Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Ahh, I just love the sweet scent...

of poetic justice.

Three men trying to steal fuel from a Waipukurau farm yesterday ended up setting fire to their own car.

Police said the trio siphoned diesel into a petrol-driven vehicle. When their car would not start, they examined the fuel pipe using a cigarette lighter. Boom, and the car burst into flames.

Senior Sergeant Ross Gilbert said: "Fortunately for them, there is no criminal charge for stupidity."

The men, aged 18 to 19, escaped injury but were charged with theft.

Needs no other comment...

Monday, August 29, 2005

I think I like it...

Bob Jones is an interesting cove – property magnate, politician, political activist, commentator, boxer and passionate trout fisherman.

To see where his politics might lie, take a look at his comments on the Alliance – probably the most left-wing of the "parties" in this country.

Here's what's historically unique about this election. For the first time ever, there's no interest in individual candidates and likely close electorate contests. It's taken four MMP elections to shed the habits of the past. In the pre-MMP era, winning government could sometimes turn on half a dozen closely contested seats - but no longer, which is a pity as it's removed much of the interest from elections.

The only exceptions are in seats where, inexplicably, often high-profile candidates have opted not to go on the list. John Tamihere is a case in point. His Maori Party rival Pita Sharples will almost certainly enter Parliament on the party vote even should he lose to Tamihere.

If Tamihere loses, then not being on the list, he's out. It's quite possibly his best vote-seeking argument.

MMP has removed the former ground-level slog from politics, all of which has led to a plethora of parties.

Produce 500 names, call yourself a party and you're on the ballot-paper and entitled to free television time.

All elections flush up nondescript show-off types. They exchange the humiliation of receiving only a handful of votes for a fleeting place in the public eye, before returning to well deserved obscurity.

The Australians have a term, "the donkey vote" - because even a donkey would receive some votes through voter error or ignorance.

But now, with no media focus on individual electorate contests, that lunatic fringe candidate phenomenon has been replaced by lunatic fringe parties.

I watched in amazement, the one-hour free television time party broadcasts as the last 20 minutes were given over to the nutter parties, all allocated a minute each.

God help me if Social Credit, now calling themselves The Democrats, didn't re-emerge, regurgitating old film of their glory days a quarter of a century ago. Will they ever die off decently?

Still, they provided some comic relief in the 1970s, especially their annual conferences which drew the toupee-topped Waynes and moon-faced Sharlenes from small town New Zealand, turning up in their Crimplene safari suits and Skodas to listen to the demented ravings of wild-eyed monetary reform fanatics.

Then up popped the Alliance malcontents with gloomy film footage of what they represent - namely street protests and striking workers. These Alliance misanthropes don't need votes; they need pre-frontal lobotomies, or at the very least, a damn good flogging for having such a bleak outlook on life.

Next up, a couple of scruffs took turns chanting how they would wipe out the bureaucracy, taxes et al - these being the Libertarians. No lads, you won't do that, or indeed anything with your lives, unless you toss away your Ayn Rand bibles and get on with actually living.

After that, an elderly woman seated beside a piano quaveringly urged support for her 99-seat parliament proposal. Many would agree with her but not with their vote as it would be wasted. This is no way to achieve constitutional change.

Best of all was a Fat Buggers Party, or I assume that was its intended purpose as it consisted of group shots of obese supporters and there was no coherent rationale proffered.

Still, they were happy fatties, which you certainly can't say for the miserable Alliance losers.

They're wasting their time, though, as Parekura Horomia has the fat vote wrapped up for Labour, notwithstanding National's ploy in promoting Gerry Brownlee to deputy leader.

All of this raises a common misjudgment made by single-issue enthusiasts. Whatever their cause - be it hunting, fatness or left-handedness - they pin a naive faith on fellow hunters, fatties and left-handed people to vote for them.

But they don't. If they did, Peter Dunne would long since have started a two-legged people's party and would be Prime Minister by now.

Oh for the return of the MacGillicuddie Serious Party.

BTW I have emphasised Bob Jones' thoughts on the local version of Libertarians, just to p'off Robert. Sorry - the devil made me do it.

More taxing matters...

With all of the debate about taxation, about “coercion”, about “collectivism I thought that this little commentary in the Sunday Star Times was more than interesting and certainly pertinent…

Now Gareth Morgan I have mentioned already, Rob Oram is a business commentator (read journo) and Brian Easton is an academic, politics unknown…

Read all of it, there is some interesting insight.

My friend Robert might like this little exchange…

Q: Some say tax is government theft. Why should we pay any at all?
Oram: It's not theft. You can't have a civilised country without paying tax to fund services we cannot fund as individuals. It is entirely up to each society to decide what services it is willing to pay for. So the Scandinavians like lots, the Russians very little.
Morgan: It's only theft if you don't value any public goods and services. This is not a credible view to hold in a society that devotes 30% of its GDP to core government spending.
Easton: The statement belongs to the same rhetoric as "property is theft", so why should we recognise private property? We pay taxes in order to attain community goals which cannot be delivered by the untaxed market.
Robert, how much of the US GDP comes from core government spending (i.e. welfare, defence, law and order, education and health)? You might like to consider both Federal and State expenditure to get a fair comparison…

Ahh, the joys of democracy...

Is this enough to turn an election?

For those overseas readers –

ACT is the right-wing of right-wing parties. In American terms they would stand somewhere out to the right of first base if the neo-cons were standing at second base. National would be at shortstop and Labour at third with the Democrats.

There have been rumours in the past of National and Act “cosying up”. They have resurfaced at each of the last two elections. It makes sense that they would be “natural coalition partners”. That has been promoted as well as the opposite.

Personally, there are no surprises. The relationships involved – ACT, BRT, NP, and the personalities involved should be hardwired into the brains of anyone who has taken a living interest in the machinations of NZ politics over the past twenty or so years.

The interesting thing is who sprung the leak?

More to come on that I suspect…

Thursday, August 25, 2005

NZ Tax Cuts - an expert appraisal...

Gareth Morgan is an economist. That means that he must be a dry-as-dust-ivory-tower-boring kind of a guy, right?

Well, let me put it this way. I don’t always agree with him on matters politic or economic, but then that isn’t hard either. He might have an edge on the former, he is country miles ahead on the latter.

It has taken a while, but I have finally tracked him down on the net. I have wanted to do this simply because his columns (he writes on matters social, politic and economic) are generally interesting, to the point, and well spiced with ginger.

The desire to dig him out in quotable form came again on Monday night when he appeared as one of a panel of “experts”, in this case to support the “right” side of the topic of the tax cuts proposed by the various (well two leading) parties as “vote-for-me” bribes. In his usual forthright fashion, Gareth gave his honest appraisal… including an objective if quiet “yeah, right” to the right tax cut.

So this is where you will find the full text of his latest column

Example –

To assess the merits of each, rational voters I presume will compare the offerings from two perspectives. Firstly the personal hip-pocket impact – how much do I get? Secondly which package best promotes the well-being of New Zealanders overall.

On the first count voters need to look beyond the direct impact on their wallets and take account of second round effects from tax cut packages of the magnitude of those offered. These effects include what the package might do to the economy as a whole and them personally as a consequence.

On this score both offerings are expansionary – we’re looking at the budget surplus being reduced over the next 3 years from 7% of GDP to around 2.5% of GDP. Such a reduction is a significant reduction of government savings, in an economy already at the top of the borrowing league of the OECD club. Remember our economy is already at full capacity, we are out of labour and we have inflation at the top of the permitted range. Now if the private sector is set to undergo a significant slowdown or even contraction, then an expansion of government won’t impose a strain on those macroeconomic indicators of health. But if the private sector doesn’t acquiesce then adding government spending fuel to the fire of an economy already running hot, will have exciting results.

His conclusions?

So against this benchmark how do the tax offerings compare? Neither look great but National wins – its personal income tax regime isn’t as progressive as Labour’s although it does still impose very steep marginal tax rates (poverty traps) on middle income families exposed to abatement of their benefits. Labour unfortunately has some middle income families losing 60 cents in every additional dollar they earn, to tax. This "tax rate of 60 cents" is calculated by adding together the actual tax paid and the value of state benefits lost. Is that fair? In principle I would say yes. Is it right? No, but the error is in the level and rate of state assistance rather than the rate of abatement.

For the voter seriously considering then the efficacy of the tax packages for New Zealand overall, the question they have to decide on is actually quite simple. People who earn more than you pay more tax. But do you think that they should pay proportionally more tax and if so why? If the answer is simply because you’re jealous and feel they should be punished, vote Labour. Don’t however delude yourself that we need a progressive income tax schedule to finance the welfare of those who earn less than you and qualify for income supplements or benefits. We don’t. National’s package is closer to one which retains progressivity only to the extent it’s needed to fund minimum family incomes.

So, that should make Robert feel a lot happier...

Good luck.

A sentiment, Gareth, that I heartily endorse.

Oh, yes. A bike riding economist who has been arrested in Iran can’t be all bad…

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

It is amazing what people get wrong...

I thought that I would look up my electorate...

Manukau East electorate

The Mangere electorate is based on Mangere, Papatoetoe (west of the North Island main trunk railway) and Middlemore. The Boundaries Commission made no changes to the existing boundary in 2002.

Say what?

So what does it say about Mangere?

Mangere electorate

The Mangere electorate is based on Mangere, Papatoetoe (west of the North Island main trunk railway) and Middlemore. The Boundaries Commission made no changes to the existing boundary in 2002.

Hmm, Pakuranga?

Pakuranga electorate

The Pakuranga electorate contains Pakuranga, Howick but excludes Botany Downs. There were no changes to existing boundaries in 2002.

OK, so it is only Manukau East that is wrong? Small dent in credibility...

Hey Ross!! "They" are trying to lose ya!!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tax cuts and honesty...

Well, I guess that the events of the past few days have made up my mind. Well, at least a half of it.

I begin with this article

New Zealand's economy is continuing to do better than the Government expected, filling its coffers and creating larger surpluses than predicted.

Treasury opened up the books in the Pre-Election Fiscal and Economic Update today predicting the Government would get $29.1 billion in total operating surpluses between now and 2008/2009.

Finance Minister Michael Cullen said New Zealand was probably in a better position than any other developed country to cope with the pressures of an ageing population.

The surplus for the current year would be $600 million higher than predicted in the May budget, reaching $7.29 billion. A more robust economy than Treasury predicted is expected to push up the tax take and Dr Cullen said there was some room for increased spending on top of already announced initiatives.

But I don’t want to follow the “I want… I want…” path of all of the other commentators pushing the tax cut barrow.

To start with, let us go back just three months into history -

Budget changes to personal income tax thresholds will save the average wage earner about $6 a week - but not for another three years.

The thresholds will on paper be inflation-adjusted by 2 per cent a year from the start of the new financial year, but will only impact on actual tax paid once every three years - effecting a 6.12 per cent change - beginning in 2008.

It is the first time Finance Minister Michael Cullen has adjusted the thresholds and made any concession to calls for "tax cuts".

The changes will see the average full-time wage earner - on $42,920 a year - saving just over $6 a week.

Asked why it would take three years to kick in, Dr Cullen said it fitted the Government's "fiscal forecast", meaning it did not believe it could afford the spending now.

He had no plans to change the actual tax rates, saying it was too expensive for too little taxpayer gain.

"It would be very difficult unless you're prepared to bite the bullet of significant reduction of expenditure growth.

There is really something far more fundamental to governance at stake here, and Labour has flubbed it not once but twice and possibly three times on this one topic. Central to the flub, to my amazement really is the previously infallible Dr Cullen. Those with short memories like mine might remember my comments here -

If those elected then implement policy and law which was not revealed, or which was misrepresented during the election campaign, then the government is immoral (because it has be born from a lie, it continues in a lie, and being immoral once can be immoral again any number of times and in any number of ways).

That is why I believe Labour will not get a third term in the coming elections. They are moving away from, or have lost contact with, their electorate. They are perceived as having promoted "immoral legislation" with the Civil Unions Act (despite that Act having been a matter of conscience and not promoted as Government legislation) and to have acted against the wishes of the electorate with their unilateral decision on the seabed and foreshore debate. They are seen as no longer following the path, the values, the morals that they set down at the last elections.

That is why I believe that National will win the coming election.

I want to say that I was wrong, not in my conclusion but in ommitting one other factor that is playing very strongly right about now.

That missing factor, the fundamental weakness in Auntie Helen’s push for a third term, is one word –


To say that the good doctor has “got it wrong” is quite true. In terms of scale, the “wrongness” ranks with him telling a patient he needs a heart transplant when in fact he has a hernia. (Note to the trivia merchants – I know he is NOT a doctor of medicine). The consequence of that is that his credibility is close to zero. With that goes a very large part of the remaining credibility of the Labour Government.

The motives behind the errors (whether intended or unintended) might have been for the best, for the majority. I am suspecting not. THAT is a measure of how much credence this last Budget and the Labour campaign has cost.

And this leads to a totally separate path to the one that will be tramped by so many others. The main reasons for the Labour Party to lose this election might be morals as I discussed in my other post, might be “tax cuts” as will be posited as “the main reason”, it might even be National's "telethon" advertisement.

There is a third, and a less visible and less acknowledged path as well. It is where this Labour Party stands.

Without doubt, and also without fanfare, this past Labour Government (yes, past tense already) has taken a long and very solid stride toward the left. There have been the subtle and largely unheralded changes to the law under which the labour unions are allowed to operate. There have been the consolidation of social welfare benefits. There has been the increasing penetration of government redistribution of wealth in the relationship between living standards, the “cost of living” and gross income at the lower end of the scale. That facet of the Labour Government has been the foundation of its announcement of the latest electoral bribe, the extension of the scheme into even higher income levels. All of the symptoms that point to the increasing power of the militant labour movement; that scourge of the Muldoon government, and one of the biggest weaknesses of the NZ economy in the 60’s through 90’s.

It will be interesting to see just how long the likes of Brian Easton take to wake to this as well. To illustrate, let’s step forward a year to Mr Key’s first Budget. This will be the first real chance for him to put the National Government’s tax cuts in place. So, we get 10% off corporate tax, we get a similar amount off personal tax. The world is happy.

At the same time he is going to start demolishing the redistribution mechanisms put in place by the past Labour Government. So he should, right? Give a tax cut, it has to be paid for, there is no longer any justification for targeted assistance… The effect, you will see no doubt, is to ensure that the pampered low wage workers have the incentive to increase their earning potential. This they will do, with vigour. It will not be by qualifying as doctors and lawyers. There will be a very strong (and largely correct) impression held by the lower paid (let’s say average income and below) that somewhere along the line they have missed out. And I will say now that they would be right. The effect will be that instead of the government imposed “wealth redistribution” there will be increasing and major demands for “direct wealth redistribution.”

It might even be possible to place a rough measure on just how much we are talking about.

Take a family on a gross income of $32,000. That would be one of the leading hands in our factory. At the moment he qualifies for total assistance of $17 per week. He will get back about $4 per week in tax. He is $13 worse off than before. So, before we start looking at any inflationary pressures, that worker is going to be looking for a wage increase of about 3% just to recover the “benefit” he had before.

Take a worker on $24,000. He gets no benefits because he is single. He gets back about $10 per week - enough for a packet of smokes and a beer. He knows the boss is getting back ten times that, the union makes sure he knows. And the question is asked "Where is the equity in that?"

Is there a picture emerging here?

Much as I hate the thought, I do not believe that John Keys (I will have to think of a quick name for him now – Jonkey comes to mind) is going to have some very major problems to contend with –

    Wage pressure inflation
    Imported inflation as fuel prices increase and the exchange rate declines
    Accomodation cost pressures as land banking investment resumes.
    Increasing industrial action in support of increased wages.

Yeah, there y’go Jonkey. Homework for the next twelve months… I don’t think you have it right either. Not by a very long piece of chalk. There are holes in your party’s policies that are the result of thinking that is just too simplistic, just too pat to hold any hope of viability.

IF the Nats get my vote it will be because of the failure of the left rather than I have moved to the right.

I return to the lesser of two evils.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The sky is falling!! The sky is falling!!

This is the other side of Garth George - the side I have less respect for....

I came across an article the other day which, in the light of the London bombings and other acts of Muslim terrorism in Western Europe, gave me cause to reflect afresh on the growing population of Muslims here in New Zealand.

I offer no opinion on what follows; I record it merely for those who have an interest in such matters, and because there seems to be a dearth of this sort of analytical writing down this end of the world.

Dr Sookhdeo says that at a political level, European countries were responding in different ways to the challenge of Islam.

France was determinedly protecting its secularism and had banned the hijab in school.

The Netherlands had lately swung from one extreme to the other, following the ritualised killing of Dutch film director Theo van Gogh by a young Muslim in November last year. The Dutch were turning against multiculturalism and becoming concerned to control immigration.

Britain seemed to be trying to replicate the segregation and communalism of the British Raj in India, whereby the various religious communities were each given their own laws, a policy that would certainly mesh well with some Muslim leaders' plans for Britain.

Muslims, even with an estimated 20 million living in the European Union, were still a minority in numerical terms, writes Dr Sookhdeo. No country apart from Albania had a Muslim community amounting to more than about 10 per cent of the population.

However, demographic studies indicated that Muslim populations were growing far faster than the non-Muslim populations, partly through continued immigration and conversion, but mainly because of the larger number of children that Muslim families typically had.

Now, the problem that I have is not over the truth of writings such as Dr Sookhdeo, or GG himself, or even of Islam.

The difficulty that I have is over the paranoia.

Surely if Christianity is so much better than Islam, there will be no problem. Start preaching the true Christianity, start living the true Christianity, show what can be achieved for the world through the application of true Christian principles and if your religion is stronger then your god should prevail.

It is not a war that is fought with bombs and missiles (of any kind). That will never, as Iraq will show, "win the hearts and minds".

It is not the kind of war that will ever, as Islam will find out in Europe and elsewhere, be won by the application of religious belief through democratic political structures.


The warning that GG should be spreading, the warning that we should ALL heed is this -

Religion and governance are immiscible fluids.

That was proven in Europe 600 years ago and since.

It is the one reason for the modern cultural differences between Europe and Christian culture generally and Islam.

The power of the Church was removed from national governance in all of the European nations through events such as the French Revolution. Henry VIII intentionally weakened the power of the church in England by creating the English Church. In Germany and the Low Countries it was Luther who attained the same objective. In Spain it was not until the 20th Century that the final bonds between Church and State were finally broken by Franco. The replacement of religious belief by the "worship of the State" has been proven to not work with the collapse of the Eastern European communist regimes.

Looking at the other side of the argument, nations where religion is part of governance the tendancy is toward totalitarian government. The obvious examples of the moment are the extreme Islamic nations - Afghanistan under the Taliban, less so Pakistan though they have their "moments", even Indonesia. Less obvious are the "Christian" totalitarian states; Phillipines under Marcos, Mexico, even Ireland (I know that scratches the barrel bottom but remember the ban on the "pill"?). And, to follow the previous paragraph, the "worship of the State" group would still number China and Cuba amonst their ranks.

Come to think of it, should China ever become a "fundamental Islamic nation" then would be time to get worried...

Idle thought for the day...

I am just loving the pictures coming out of Israel at the moment.

Who ever would have thought that the Israeli Army would end up treating Israeli citizens in the same way as they treated the Palestinians.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Election fever IS catching...

Granny Herald is on the morality trail as well...

At a cattle sale in Te Awamutu, Arapuni farmer Owen Emmett and his niece Shirley Emmett are giving the Herald a morality lesson.

"I'm quite disappointed in the lack of support of family issues with things like civil unions," Mr Emmett says.

"It's deteriorating." He means the country's moral climate. "And it's supported from Government."

What Mr Emmet dutifully ignores is the fact that The Civil Unions Act was passed on conscience vote, NOT party vote. On that basis he should count EVERY Member voting in favour of the legislation as being immoral – not a silly idea I confess but then my thoughts on that would go much further than his…

From Kaitaia to Bluff, many New Zealanders in this election year are worried, as one Christchurch mother puts it, about a climate of "anything goes".

"I believe our society would be much better off if there was a real focus on family, because family is the cornerstone of a healthy society," she says.

"I don't believe this Government has a good sense of family. I don't believe they are very good role models."

Again, is it the party in power or the whole system that is coming for criticism here? I could not recommend any of the current crop of politicians as role models for anything other than pimps and prostitutes; but that is also a different matter.

The main institution which defines morality in New Zealand - like all societies - is marriage, which ties adults into caring for each other and their children.

But marriage in this country is weakening. In the 25 years to 2001, the proportion of families with children that still have two parents has dropped from 90 per cent to 71 per cent. Among Pacific Islanders it is 64 per cent; among Maori, 50 per cent.

Marriage defines morality? First time I heard THAT one. I thought morals were the whole bread-basket of one's conduct within society; why one should not be a thief or murderer, why some quite natural human processes and activities are not acceptable in public, and the caring should – if you follow that line – be for the whole society and not just the one to whom you might be married.

In the main street of Timaru, a white-bearded man in a suit who declines to be named believes we are losing a sense of responsibility to one another.

"It's the 'blow you Jack, I'm all right' syndrome" - exemplified, he says, by Labour's "blatant bribe" to students in offering to wipe the interest on their loans if they stay in the country.

"Every student has a signal to borrow as much as possible. I think that shows moral bankruptcy."

He believes the me-first tone has been set by the domestic purposes benefit for people who leave their partners, often even before their children are born.

Now I have to agree, this guy has the right idea. What a pity that he got things a bit muddled. I agree – any electoral bribe be it cancelling interest on loans to promising tax cuts of 9% to companies is immoral. I can hear Brash Donnie moaning in the background with “How else do we get our policies across and that is a valid point. I am vacillating.

But it is the first time that I have heard of men getting the DPB for running off and leaving the girl holding the baby…

"There are plenty around the town pushing prams at 17, and their consorts," he says. "I heard one of them refer to his partner as 'the mother of my baby'. That shows the casual attitude to procreation in this country, and the easy way the state will provide."

Obviously he has not noticed the pregnant 12 and 14 y-o’s. OH DANG!! I just opened the abortion box!!!

In Lower Hutt, a middle-aged civil servant called David laments "a generation with no discipline" in the wake of the exclusion of men from many children's lives.

"I believe the family unit is vital, but we seem to be going against it," he says.

He cites the Civil Union Act.

Well, perhaps I should introduce David to my son and his partner. At present they have been “living together” for some seven years. They now have a darling six-month daughter. They are THINKING about a civil union marriage. A traditional marriage? They would rather stay as they are. Neither of them have any religious pretentions.

Sorry David, you got it part right – there are many one parent families. The reasons are multitude. Some, you will be horrified to know, are single parent FATHERS!! To make matters worse, some of the baddest criminals that I know of come from “good, solid, traditional CHRISTIAN” two parent families. How else do you explain the likes of David Capill.

"I have nothing against homosexuals. But to say that it [a civil union] is a stable relationship for children - I say that's not what was intended."

See my earlier comment on my son and his partner. I know that there will be many more like them right through this country. They are not unique.

And I think that if you said that he was homosexual for wanting a Civil Union ceremony rather than Christian marriage he would give you the short and sharp fairly quickly.

Many are less generous. At Gisborne's Tairawhiti Polytechnic, where the Herald invited a group of students to discuss the state of the country over a pizza lunch, carpenter-turned-computing-student Joseph Brown, 49, believes simply that homosexuality is against God's law.

He's voting for the Destiny Party because it stands for "the morals of the country".

Fellow student and mother Monique White, 20, is also backing Destiny because it "addresses all the issues of today - prostitution definitely worries me".

And I make no bones – the political outlook of these people makes me really really afraid. The last thing that any country, not just this one, needs is a self righteous bunch of bible bangers forcing their standards on everyone else.

Down the road in Napier, bank officer Diana Moyle, 37, is voting National because her biggest concern is "the breakdown of families".

"It starts at the top - what their values are, what they stand for," she says.

"If you decriminalise prostitution, then it becomes normalised."

I have some sympathy for Diana. What she says is quite true. And “pimps and prostitutes” would always be a favourite for a politicians fancy-dress ball theme.

She has gone back to work after 15 years as a full-time mother and would like to see the Government encouraging mums to stay home.

"Childcare is not the best option for kids," she says.

"If Mum can stay home, that's the best."

Yep, more sympathy from me for her position. What is not clear – is she returning to the workforce by choice or not? Is the family finding Dad’s wage is not enough? Or is she going to work so that they can buy the “must haves” – wide-screen digital tv, playstation, boat, SUV, million dollar bach? It does make a difference to the demand that "the Government [should be] encouraging mums to stay home."

Dunedin home-maker Rachel Elder, 48, suggests one way to encourage mums would be to tax couples with children on their combined income.

That would cut the tax on a single income of $50,000 by $2000 a year, or about $40 a week.

Caroline Borger, a worker with special needs adults from Kumeu, suggests providing marriage counselling for all couples having troubles.

"If you provide more help, they would stay together," she says.

But, as Timaru's Aaron More, 30, points out, staying together may require giving up other things. Although he still has a $20,000 student loan for commercial studies, he has opted to set up a simple business as a window cleaner while his wife stays home with the children.

"It's about sacrifice," he says.

"You can't have everything, so you figure out what you do want, and what you can do without."

Ah, now there speaks a MAN with some common. Aaron you deserve to go far. Ever considered life as a politician? I’d vote for you in a blink on just that one statement.

Overall, moral issues are only a minority concern, mentioned by 7 per cent of the 600 people questioned.

But they matter because they are the major factor driving the votes of 19 per cent of the people shifting to right-wing parties in this election.

Such issues are more likely to be mentioned by Pacific Islanders and Maori, and by southerners.

Only 5 per cent of Aucklanders and 7 per cent of other North Islanders, but 9 per cent of South Islanders, raised concerns about family and moral matters.

"People down here have more time for each other," Mr More says.

"The further north you go, the more people are just into themselves.

"I'm not a rat-race person."

Right on, Aaron, and don’t you ever lose that thought.

“Overall, moral issues are only a minority concern, mentioned by 7 per cent of the 600 people questioned.
But they matter because they are the major factor driving the votes of 19 per cent of the people shifting to right-wing parties in this election.
Such issues are more likely to be mentioned by Pacific Islanders and Maori, and by southerners.”

Well I guess that can be explained in a number of ways, not least of which is the fact that it reflects the outlook of the people to whom you chose to speak. Nothing like a selected rather than random sample.

To be honest, the SST survey gives (for me at least) a far greater clarity to the moral/political connection in this country. Yes, there are defects in their survey. Those defects are disclosed in the accompanying articles. The validity of their results is supported by reference to ‘total population’ statistics.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

At last - a news outlet that I can understand!

Level 6 News

Sample - from last Friday...

Get your Freedom here. Registration Required.

If you want to take a Sunday stroll past Arlington National Cemetery, to the reflecting pool on the National Mall this coming September 11th be warned that you will have to register with the Pentagon.

The Pentagon is holding a "Freedom Walk" on that Sunday and if you want to follow the route you have to register and be screened.

Screened for what, they don't exactly say. But if I were you, I wouldn't turn up with that "Impeach Bush" sticker on your bicycle.

Ask your Mommy or Daddy what happens if you have to travel that route to go to work or to the shops or to church. Will you be required to register.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Well, it was great while it lasted.

I am not going to cock-crow this as a "win". I am disappointed that the "last post" for the debate was the article from Sunday Star Times on morality in this country.

The point that needed to be made, and which was alluded to in the SST article, was the connect between morality and politics. It is the point which Eric and the others said leads to a circular argument. It is a connect that both they and I overlooked. The reason (20/20 hindsight here folks) why I didn't realise this earlier was the insistent argument being put up that the dynamics of a group do not represent the individuals that make it up.

I was thinking through the implications of the statistics from the "morality survey" that SST published and particularly rethinking my post that the elections were already decided with a National Party win.

Well, the connect is there, for all to see.

The main reason why there will be a change in government has little to do with taxes, with morals and morality as such. It is a perception. From the SST article -

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister Helen Clark dismissed the response as "out of sync" with other polls and with as much validity as talkback radio.

OK Helen, you are entitled to your view too. But THAT little statement I think is going to come back and bite you in the bum.

On the other side of the divide, and Robert and Eric will be pleased that the right wing has much the same view here as it does in the US, we have Bill English.

Now Bill is an interesting cove, one of the virginal "former leader of the National Party" cast out into the comparative wildernesses of the second row before he could take the Party into a General Election.

Here is Bill's take on the survey -

"People don't think the government should be used to push a moral point of view on them. The media make the mistake of thinking a conservative view is an intolerant view. I'm regarded as conservative and I don't care what people do, but don't make me like it."

I will say it again, there is the connect for all to see...

Eric and Robert and the rest will again blame me for a "circular argument". It is not, it is very linear...

    * A good sized majority of NZers think that there is a place for morality in the governance of our country. There is probably a good level of disagreement on what morality.

    * "Two-thirds of our sample said morality issues would affect the way they voted on September 17 and more than half rated the Labour government's performance on moral leadership poor, very poor, or terrible. "

    * "Nearly 60% of respondents believe the government has lost sight of family values."

So following from that expectation -

    * Government is a process.

    * There is a general expectation that the process of Government will produce results acceptable to the majority. This is the first point confused by Eric, Robert and the others. They let the people get in the way of realising that this is the case.

    * There are governments (note the small 'g') which produce law and consequences that are totally immoral. This is why the examples of Hitler's Germany and similar administrations become valid.

    * It is not that Government has failed. The process is likely unchanged.


So, to Eric, Robert the rest of the gang, that is where I believe our disagreement is born.

The electorate can have an expectation of moral government. They elect a group who they see as having similar moral values.

If those elected then implement policy and law which was not revealed, or which was misrepresented during the election campaign, then the government is immoral (because it has be born from a lie, it continues in a lie, and being immoral once can be immoral again any number of times and in any number of ways).

That is why I believe Labour will not get a third term in the coming elections. They are moving away from, or have lost contact with, their electorate. They are perceived as having promoted "immoral legislation" with the Civil Unions Act (despite that Act having been a matter of conscience and not promoted as Government legislation) and to have acted against the wishes of the electorate with their unilateral decision on the seabed and foreshore debate. They are seen as no longer following the path, the values, the morals that they set down at the last elections.

That is why I believe that National will win the coming election.

And looking forward from there, the seeds of National's demise are already sown. I agree with Bill English (and so will Eric and Robert) that "the government should [not] be used to push a moral point of view...". But, Bill, that does not excuse the Government from acting morally.

As I said earlier, the missing link that all overlooked in the debate at "Eric Grumbles" and "Robertopia" was that human element. Once a government is elected, the group paradigm that I have been arguing takes over and the output of government then reflects the people within it.

So, Eric and Robert, I agree to this extent -


You can add "thieving" in there if you wish. I won't disagree. It will not stop me from being a "collectivist" or whatever other label you wish to apply.

(Note - one of the problems of working is that between thought and keyboard tends to get disconnected at times. At the time I editted this, there were no comments. I don't anticipate the changes will alter anyone's perception of the argument other than the fact that I have removed and changed one or two bits that were contradictory.)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Our elections are all but over...

There has been an on-going debate here and here on the connection between individual morality and the “morality” of government – as it might reflect the sum of the moralities of the electorate.

The Sunday Star Times has today released the results of a survey taken over the past couple weeks (NOTE to David Farrar – I did not call it a poll.)

If I am right, and the government will most clearly reflect the “morality” of the nation then we are in for a change in government in the next election.

This despite the fact that the Labour Party currently leads the National Party by some 5 or 7% or are on par.

To quote from the SST -

Two-thirds of our sample said morality issues would affect the way they voted on September 17 and more than half rated the Labour government's performance on moral leadership poor, very poor, or terrible.

Nearly 60% of respondents believe the government has lost sight of family values.

Attitudes to morality were polarised along party lines. A majority of National Party voters said homosexual sex was wrong and 83% believed infidelity was immoral. And 64% of National supporters believed a politician's adultery would affect the way they voted. National leader Don Brash has admitted to having an affair with his second wife, Je Lan, before the end of his first marriage.

Read the whole article. If there is anything that is likely to indicate the true feeling of the electorate it is this.

Not the usual media "polls".

DAVID LANGE - 1943/2005

A great man? A great Prime Minister?

He is certainly among the best that NZ has ever had in charge. His legacy will always be the new place New Zealand found in the international community as an independent, thoughtful and honest nation.

"Come a little closer... yes I can smell the uranium on your breath."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

A real live probligo!!!...

Thanks to Jim Hopkins and his book "Inventions from the Shed" I can bring a a picture of a real, live "probligo". Posted by Picasa

This one was built mid-60's for the express purpose of travelling over very wet ground (note the mud?), and on steep hillsides to rescue sheep in distress.

The tiller instead of handlebars?

1. "We didn't have any handlebars.
2. "There was this nice piece of macrocarpa in the back of the shed and it worked."
3. "Ever tried hanging on to a sheep, not falling off and steering all at the same time?"

Any others?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Why do I do these? - Vanity, o vanity...

Advanced Global Personality Test Results
Extraversion |||||||||||||||| 63%
Stability |||||||||||||||| 70%
Orderliness |||||| 23%
Altruism |||||||||||||||| 70%
Interdependence |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Intellectual |||||||||||||||| 70%
Mystical || 10%
Artistic |||||||||||| 43%
Religious || 10%
Hedonism |||||||||||| 43%
Materialism |||||||||| 36%
Narcissism |||||||||| 36%
Adventurousness |||||||||| 36%
Work ethic |||||||||||| 50%
Self absorbed |||||| 30%
Conflict seeking |||||||||||| 50%
Need to dominate |||||| 30%
Romantic |||||||||||| 43%
Avoidant |||| 16%
Anti-authority |||||||||||| 50%
Wealth |||||| 30%
Dependency |||||| 23%
Change averse |||||| 30%
Cautiousness |||||||||||||||| 63%
Individuality |||||||||||||||| 70%
Sexuality |||||||||||||| 56%
Peter pan complex |||| 16%
Physical security |||||||||||||||||| 76%
Physical Fitness |||||| 24%
Histrionic |||||| 23%
Paranoia |||||| 30%
Vanity || 10%
Hypersensitivity |||||||||||| 43%
Female cliche |||| 16%
Take Free Advanced Global Personality Test
personality tests by similarminds.com

Hat tip to Owlish mutterings

Thursday, August 11, 2005

How loud can I say "FREE ENTERPRISE!!"

Among the freebie newsmedia that comes across my vision from time to time was this little gem…

Americans, read and weep. THIS is what free economy, technical advancement and entrepreneurship is all about…

“It makes me proud to be a New Zealander, but frustrated because every dollar comes out of our pockets [compared with other countries with unlimited Government backing].

“We can’t confirm or deny sales because of who we deal with. But the books look good.

“Development costs are enormous and we are always looking for investors. I’m trying to keep the business in New Zealand because it’s good for growth and development, new skilled jobs and another industry.”

The US Government recently gave $0.5bn to a UAV developer. In comparison, the New Zealand Government recently gave its first grant to the aerospace industry when Pacific Aerospace Corporation received $480,000 from the Growth Services Fund to develop and enhance its manufacturing capability.

Economic development minister Jim Anderton says the grant is for international certification in targeted markets, expanding capacity, and developing human capital.

The Growth Services Fund is accessible only for companies identified as having clear and significant growth potential, for whom a development plan has been compiled.

Note please, that PAC is NOT the designer of this little beauty. Their grant was for the marketing of another aircraft…

For the technically minded

Later edit...

To add another -

If you own a GPS or cell phone, there is a 65% probability that the oscillator that drives it comes from this company. Here is their home page.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Robin Cook - political visionary 1949 - 2005

In late 2002, just prior to the US unilateral declaration of war against Iraq, Robin Cook, then Foreign Minister in the Blair government, gave his boss clear warning that to move unilaterally against Saddam would be a serious mistake. It would be a mistake under several headings; international law, relations between Britain and the international community, humanitarian considerations in Iraq, and the efficacy of the war in terms of the (then) stated objectives. It was at that time, in a heated debate with some rabid American right whingers, that I described Cook as likely the most honest politician of the decade, and probably of the century.

He resigned from the Blair Cabinet, winning himself many supporters as a result. Not long after he began writing as columnist for the Independent. The Independent has set up a chronological index to Cook’s writings. As a one man history of the Iraq war and Britain’s place in it, it makes for quite chilling reading.

This one passage from March 2004 will become the popularist epitaph of the man, but there can be no more fitting tribute to his vision and foresight…

It says much about the nervousness in Government over Iraq that they have no plans to mark tomorrow's anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. This is very sensible on their part. Any retrospective examination would inevitably draw attention to questions that they find increasingly difficult to answer - such as why they ever believed Saddam was a threat since he turns out to have had no nuclear programme, no chemical or biological agents, and no delivery system with which to fire them.

A fitting way to mark the anniversary would be to drive a stake through the doctrine of pre-emptive strike and bury it where it cannot be disinterred to justify another unilateral military adventure. The new Bush doctrine claimed the right to make war on any country that could be a potential threat some years down the road. Iraq has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that intelligence cannot provide evidence reliable
enough to justify war on such a speculative basis.

Tony Blair is right when he insists that there can be no opt out from terrorism for any individual country. The lethal energy of al-Qa'ida makes no nice distinctions between those who opposed the invasion of Iraq and those who supported it. Given popular sentiment in Spain it is almost certain that nine out of ten of those murdered in Madrid had opposed the Iraq war. There is no certificate of immunity which can be obtained from al-Qa'ida. The rational approach is to ask whether our actions are making the world as a whole safer from their malign intentions.

The sober, depressing answer to that question must be that the invasion of Iraq has made the world more vulnerable to a heightened threat from al-Qa'ida, which is precisely what our intelligence agencies warned the Government on the eve of war. The bombs in Madrid resulted in the worst terrorist atrocity in Europe for 15 years and were the latest in a litany of murderous assaults from Turkey to Morocco.

Part of the problem of the present Western approach on terrorism is the insistence of our leaders in Washington and London on describing it as a war. As a metaphor the language of war may be a forceful means of expressing the priority our security forces should put into defeating terrorism. Unfortunately too many in the Bush Administration appear to have been misled by their own language into believing that terrorism can be beaten by a real war, as if we can halt the terrorist bombs by
dropping even bigger bombs of our own.

In truth we would have made more progress in rolling back support for terrorism if we had brought peace to Palestine rather than war to Iraq, but President Bush's promise that he would give priority to peace in the Middle East has become another of the commitments given before the invasion and broken in the year after it.

Not Britain alone, but the world is poorer for his passing.

Friday, August 05, 2005

The election "hots up"...

As has been mentioned in other rants on this page, NZ is heading for its General Elections. It is an exercise in our own small town equivalent of “pork barrel politics”, the level of debate reaches that of the kindergarten sandpit at times, there is much learned debate in the news media most of which is wrong or misquoted if you believe the politicians and their press officers, there are tv circuses complete with worms… and eventually it is decided who is going to get locked in the beehive.

But not all of it is serious stuff. The Spectrum doco I mentioned earlier is one of those classics that (perhaps in three years time) would bear re-broadcast.

On the route I use to and from work there is this billboard. It is one of many, but this one in particular. The connection to the elections might seem tenuous without close contact to the local political scene but it leads from a note in the bottom right corner to this.

Now as a “poll” or even a “survey” it probably holds little water. But I have to admit that it does tickle the fancy just a little. Did I enter my vote? No. I am not a great fan of chilli-laced pizza.

Oh!! The billboard? What did it have on it?

That is one of the best chuckles of the lot.

One of those very nice, smiling, well posed and composed, best photo-op head and shoulders portraits of –


Underneath reads – “Even hell has its standards.”