain.
So the Minister's implication that remuneration in the local government sector is too high, or out of control, is flawed.
It would be interesting to see a question to the Minister about the relative proportions of budgets to in-house service provision against contracted out service provision. Followed perhaps by a question about the comparative increases in costs. The first question would certainly put the issue of staff costs into proportion.

Coming Up For Air


The news that some of the trapped miners survived the initial blast does not come as a surprise. As with many issues, we were primed for this news last year when grainy images of opened self-rescue boxes and bodies were shown.
The second explosion has been described as "unsurvivable". In spite of an overwhelming desire to hope "it was over quickly", (which is a form of making the best of a very bad situation) part of me knows that people, and especially miners, are very resourceful. I can't dismiss the possibility that some of the Pike River 29 died of thirst, starvation or something else while waiting to be rescued.
On the subject of rescue I can only speculate as to whether the correct decision was made. Certainly it prevented further deaths; we can only be sure rescue was possible once the bodies are recovered.
The priorities I would like to see are:
·         The bodies of the miners returned to their families for proper burials.
·         The people responsible held to account. I expect this will include criminal charges and gaol sentences.
·         The Commission of Inquiry completed so that not only are the facts found, but also the stories of the miners and their families told.
·         Improvements to mine safety through better design and operation standards. This is an area where we need to catch up with Australia, and could do so by adopting their rules and regulations.
·         The fate of the mine determined, either via abandonment or a partial or full re-opening, because I am not against mining, as long as it is done well.

A New Season


David Shearer has finally shown some teeth. Perhaps they will be bared in Parliament this week, I await with bated breath.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Sky Is Crying

"Is it going to rain today?"
Yes, it is going to rain today.  Very lightly, just enough to wet the earth.
"Shall we have our photo taken?"
I went to Latimer Square and took these photos.
rain on a fence to the east of Latimer Square.  The roses were semi-tamed
looking down Madras Street towards Cashel Street.  The roses were beautifully arranged.
looking at Hereford Street.
looking west towards the square.
All photos taken by the Armchair Critic

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

The Man Who Sold The World


National have no idea how much the proceeds of asset sales will be.  A year ago that nice man Mr Key was talking about $10b.  Now Dr English has revised that down to about $6b, but maybe only$5.2b.  That's a whopping difference, and if it really is a "best estimate" it is not good enough.  In the real world, if the government were a business (and it is not), someone turning up with revenue forecasts like that would be laughed at.  And fired.  Or, more likely, no one would turn up with such rubbish, because they know they would be laughed at.  Or fired.
The debate, a few weeks back, revolved around the extent of the mandate the government held to sell assets.  I don't accept the 'partial sale' terminology.  The proposal is for asset sales.  The proportion sold is a detail and an obfuscation of the reality – the proposal is for asset sales.  If we assume there is a mandate of some sort, it is for sales that make sense, in economic terms.
A mandate cannot be claimed if the proceeds cannot be estimated by the vendor's representative.  I'd suggest they go back to square one, but with estimates like this, they aren't at square one yet.

Settle For Nothing

Underneath it all, Paul Holmes's diatribe the weekend before last was, underneath all the racism, lies and self-absorption, just a tone argument.  Nothing of any substance, no reflection on why the protesters might be angry, just "I don't like how they present their message".
Hone Harawira, who has quite a different public persona than that of Paul Holmes, provided an excellent rebuttal of Holmes's rubbish.  The contrast between the two is striking.

Monday, 20 February 2012

We Can Work It Out (Part Three)

And so it comes to pass.
Local government is to be reformed, Granny Herald has announced.  I blogged about this twice in recent weeks, the writing on the wall was hard to miss.
So, what will the reforms consist of?  Can't be that difficult to guess:

  • Amalgamations, and a blurring of the line between regional and local government.
  • Less democracy through reducing the number of elected representatives, which in turn encourages party tickets and wealthy individuals to run for office. 
  • Removal of the provider/regulator split, to support asset sales.
  • Union busting, through increased contracting out aka labour market flexibility.
  • Restrictions on rate rises, to drive asset sales.
  • Moving back to the limiting of the functions of local government to those specifically allowed, as per the 1974 Act.

At least there was a laugh in the announcement, the government thinks the amalgamation in Auckland has been "successful".  They should use some of the money they take as tax to purchase a dictionary.

Homeward Bound


The toughest decision John Key had to make on 22 February last year was to fly back to Wellington that night.
The decision was one of a manager, rather than a leader.  Flying back to Wellington was the easy way out.
Tracy Watkins' puff piece comes at an important time, when the bad news for National has been only briefly interrupted by some venal behaviour from Trevor Mallard and any opportunity to get good press needs to be taken.  This week is an important week for National, they need to take advantage of the opportunity that the first anniversary presents.
But the phrasing in the article was eye-catching.  I'd not have said "...fly back to Wellington..." because it connects Key with privilege, as he can easily escape devastated cities, is an important part of the bureaucracy in Wellington, can fly in and out at will, it chips into the "everyman" image.
The "when the going gets tough, the PM heads back to Wellington" message is also one I'd not expected of a tame MSM, and from that perspective I can understand why the decision was made.  I would like to know why it was difficult.
On really big days there are no difficult decisions, I find most decisions are automatic, or at worst easy.  Underlying values and beliefs rule.  Decisions only become difficult when the luxury of time allows the consequences to be considered, and values and beliefs questioned.
Leaving Christchurch on 22 February 2011 could only be difficult with the luxury of detachment from the situation (and I defy anyone who has seen Christchurch to claim to be detached) or in the absence of a moral and ethical framework, or both.

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow: Enter the Greens?: goading Labour?

Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow: Enter the Greens?: goading Labour?
The middle section of the middle paragraph is gold. I read it and genuinely believe I cold not have written it better. Well said, Mr Winter.

2112


Finally a post referring to an album, rather than a song title.  I owned 2112 in my teens and liked it.  In its own way it was listenable, the whole rock-opera/concept album idea was one I'd not really encountered before.  Of course that was way before I discovered Rush are a bunch of libertarians and the whole thing was inspired by the idol of libertarians world-wide, Ayn Rand.  For some reason the album sticks in my mind (the kitsch lyrics, perhaps) and today it occurred to me that in 100 years it will be 2112.
I'd cross my fingers and hope that the dystopian worlds described by Rush, and Rand, do not come to pass.  But crossing fingers is usually not that effective, so I'll continue on with other methods too, outside this blog.  Grass roots stuff.
My partner pointed out, over the weekend, that Facebook is in many ways like Big Brother.  I agreed, and it occurred to me that while the common conception is that Big Brother would come from some form of government and would use compulsion, in fact Big Brother could easily be non-governmental, it only needs to be severely authoritarian (which Facebook could become).  And how ironic it is that we are falling over ourselves to help Big Brother to watch us.
EDIT – evidently 2112 is a song title, too.

Money Money Money


Two MPs in the news that I have to comment on again.
Trevor Mallard first.
I didn't like the anti-scalping law.  Not because I'm a scalper, I've never bought tickets to anything without actually going to it.  The law didn't concern me too much, so I just dismissed it as a dumb idea.  The two problems I had with the law were that it offered protection to big business over individuals, and it interfered with what should have been a free market.  I'm not a big believer in free markets, but in the case of tickets to major events, I reckon let the market run wild and free.  It's just a game (or gig), after all.
So I don't mind anyone selling tickets on TradeMe, for whatever reason.  If people are dumb enough to pay over the face value, stupid them, and if they have the tickets dishonoured at the gate that's private business between the buyer and seller.
BUT
Trevor Mallard was strongly associated with the anti-scalping legislation, more so than any MP.  It doesn't matter what he thought of the legislation, it is forever his name linked to it.  And that puts him in the unique position of looking like (and, as far as I can see, being) a big old hypocrite when it comes to selling tickets to sports events and gigs.  Next time, Mr Mallard, give the tickets away, or donate the proceeds to a named charity (not the un-named one that receives "a good part" of Mr Key's salary) and limit the price to the face value.
The final point relates to the conditions of the sale around not reselling the tickets.  I'm not convinced that this is any more enforceable than the "Not for individual resale" found on Coke cans in every second dairy.  Perhaps someone can set the record straight.
Mojo Mathers next.
This whole idea that she's "been around parliament" for five years, so someone should have known, ignores a whole lot of reality.
Her employer, until she was elected, was the Green Party.  As far as we know she had no issue with her employer providing the necessary things to support her in her role.
Once she was elected to parliament, she left her previous employment and now works for the citizens of New Zealand, as an MP.  Her previous employer cannot be expected to continue to provide for her, nor can they be expected to pass on to her new employer anything they used to support her in her previous role.
The Speaker must fund facilities to allow every deaf MP (including those to come), irrespective of their political hue, to participate to the fullest of their ability, which will undoubtedly be more than the ability of the most dim-witted of the non-deaf MPs.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

In The Ghetto

New Zealand looks quite different from the air.
As a species, we spend most of our time on the ground.  We've always travelled along paths, whether they are rivers, railways or roads (or cycleways, whatever happened too...nah, forget that line of discussion).  As a direct result we only see a very small part of the country, often from the same perspective and at a speed that means we miss most of it.  Which is why things look different from, say, a bus compared to the passenger seat of a car, or walking.  But I digress again, back to the air.
I saw Maungatautari, from the air, some months back.  Well I think I did.  I ran up it, once, many years ago before it was fenced off.  It was steep, and beautiful.  Now it's an island, in the middle of farm land.  And I reflected on what we have done (our achievements, if you will), as a species.  The creatures that once roamed the country have been decimated nearly annihilated and are now restricted to the isolated bits of the country that we don't want or can't use for anything else.
It's kind of like what we, as a species, have done and continue to do with the members of society we don't like, for one reason or another.  Keep them in ghettos.
To be clear, I support what the Maungatautari Ecological Island Trust are doing; it is a good start.  And I'm not suggesting the land they care for actually is a ghetto for animals, hence the "...kind of like..." in the previous paragraph.
In the longer term we, as a species, need to accept that we are part of the ecosystem.  Rather than something separate to the other inhabitants of our plant, with the right to rule over or control it, we have an important place - just like everyone else.  Indeed, this may be the defining issue of homo sapiens, with the worst-case alternative being rejection from the ecosystem, and extinction.
We have received and willingly taken so much from the world (complex linguistic skills, abstract thought, the ability to create music and art, a sense of time, reliable and extensive memory, the ability to create and use tools, machinery and electronics), and have given back very little in return.  There is no time like now to start.
UPDATE - a place to start is safe "paths" between the islands where we have exiled our native species, along with more "islands".  My first thought is that the paths would, broadly, follow watercourses, which need buffer strips to protect water quality.  Acting as a refuge and conduit for rare animals is an added bonus.

We Can Work It Out (Part Two)

Recently I posted on the signals that National intends to implement some significant reforms in the Local Government sector.
Another question today in Parliament about local government, this time about labour costs in the local government sector.  Again, patsy questions with none of the opposition parties apparently noticing.
The two themes I see in the question are:

  • local government reform
  • union busting (the local government sector has a reasonable union presence)
Messrs Winter and Guyton, are you listening?  What do you think?

It's Coming Down

The judgement on the Crafar Farms sale made me smile, in a day that otherwise consisted solely of datafreaking.
Truth be told I expected a lot less from the court decision.  And I also expect that it will serve only to delay the sale.
I've been waiting, in vain, for signs that the neo-liberal tide has turned, just a little.  Hell, I'd just about settle for a conservative National government over the bunch of crap we have today.  And perhaps, just perhaps, we saw them today.
I checked that QOA this morning and wondered why David Shearer was asking the PM about confidence in his ministers.  If it was put in on the off-chance that it could be used in conjunction with the Court's decision, then that's a sign that Labour are thinking.
It was so nice to see the PM flubbing his answers, too.
Overall, my theory that this government will not go a full term is still on track, in fact I think this has made it even more likely.
What will be most interesting is how the government react.  They have an opportunity to reconsider and make a  better decision.  Their track record indicates that they will rush their gates and make even more of a hash of it, and given the public sentiment on the issue, there is potential for the government to do real damage to their agenda.  Which won't disappoint me at all.

You're Just As Confused As I Am (Part Two)

And I found it next to impossible to believe, but on the way into work this morning the radio is on abot Murray McCully's email account being hacked.
Mr Key is busy reassuring us that it's OK because there was nothing confidential.  Of course there was nothing confidential, Mr Key.  Back in 1986 it took the Russians a while to admit one of their nuclear reactors had melted down, too.
So where's the problem here?  Well, for one, Ministers should keep their business email accounts for business and their private email accounts for personal stuff.  It's just good practice, and there's no real excuse.
Also, having an email account hacked is a problem, irrespective of what was within the account.  It shouldn't be dismissed lightly.
Finally, the juxtaposition of the two issues - using a push to electronic media to justify slashing the public service versus a member of the goverment having his email account hacked is quite striking.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Dunderhead

Speaker of the House, Lockwood Smith, has said that there is no funding available to provide live captioning for deaf MP Mojo Mathers.
I'd like to think I am not at all partisan on this issue, though I voted Green and Mojo Mathers represents the Green Party.  To me it;s not about an individual, or the party they represent, it's about human rights, and those can transcend individuals and political parties.
NZ Sign language is one of the three official languages of New Zealand.  As it should be.  Any MP is entitled to use it in parliament, and be readily understood by every other MP in parliament, and everyone watching the proceedings on some electronic visual medium.  And any MP should be able to follow the proceeding of parliament without incurring additional cost to their individual or party budgets.
It's part of the job the MP was elected (in this case by the people of New Zealand) to do.  Not funding this from a general pool disregards the wishes of the people of New Zealand.
I suggest that if the National Party had had a deaf MP elected (as opposed to the bunch of terminally stupid MPs they did get into parliament) there would be no issue at all.
Perhaps I have been unkind and this is just a case of poor communication from the Speaker, we will see shortly.

You're Just As Confused As I Am


That's Mr Key I'm referring to in the title of the post.  Fact is, I think he is more confused than I am.
The dull neo-liberal drive for smaller government has been given sheep's clothing.  This time it's presented as modernisation and efficiency.  Stuff reports:
Key said yesterday that people wanted to use their smartphones to apply for passports and other tasks, rather than wait in line in offices.
"It really doesn't matter if there is a street frontage there ... We are living in an age where kids have iPads and smartphones. That's the modern generation ... and they actually don't want to walk in, for the most part, and be in a very long queue and be waiting for a long time."
I applied for a passport a year ago.  It was really easy; download the forms, print and fill them out, post in with credit card details included, done.  A week or so later my passport turned up in my letterbox.  Sure it could have been easier if the form could have been submitted electronically, but this myth of people standing in queues waiting to apply for passports is, well, a myth.
As an aside, why are these imaginary people queuing, in Mr Key's imagination?  The obvious answer is they need a passport to join the brain drain to Australia.  However, back to interactions with the government...
My daughter needed her birth registered.  Forms off the internet, if I recall correctly.  The trickiest thing was picking names.  Birth certificate turned up in the post.
Then she needed an IRD number.  I'm pretty sure that was all done on line, with confirmation by mail, all pretty quickly.
I registered and operate a couple of companies.  The Companies Office are really good to deal with.
Have I ever had to stand in a queue?  Yeah, sure, I'll explain shortly.  But just to spell it out, there's a common theme here.  For a lot of interactions, the government are really quick and easy to deal with.
The other thing to consider is that the process of processing the various interactions I've had over the last few years would not be made significantly more efficient, or less costly, by implementing full internet accessibility.  Someone still needs to read the documents, make an assessment and take some form of action.
The only place I stood in a queue was at Work and Income, or whatever they were called back in the early 1990s, when Roger Douglas and Ruth Richardson's combined economic abilities dropped me in a job market where jobs were non-existent, and I spent several months receiving the unemployment benefit.  More recently I've seen the grandparents of my children queue to apply for their pension.
I wonder whether that's fair enough, or whether one should be able to apply for financial support from the government through a smartphone?  Part of me says one should turn up and talk to a human; there is something extremely personal and intimate about applying for a benefit.  There's also nothing like having another person available to help you work out exactly what support is available.  Another part says it would be more efficient to do it all electronically, because it provides a consistent model for interaction, it would be fraud-proof (not), the fraud-proofing wouldn't be used as an excuse for more government intrusion into our lives (not) and everyone who needs to apply for a benefit can work it out based solely on a website without any help from anyone else (not).
It's this idea of people queuing that has me floored.  I don't know where John Key thinks these people are queuing.  I'm inexorably drawn to the conclusion that he has a tendency to open his mouth before he engages his brain; the whole "it sounds like a good idea" approach leads to a reality that will be explained as "it sounded like a good idea at the time", when of course it was aspirational bullshit, aka a bad idea.
Is there room for improvement?  Of course.  Will Mr Key's ideas lead to improved public services?  Probably not.

Too Much


Granny reports:
Prime Minister John Key said that modernising the IRD computer system as part of an efficiency drive in the public service could cost up to $1 billion. Prime Minister John Key said that modernising the IRD computer system as part of an efficiency drive in the public service could cost up to $1 billion.
A billion dollars?  On a computer system?  That's ridiculous.
Why is it ridiculous?
  •          The IRD collects about $50 billion in tax annually, so the estimated cost is 2% of the amount collected in a year.  Sure, the system might last 20 years, even then it's contributing 10c to the cost of collecting every $100.
  •          And that's assuming it works.  The largest IT project undertaken by any government department was the INCIS project.  INCIS was about a tenth of the cost mooted by Key, and anyone who recalls INCIS will also recall it was not seen as a particularly successful project.
  •          In almost the same breath, Mr Key mentions the idea of a more efficient public service.  And that's worthy of a separate post.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

There Goes God

What is it with Gerry Brownlee calling Bob Parker a clown?
Behind the bullshit about whose feelings were hurt and who should apologise to whom, there's a real story.  As I see it, if it were English royalty or Hollywood celebrities calling each other names, who would care?  (well, I suppose quite a few people.  Not me, though) and the media's trivial treatment of this is akin to classic tabloid journalism.
For the record I think it is inappropriate for a senior cabinet minister to refer to an elected official as "a clown". There's a big chunk of truth behind what has been said on both sides.
Bob Parker has found the going as a mayor responsible for the recovery phase beyond his capabilities.  That doesn't make for valid comparisons to circus performers; indeed such references serve only to trivialise and distract.
Distraction is just what Mr Brownlee needs, as it draws attention away from the issues of the large asset portfolio held by CCC, and the government's privatisation agenda, which I posted about earlier on this evening.

We Can Work It Out

Two interesting patsy questions in two days in parliament.
Yesterday a question about rates rises, with a side of "what changed since 2002?"
Today a similar question about increases in local authority debt levels, coincidentally also using 2002 as a base year.
Coincidence?  I don't think so.  It's much more likely the government is beginning the framing process for a round of further privatisation, this time in the local government area.  Like a lot of the right wing agenda, the logic is mind-numbingly simplistic, and inaccurate.  Here's how it will work:

  • rates have risen faster than inflation.
  • debt has also risen.
  • therefore councils must sell assets to reduce debt and keep rates rises down.

Too simple by half, but it makes sense if you don't think about it.
The reasons rates, and debt, rose since 2002 is only partially due to the rewritten Local Government Act.  It's also to do with a long build-up of deferred maintenance, and poor service delivery.  It was helped along with generally increasing affordability of rates rises due to what was referred to as "a healthy and growing economy", something that had been sadly lacking in the previous decade (1992 to 2002) due to the efforts of the National government of 1990 - 1999.
But as long as none of the other parties in parliament notice (and they didn't seem to, no supplementaries were asked by anyone except the National MP who asked the primary question), the government will carry on their merry way down the road to privatisation.  You heard it here first.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

S.O.F.T.

So parliament has started again, for the year.  And much to my disappointment, but not surprisingly, Labour are present in body (unlike the Maori Party - funny, that) but not in spirit.  Two question times and Labour seem to have run out of their supply of their most potent weapon from last term - wet bus tickets.  I despair.  Having one party in parliament that sucks is bad enough (not counting UF and ACT - a one person party is, well, just like it sounds - not a party at all), do labour have to suck as well?  "Are you sure you're sure?"
At least the Greens, Mana and NZ First are showing some cohesion and will to fight.

No One Is To Blame

I walked around Lancaster Park.  It's rough, the area has suffered significant ground displacements and it has an unkempt look, even for an industrial area.  The Deans Stand, which is to be demolished, was the last part I looked at, and I found this

I'd forgotten how short a time there was between the stand opening and the first earthquake, opened in January 2010, ruined in September the same year.  I've not bought into the "politician X is bad luck" meme, but reading the plaque brought it to mind, and a wry smile to my face, thinking about the monuments of two politicians I'd have preferred to have stuck to their day jobs.
"...aspirations in the clouds...hopes...down the drain"

Idiots Rule


Two brain-farts today, on entirely different subjects.
Brain-fart One
Connal Townsend of the Property Council is unhappy about the revised Christchurch Central City Plan.  And tax.
First the Central City Plan:
Mt Townsend is quoted as saying a lot of stuff, and most of it is so vague and meaningless, it's difficult to criticise.  The underlying threat is very clear, though.  If landowners don't get what they want, they will pack up and leave.  Here's an example of Mr Townsend's petulance (from Stuff):
"There's a break-even point. There were so many nice ideas thrown into the plan that it's an incentive for owners to walk, rather than to reinvest."
Townsend said that despite being revised, the plan's restrictions on buildings infringed "common law rights" for owners to replace what they had lost and would make reinvesting in the city too costly.
Restrictions on suburban development would also damage the city, he said.
Christchurch central is a sorry sight.  Right now one of the last things Christchurch needs is the insipidness and uncertainty of the likes of Mr Townsend.
The Central City Plan is, on the whole, a good document.  It was developed relatively rapidly, and in unusual circumstances, and its success or failure hinges on how it is implemented.  If the likes of Mr Townsend are incapable of working with it, then it is best they take their money elsewhere and leave the redevelopment of the city to people who actually have the vision and tenacity to do the job.
In terms of funding, the underlying issue seems to be that many of the properties were under-insured.  That's a failure of private enterprise, not a failure of local planning regulations.  I'd like to see Mr Townsend head back to the members of the Property Council and suggest they take responsibility for their actions, or in this case, inaction.
The last sentence in the quote above fascinates me, due mostly to its disconnection with reality and meaning.  The city has been damaged by reckless development since the 1950s, weak planning restrictions, and earthquakes.  Strengthening planning restrictions, which has been done to some degree, does quite the opposite of what Mr Townsend suggests, by requiring developers to demonstrate that their developments are on sound ground and are supported by resilient infrastructure.  And that's hardly unreasonable.
Then tax (also from Stuff):
The submission called for the Government to fix the "dreadful mistake" of removing tax depreciation on commercial property. It also said earthquake strengthening must be made tax-deductible.
"There's no incentive now for bringing buildings up to earthquake standards, and that affects all our cities, not just Christchurch," Townsend said.
...the "dreadful mistake" of removing tax depreciation... is another way of saying that the Property Council is upset it lost an avenue for a taxpayer-funded subsidy.  How is it that Atlas can't keep his fingers out of my wallet?
And the callousness of the last quote almost floored me.  Let me make it simple – the first reason, the main incentive, to bring buildings up to earthquake standards is to protect their inhabitants from death and injury.  That's what it's all about.
The Building Code is all about safety, first and foremost.  Then it is about functionality.  There's a quote from one of Mr Townsend's colleagues about the height of toilet roll holders, I won't bother including it because it is so insulting.  It's mean to trivialise the issue.  The truth is that buildings need to be functional to accommodate everyone.  The height of toilet roll holders is important to people who rely on wheelchairs, for example.  Saying that it is unimportant is saying that these people are unimportant.  And that's rubbish.
Brain-fart Two
Bob McCoskrie of FFNZ released the findings of a report that concludes children should not be put into day care.  Ignoring that the report was written by an author known for cherry-picking, and was commissioned by a group with strong vested interests (hence the inevitability of the conclusions)...
The report is terribly flawed:
  • The author mistakes correlation for causation.  It's a common mistake, if you have no idea what you are doing.  And it's OK to do it, if you don't expect to be taken seriously.  So the report found "...increasing levels of cortisol...in children in day care"  and extrapolated from there.  That's a fairly big extrapolation, with no reference to third (and most likely fourth, fifth, sixth etc.) factors.
  • How is it that the mothers get the blame for the child being in day care?  Last time I checked, it takes two people to make a child, and I'm still to be convinced men are, somehow, less responsible for caring for their offspring than women.  [For the sake of brevity ignore the subtleties of children born to same-sex relationships]
  • I'd like to live in a society where families have the choice of whether to put their children into day care.  Idealistic?  Yeah.  I'd settle for a government that was moving in that direction, but we don't even have one of those.

I'll finish up with a quote from Bob McCoskrie himself:
"I think if you looked at the report you would find it's very well balanced, he's been attacked simply because he's daring to go where no one else has tried"
No Bob, he was attacked because he was talking bollocks, and people who noticed and cared used that quaint old "freedom of speech" idea to counter his and your bullshit.  It's all part of that radical concept of a "free society" and runs completely contrary to your knuckle-dragging "get back to the kitchen, woman" fantasy world.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

robertguyton: English insults Maori

robertguyton: English insults Maori
Robert Guyton nails it.  Bill English needs to lean that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Warning Sign

Discontent with the candidate John Key endorsed for the Christchurch mayoralty (almost 1% of the voters turned up to the protest today), discontent within the Maori Party, the characteristic ongoing nepotism from the sad shell that is the ACT (please die quickly, ACT) and parliament has not yet sat this year.  The only bright spot for National is the introspection, uncertainty and air of disarray that pervades Labour.  This government won't go the full term.