Thursday, September 29, 2005

TV Programme of the moment...



Check out the story synopsis for each of the first three episodes here

And look for it somewhere near you...

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Surprise!!! I was!

Your Brain's Pattern

Your brain is always looking for the connections in life.
You always amaze your friends by figuring out things first.
You're also good at connecting people - and often play match maker.
You see the world in fluid, flexible terms. Nothing is black or white.

Oh dearie me!!! I am on the outer again!!!

This has been doing the rounds on the news channels this past 24 hours.

Forget the fit, rugged, 30-something-year-old navigating flood plains and climbing mountains in the snazzy 4WDs as depicted in the commercials.

The reality is, drivers of the suburban monsters are often obese, aggressive, intolerant and aged in their 40s or 50s.

A new study has found that city owners of large four-wheel-drive vehicles are less community minded than other drivers, less charitable, more likely to be homophobic and have a low opinion of indigenous culture.

The Australia Institute study has also found they are more likely to use force to get their way.

Based on a Roy Morgan Research survey in 2003-04 of 24,718 people aged 14 and over, the study found the typical city driver of a large 4WD is a male in his forties or fifties in full-time work with a higher than average income.


Two thirds of their drivers in the city are overweight or obese.

Now I admit quite freely that I am two-thirds overweight or obese. I fit all of the other parameters as well.

I DO NOT OWN A 4WD!! My current transport is a Mitsi Lancer CG wagon 1600cc. It is 12 years old and still running like new.

However, drivers of luxury 4WDs are very different.

They are more likely to be female, in their 30s and 40s, and are more materialistic than other Australians.

"This group is more than twice as likely as the general population to say, `I was born to shop' (33 per cent)," the authors said.

"And two thirds (65 per cent) say they would normally buy their favourite brand regardless of price, compared with 43 per cent of the population."

They also watch their weight, and are less likely to be obese than the general population.

Well, that sure does NOT fit with me.

Final blast from this quarter...

It was "read" by one news presenter that very few of these "off road vehicles" were ever used for their intended purpose.

"One respondant said that he drove his 4WD off road every night - into the driveway of his house"

Sounds about right...

Sunday, September 25, 2005

A different approach to poverty...

there is no such thing as "poverty". Only "stupid people.

Therein is the core of our disagreement about poverty. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to the real cause(s) of impoverishment.

Well, there is a challenge. Here is my reply. Regrettably, I can not link (where it might be appropriate) to the words of Robertopia for the simple reason that his (out of all the blogs I troop through) is one of the only two or three that do not process properly through IE6. I am not going to load up Firefox or any other browser, free or otherwise, simply because one little blogger is too lazy to fix the style sheet on his page.

It has been interesting researching for this – there are essentially two sources –

First are all the “do-gooder liberal” people whose ideas would not wash with the right whinge at all.

And then there is David T Ellwood who, on his own, seems to have written the “definitive text” on poverty in the US. Certainly he seems the most quoted and the most authoritative researcher (writer?) and whose thoughts would be far more in tune with the American right whinge.

First thing to be said, we are debating poverty within the context of a wealthy nation and not the “third world” variety.

Second premise is that I want to use NZ examples – I am familiar with them and I doubt that there is much difference if any in principle between NZ and US. So if I start quoting dollars they will be NZ.

Finally, I want to take an approach which is far wider than any of the texts and work from macro down to micro rather than the usual approach of going the other way.


    Poverty – the official NZ measure is income less than 60% of the national median income. In NZ that equates to about $20,000 p.a. Is that too high? Yes, if you consider that the universal super is roughly $18,000 p.a. for a married couple. A propos of which I note a trend in recent times (in the US mainly) to express poverty in terms of "per head" income. The most logical conversion that I can think of is the 18 children per family, and to deduce that results in a "family" size of 4.8 people. That would equate to a poverty level of $4,166 p.p.p.a I think that is somewhat unrealistic as a measure as it factors costs, particularly accomodation, in a manner that is quite inappropriate.

    Cost of living – there are marked regional variations. Residential rentals in Auckland (3brm 900 sqft) is around $220 per week and upward. So the minimum for a family in Auckland would cost in excess of $11,000 p.a. Outlying areas (Kaitaia, Paeroa, Gore…) rentals bottom out for a similar property at about half that. Food is about the same in both. Clothing and other family costs are definitely cheaper in the major urban centres than the outlying areas as one might expect.

    Unemployment – Auckland and the other major centres have a shortage of skilled labour. That includes the process workers my employer is looking for; machine operators, certified forklift drivers. The national unemployment rate is 3.6%, one of the lowest in the OECD. Contrast that with the fact that in the outlying areas (where rentals are cheap) unemployment runs in excess of 25%, and for Maori in excess of 35%.

    Income parities – despite NZ’s history as an egalitarian nation there has always been graduation of labour cost based on skill and availability. There is not the level of disparity between “high” and “low” incomes that there is in the US but it is still quite marked. Of those in employment the median income in the top 3% (by number, not value) would be in the vicinity of $500,000 from all sources. Of those in full time employment, the median for the bottom 3% would be around $20,000. The point is not the scale of the disparity, so much as the bottom end median income.

    Education - In all of the texts that I read in working toward this answer, education featured prominently as a fundamental in the causes of poverty. I don’t know if Robert will recall in the 1970’s the “Batchelor of Garbology” jokes that were doing the rounds at the time. The point of the jokes then was the scarcity of employment opportunities rather than needed skill or knowledge. It started (in NZ at least) with people leaving university with science and commerce degrees unable to find work because there was a major level of unemployment and an over-abundance of labour. There is no question in my mind. Education is critical to the definition.

    Race – I made a distinction earlier for Maori unemployment rates. Is there a discrimination involved here? There may be. I believe that it is over-represented as a cause of poverty.

    Culture – Here I believe that we get closer to another cause than just by debating “race”. There is a “culture” in poverty. It can be seen in the writings of Dickens in the Pickwick Papers and A Christmas Carol. It can be seen in the stories of the Great Depression of the 1920s and 30s. The modern display of this culture is most likely include the “Gangsta”, the “colours”, in addition to the racial aspects. The common elements of the culture are –

    a) hatred of the wealthy

    b) denigration of education

    c) acceptance of crime as a source of income

    d) a general depression of ambition and spirit.


I suggested to Robert that he might like to pay a visit to Mr Babylon and that that gentleman should be a “Hero of the United States of America”. Why? Well he strikes me as a good man, well educated, and he is teaching in a school that is obviously in one of the less “desirable” urban areas of the US. I drop in on him from time to time, have done now for at least 18 months.

His experience sits well with that of friends of mine who are now semi-retired after teaching for some 35 years at a “low-decile” school here in Auckland. Let me explain “low-decile” because it is going to crop up. One of the “government gradings” of schools in NZ is based upon the (census measured) economic standing of the community to which the school provides it services. So, because I live in a comparatively wealthy area, my kids went through “Decile 10” schools – the community ranks in the top 10% of the country for income and wealth. The school where my friends taught was ranked “Decile 3” despite being no more than 10km from where I live. There are at least four high schools within the same 10km radius of my home which rank as Decile 1.

OK, so this ranking reflects the “poverty” of an area – an interesting concept but not the true point here.

First thing to know here is that teachers in NZ are NOT well paid. A new teacher graduate (effectively a double Batchelor) will start on $35,000, and after 4 years could reasonably expect to be earning $45,000. I think that teachers being underpaid is probably a universal truth.

I think too, that while the remuneration for teachers does not vary markedly between schools, their working conditions do. That is why Mr Babylon is (for me at least) a hero.

So in the “free market” of school teachers, the working conditions are a considerable part of the decision in selecting where to teach. It is obvious too, that a very large part of those working conditions comprises not the staff room or the availability of coffee, but the kids who are to be taught.

The impact of this process, borne out at least by the experiences of my friends, is that the best teachers end up at the “best” schools. The “bad” schools – and the correlation with low decile numbers is astonishing – end up raking for what they can get. The consequences are obvious. After three months of advertising and interviews of “possible” candidates for a science teachers position results in the employment of a youngish immigrant lady with MSc. She leaves after 4 months when it is found that her knowledge is nowhere near the level of her qualification. Students in one class of 17y-o’s were teaching her about Newton’s laws of planetary motion. Isolated example? Not at all in a Decile 3 or lower school.

Do I have to spell out the conclusion?


There was an op-ed in the Herald this past week, posing the question at the end “Should the US pour aid into New Orleans, or should the government just stand back and wait for everyone to leave for better pastures?”

There are parallels here in NZ, not as the consequence of any disaster but directly linked to the unemployment data that I mentioned at the beginning.

For example, there was a drastic shortage of fruitpickers in three of our major fruit regions this year. Usually that shortage is filled from backpackers, “tourist labour”, with a few locals joining in for the pocket money. The labour is employed by contractors, not the growers. Two major contractors were prosecuted for tax fraud – not accounting for the tax that should be paid by the pickers. The rules relating to “tourist labour” – mostly Asians brought here for the work on temporary permits – were changed making it the responsibility of the contractor to ensure that his employees observed the terms of their work permits and left the country.

But what about the unemployed?

Well it happens in the fruit growing areas there are not a large number of them.

The pay rate for fruit pickers is the minimum adult rate - $8.50 per hour. Payment is conditional upon picking a minimum quantity (after rejects) per hour for the day. Assume $8.50 and 14 hour day, total earnings from 12 weeks work is $8,000 before tax. Then move on to the next region. The total picking season might get you 16 or 18 weeks work. Out of that you buy your rent and food. So, pay more? Why? It is as much as the growers can pay, there are people available usually… why pay more?

Another example - Since WW2 there has been a steady “urban drift” in this country. This has created a number of difficulties, among them;
    a) Cultural. For the Maori and Pacific Islanders in particular, the connection between self and birthplace and family is very strong.

    b) Educational. The standard of education from rural schools was (still is) poor. See earlier comments but apply location in place of teaching problems. There is an added complication of access to schools in rural areas.

    c) Lifestyle. What is acceptable in a rural area – keeping chickens or butchering in the backyard for example – is not in an urban setting. Having to buy food rather than “grow it” has been an often unexpected surprise.

    d) Income insecurity. Unskilled labour is usually the very first level to be affected by an economic downturn. From the mid-1950’s through until the early 1980’s (almost a complete generation and half) the NZ economy was a three-year cycle of “boom and bust” – one year boom, general election, two years bust. There was nothing natural in this – it was entirely artificial and created by governmental desire to retain power. For those who want to blow trumpets, most of that period was dominated by the centre right, rather than the left.

The point here is that while Keynesian economics might preach the “market forces” solution to solving long term unemployment, the preaching completely ignores a number of non-economic forces that slow or even prevent the migration of labour to the markets that require it.

The best illustration of this perhaps is the IT labour market in the US which has been high skilled high remuneration and drastically undersupplied over perhaps a ten year period. Rather than "suitable" (i.e. the right skill and cost) labour moving to where the work is, the industry has been moving itself to areas where there is a large number of suitably skilled workers and much lower costs. That, I submit, is why so much of the IT development industry has moved from the US to India, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Keynes in reverse in fact. But what is the effect in the US? Highly skilled workers who previously commanded high salaries are now moving down into the lower levels of the industry, there is downward pressure on wages, and while it may take 15 years to completely shake out, someone ends up unemployed or broke or both.

I know that health and diet are not CAUSES of poverty, but they sure are KEEPERS of poverty. Until such time as that link is broken, then long-term unemployment / poverty will be a problem.

Do we really know just how far that link extends.

First up, lets “limit the bell-curve” a bit. Let’s just leave out for the moment the people who through systemic health problems will never be able to work. I include here those with multiple physical and intellectual disabilities; the son of our next door neighbour who died at the age of 14 with the abilities and intellect of a two week old child. If Robert wants to preach eugenics he may. I will not because I am “the collectivist” and I have some regard for the value of all human life.

So we are going to look to those who have the capability to earn at some level.

If a family on an income of $20,000 is expected to pay 50% of their income in rentals, then there is not a great deal left in the purse each week. Yes, we can argue that mum should get a job as well. See my note below on the “economic single parent family”. But assume for the moment that is not possible. Take out food for a family of four, utilities, clothing, transport and there is not a great deal left. So, illness tends to go untreated until it is totally incapacitating for no reason other than “I can’t afford it. A visit to the doctor is a weeks power, or a weeks petrol or bus fares.

The other aspect, and the reason behind including diet here, is the “cheap fast food” aspect. It is cheaper to feed the family with $15 of the Colonel’s finest or a couple of BigMacs each than it is to buy meat and veg and cooking it. And at this almost subsistence level , “cheap” is everything.


Another prominent factor in the “cause of poverty” discussions is the single parent family. I am going to leave out all of the garbage that goes with “what makes a single parent family” as immaterial. In some instances (such as one of my sisters) it is a matter of choice. For most it is not choice but circumstance.

I want to add in here the family that is economically “single parent”. This is the family which has both parents working full time, whether wage or own business is immaterial. The critical factors are low income and children left unsupervised for lengthy periods. There is no difference in that world to the single mum trying her hardest to make a living between family and alimony.

Robert makes much of the idea that pooor people "choose poverty, that poverty is "the consequence of poor choices". As regular readers might know, my rebuttal to that is "the choice of one's parents".

A kid who is born (just for the sake of the argument) with a P habit is sure going to have a lot of choices to make. Which school? Any that will take him. Not a case of the "best" or anything else.

The kids who live 25 miles from the nearest school, whose parents are trying their best to farm a living on marginal land, who start their day helping with the morning milking at 5 a.m., and if they are lucky catch the school bus at 7 a.m. after a good breakfast, and who get home at 4.30p.m. in time to cook the evening meal for the parents who are beginning the evening milking... Yeah, they had a choice? Right? The fact that they used to end up in my father's "slow learner" class is just the result of a bad decision. The challenge my father put himself of having 25% of his class leave at the end of the year with an acceptable level of literacy was just a simple sop to the left wing soul I suppose, apart from highlighting "the failure of the education system".

The "latchkey kids" who leave for school on foot at 7.30 with $2 in their pocket to "buy lunch". For whom a BK is a square meal and lollies a breakfast snack. They arrive home at 4 p.m. and the parents get home at 6.30. The evening meal is burger or fried chicken or pizza... Did they make it to school? Who cares!! Wouldn't do them any good if they did.

Yeah, sure those kids chose their lifestyle, the poverty culture, the crime ( You want it? Take it! We can't buy it...)


Let’s just assume, for the moment, that we in Robertopia have reached that point where poverty has been overcome. Where everyone who wants a job has a job. Where all of the lazy good-for-nothing druggies have died out, there are no single parent families, there are no families where both parents need to work in order to make ends meet.

Let’s just assume, for the moment, that everyone earns an income that affords them a reasonable lifestyle without hardship.

The question is IS SUCH A UTOPIA SUSTAINABLE?” and my reply is “I doubt it”.

That doubt is no more than hunch, gut feeling, that there will always be a group who fall below the income level that meets the Robertopian requirement.

Is it an inevitablility? I think that it is.


Some other links I referred to in putting this together...

left wing

left wing

right wing


As a closing note, it was interesting that at least one of the papers I read on the subject noted that most people below the poverty line in the US, did not remain there for much over seven years. There was only one attempt to explain this, in terms of federal and state government policy.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Oh! to be Libertarian now that spring is here...

I just love people like Robert over at Robertopia. One just has to admire the depths of their beliefs, their staunch justification of their politic in the face of terrifying and devastating events.

This latest contribution is an excellent case in point. The “cause” is obviously Katrina and its aftermath. I posted a comment on his blog to the effect that I would let his words speak for themselves.

What I want to tackle here is not Robert, but the propaganda that he uses is just too fascinating (as is an angry cobra) for words…

In response to one of my posts, our friend the probligo posed a question that I think deserves an answer. He wonders: ”What do [you] really believe should be done [by the Federal Government] to help those who have lost all in [Katrina]?”

I’m not naïve, despite my youth (relative to the probligo), so I’m cognizant of the fact that Mr. Bush will indeed be successful in urging Congress to liberally redistribute as many billions of public dollars as “we the people” deem necessary. I’m also well aware that the ‘new deal’ is sealed, with respect to direct cash transfers to everyone from displaced individuals to all levels of the affected local and State governments. Rather than try—in vein—to halt the inevitable spending spree, my intent is simply to show that it is immoral, improper and counterproductive.

First, a review of what has been proposed by Mr. Bush (which, I’m sure, has nothing to do with his sagging poll numbers). Let’s take a look at the dramatic speech he delivered in Jackson Square, dripping with "compassionate conservatism". From the transcript:
In the rebuilding process, there will be many important decisions and many details to resolve, yet we are moving forward according to some clear principles. The Federal government will be fully engaged in the mission, but Gov. Barbour, Gov. Blanco, Mayor Nagin, and other state and local leaders will have the primary role in planning for their own future.

Arguably, Blanco and Nagin (and their ilk) have largely contributed to the economic environment that existed prior to Katrina and certainly, beyond the personal responsibility of those able-bodies that remained, the Governor and Mayor failed to execute the very evacuation that they ordered. In light of recent history, how one can reason that those two ought to oversee the dispersal of multiplied billions of (someone else’s) dollars is a mystery to me.

Adding insult to injury, the President assented to the nonsense that is the go-to excuse for any and all adversity that befalls poor people that happen to be black. You guessed it: r a c i s m.
As all of us saw on television, there is also some deep, persistent poverty in this region as well. And that poverty has roots in a history of racial discrimination, which cut off generations from the opportunity of America. We have a duty to confront this poverty with bold action.

By “bold action”, he means: more money. Is a series of hand-outs really the best way to solve the problem of poverty (putting aside the question of morality)? My answer is obvious, but there’s no need to take my word for it. I would recommend a good site called A World Connected, wherein there is a great article that addresses the relationship between aid and poverty. While it deals with poverty in Africa, as opposed to New Orleans, I contend that poverty is poverty, regardless of geography. This is equally true for poverty’s remedy.
A new study (pdf) from International Policy Network concludes that aid has failed to achieve its goals in the past 50 years. Worse, in many cases aid has been counterproductive – crowding out private sector investment, undermining democracy and perpetuating poverty.

Contrary to collectivists of all stripes, LBJ’s so-called Great Society (aka “War on Poverty”), enacted some 40 years ago, is an utter failure at best and an unjustifiable expenditure at worst. The data is clear; “free money” tends to exacerbate poverty, rather than eradicate it.
Africa received over $400 billion in aid between 1970 and 2000. Yet, the evidence presented in the study shows an inverse relationship between aid and economic growth – when aid rises, growth falls. In part this is because aid supplants private sector investment and undermines savings: there is also an inverse relationship between savings and aid -- when aid increases, saving decreases. Such is a sign of dependency on aid revenues.
(my emphasis)

Although poor governance is not the only explanation for Africa’s woes, the vast majority of countries in Africa are badly governed and bad policy is the most important factor in explaining their continuing poverty.

When will our elected representatives learn from history? Agh…who am I kidding? Those slugs in tailored suits live from election to election. The fault really lies—in my view—with their constituents, who constantly clamor for more and more government-provided solutions to personal problems. The depressing irony is that Government is the Problem. So, to answer the probligo directly: Government ought to get out of the business of pseudo-altruism and allow free individuals to engage in free enterprise.

Now I am not going to argue that all is bright and rosy in the American way, in FEMA, in the state of Louisiana, indeed recent events say quite different. There are the rumours floating about over the past few days (picked up by the more rabid right-wing “media”) about the missing funding for flood protection works which if true are going to rival Iraq Oil-for-Food. There is the “Yousaid – hesaid” screaming between Washington and virtually everybody else. As I have said so many times before, “I can wait. I am a patient man.”

Robert starts with the common dichotomy between government responsibilities and popular perception of assistance from government being seen as “redistribution of wealth” and “buying of votes”. Robert, to his credit, sticks with his “it should not be a government responsibility”. I could even agree with that, if it were possible to raise US68billion in donations. I add, not just from the US; internationally as well. I note the offer from President Chavez of Venezuela – with a quiet chortle.

So, from the beginning, let us be clear on one thing. WHY is there an expectation of government involvement in a disaster of this nature? It must be from two parts; neither to do directly with funding.

First part is the matter of scale. In the wake of Katrina is the ruination of a measurable slice of the US. This is not a localised disaster. It covers three or more states. It has displaced a measurable proportion of the total population of the nation. This factor of scale will limit the ability of the “private sector” to provide a timely response. One should realise this if a little objective thought is applied.

First of many reasons – how many private organisations will be prepared to hold resources available without immediate financial return for that day when they are required. OK, so that is where (for example) the army comes in… at a cost to the government. But if we rule out government response, the private sector might still be able to provide the resources needed… at a cost.

Second of many reasons – do we expect those private organisations to forego their contractual obligations, their normal business, to provide services without return? NO of course we do not. They should be paid. By whom and from what funds? Remember that the government is no longer part of the exercise… Who is going to provide the central agency for the several hundred charities that are providing funds? Who is going to be responsible for the contractual arrangements between rescue/aid organisations and service providers. Most important, how much might that overhead cost?

The second part is the need to control on-going disruption to community, to State, and even to the national economy. That disruption would include the effect of “refugees” on property markets and employment in other states; the effect of resources (particularly civil engineering) being used in relief and rebuilding phases.

What I have in mind is the coordination between states to cater for housing displaced people either temporarily or permanently, to provide long term employment opportunities without disrupting current employment, to provide social services (from health and education to law enforcement) in those new communities… But of course, government has no part to play in such consequences either. Well not according to the propaganda. It is all a matter of “market forces”.

The next thing to be clear on – this is not a debate about the personalities involved. I am basing my position on the event and the principles – both of which should be constants. That leaves out any petty political point scoring. It is an objective view (as objective as I can be given my reliance upon sources rather than direct experience). So the castigation of this side or that is a red herring and not substantive. Even the rumours I mentioned at the start are evidence of systemic failings as much as personal or political.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the vehemenance with which Robert pulled the race card.

IT HAPPENS that the Louisiana to Mississippi region has both a high proportion of poor and coloured people. That can only be accepted as an artefact of history well passed. It should not matter whether the area is poor, or rich as Croesus. Irrespective of any other consideration we are dealing with havoc and chaos on an unprecedented scale. One can justifiably argue that the rich are more able to respond in these circumstances especially when warning can be given. But if the San Andreas were to let rip, the rich would be in as much need of help as the poor.

Of course, as soon as we pull in the race factor it opens another door wide – that of comparison between the assistance and rebuilding required in Louisiana and the provision of aid in Africa.

That has to be about as specious an argument that can possibly be presented.

Now Robert can pull as many magic rabbits out of his hat as he likes. All of the criticism of African (and presumably other) aid programmes can be justified at one level or another. There are dishonest people involved. There are dishonest governments involved. There is effective aid delivered in the right places at the right time; we very rarely hear about those programmes. There are the many instances of pleas for assistance being ignored until the problem – whether famine or flood – is so bad that it is essentially irretrievable.

The point here is that trying to justify a political point within a disaster on the magnitude of Katrina (or the Boxing Day tsunami) is quite, quite wrong. Comparison of past “internal aid” programmes as Robert outlined with African aid programmes is just a matter of political point scoring; there is little validity in the argument given the scale of the destruction in the South.

I know that Robert’s point is the futility of government involvement in any activity. He calls me “the collectivist” because I disagree.

Well, Robert, we had a “Libertarian” party raise its head here in NZ in the mid to late 90’s. Prime mover a newsman by the name of Lindsay Perigo if I remember.

TO the uninitiated, this is how Libertarians think

As Robert pointed out in one of his earlier posts, if a person is poor it is the result of wrong decision making. I have asked the question whether “wrong decision” includes choice of parents or place of birth. I have had (to my knowledge) no response to the question.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Well, that's it for another three years...

No, it ain’t all over yet. The fat lady has been handcuffed to the dressingroom door and well and truly gagged. On the night – Labour (centre-left) 50 seats, National (centre-right) 49 seats, NZFirst (the Winnie-the-Pooh factor) 7 seats, Greens (way-out left) 6 seats, Maori (Tariana Tureia’s protest party) 4 seats. Calculated majority – 61 or 62 seats.

With various minor factions refusing to sit with one another, the wish for Auntie Helen “to live in interesting times” could not have been better answered.

But what of the realities?

The first reality is that as of election night there are some 10% of votes cast yet to be counted. These are the equivalent of the US “absentee” votes.

The effect on individual electorate results is likely to be minimal. For example the result in Tauranga – Winnie the Pooh vs Bob Left Testicle – might change, but the only effect that will have is to exchange list for electorate seats for NZF and National without altering overall seat counts.

What that 10% could very easily change will be the party votes. At present there is about 0.8% between National and Labour – 20,000 votes out of 2.1 million. A comparatively small change in the proportions might have a major impact on the overall position of the two majors.

Even more interesting is the possiblity of the Greens losing out. They chose again not to contest any electorate seats, but to rely solely upon the Party vote. Under the “rules”, they need 5% of the total party vote to have any representation. On election night they held 5.0n% and 6 seats. Rough calculations by the pundits on the night had the Greens needing nearly 12,000 of the specials to hold their place.

Despite the fact that the Greens are a former coalition partner to Labour, I suspect that Auntie Helen is hoping (with all her heart) that the Greens do in fact drop out. The reason you will see, no doubt, is that the Greens are a barrier to two other major potential partners – NZFirst and United Future.

So, that is why the fat lady has been manacled and gagged.

Second reality is that the law requires the writs (the formal results) to be posted by 1st October, and for Parliament to meet the first week in November. In that month, the leading parties have the opportunity to present to the Governor General their claims for a majority in the House capable of withstanding a challenge of "confidence and supply". Until that is accepted the present government continues as "caretaker".

Other than that, what is there to say?

Oh, we had our own “9/11” here as well. Some burk hijacked a Cessna from Ardmore and threatened to fly it into the Skytower. I must explain. Every major city seems to have its phallic symbol. Some even have several. Sometimes they come in pairs. Auckland has the Skytower. It is a 328m phallus. With a knob on. Do you get the impression that I don’t like it? You’d be right. Anyways, this burk was going to fly a Cessna into the Skytower. He chickened and ended up in the drink about 5km down the Bays at Mission Bay or Kohimarama. He was fished out by passing natives and handed over to the powers that be in a serious condition. Whether from contemplating the phallus, crashing in the sea, or the ministrations of the passing natives is unclear. He is apparently improving this morning and been placed under arrest.

What are the pundits saying?

Our Sunday paper arrived – at last. I suspect that they had two versions ready for the press – with only last minute details to be fleshed out. A draw would not have been one of them... Urban Labour vs rural National is a strong flavour. National doubling its number of seats – from 20% to 40% - is another strong line. Strange that they attribute that to Brash Donnie and not to the fact that Bill (I speak) English was a dead duck, not a lame one.

The “collapse” of the Christian parties was pointed out during the evening. The fact was not lost on Brash Donnie who, in his closing speech last night referred to the National Party as the party of Catholics, Presbyterian, Methodist, Anglican, and - after a prompt from the audience - Closed Brethren... That is a scary prospect for the next election whether it be three years or three months down the road.

What do I think?

A National government will not be a surprise, especially if the Green vote goes under 4.9%. If that does happen, then I would expect a fresh election within 12 months. I don’t believe that Brash Donnie has the political nous that will be needed to keep a fragile government together.

If Labour can increase their lead over National from the specials by one or two seats then I have no doubt that Auntie Helen will last the three year term. To do that, however, I suspect that they will lose the Greens.

Last word – United Future is another example of the “one man band” parties. NZ First with Winnie the Pooh is the major. UF is led by Peter Dunne, a very astute guy who holds Ohariu Belmont in Wellington – the very gold-plated centre of the public service. Essentially he is Independant rather than holding a “colour”.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Another bunch of electoral giggles -

Oh man, the first just HAS to be the polls.

Labour is winning the battle of the big parties, but between them National and Labour look like destroying the Greens and NZ First in tomorrow's election, the latest Herald-DigiPoll survey indicates.

Labour is so far ahead it could run a majority Government on its own, if today's poll translates to votes.

Oh, yeah?

Polling companies continue to contradict each other over the likely election result, with TV One's Colmar Brunton survey last night tipping a National-led government and TV3's TNS poll giving a possible one-seat majority to Labour.


The polling trend spells danger for Labour. Last night's Colmar Brunton poll put National six points ahead, on 44 per cent to Labour's 38%. New Zealand First was on 5.5% and the Greens 5.1%.
In the TNS poll, Labour was on 40.5%, National 38.7%, NZ First 6.9% and the Greens 6.8%.

Labour fell five points in the past week in the TNS poll. Five out of the last six polls have now had National ahead,...

Earlier -

The polls point toward a dead heat tomorrow. Projecting the trend from the beginning of the year through to election day gives a combination of National, New Zealand First and United Future exactly the same score as a combination of Labour, Jim Anderton, Greens and United Future.

The immediate past picture actually gives a lead to Helen Clark: averaging the three polls published last night on TV1 and TV3 and this morning in the Herald gives Labour-Anderton-Greens-United Future 50.0 per cent and National-New Zealand First-United Future 48.3 per cent

Yesterday -

Two days out from Saturday's general election, National Party leader Don Brash has become favourite to win, according to online bookmaker Centrebet.
Labour's outlook is so bleak that some punters are changing horses and accepting losses.

Sunday -

Today's Herald on Sunday-DigiPoll shows Labour with 42.1 per cent party-vote support, ahead of National on 38.5 per cent, while respondents say they trust Helen Clark well ahead of Dr Brash. Only days ago, the parties were neck-and-neck. Two other polls expected out today give conflicting results, promising Saturday's election will be one of the closest in living memory.

And so the seesaw goes... until tomorrow.

Second just has to be the stoush between Winnie the Pooh and his nemesis in hte Tauranga electorate Bob (Left testicle) Clarkson.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

More electoral giggles...

News that the Exclusive Bretheran are responsible for a pamphlet recommending the recipient should not vote Labour or Green.

Three of the seven were interviewed on radio this morning. One of them I heard to say that "God raises governments up. God takes governments down".

Forget the pamphlets lads, start praying...

Another said "We are a strictly apolitical group." :D :D :D Yeah, right! Start praying for your own souls on that one, Brother.

Major announcement by Winnie the Pooh that NZ First will not be entering any coalition agreements. Makes sense Winnie, after your first experience. And, as usual there is so much room around the edges that the truth will never get in the way of a better arrangement. Will it?

And what about poor Sean Plunkett!! I heard that interview yesterday morning. Yes, Fitzsimons got a grilling. Yes, Sean was trying to provoke her into saying something rash. She is a politician for goodness sake!! If she can't handle that what is she doing in the game. She did not complain. But some old fuddy in the RNZ hierachy did. Must be a paid up Greenie.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Destiny Church link...

My thanks to Godofsmallthings for this.

I wrote about the link between Long and Tamaki back here.

An ugly story is brewing in Atlanta, where John Blake of the Journal-Constitution reports that Bishop Eddie Long of the 25,000 member New Birth Missionary Baptist Church received more than $3 million dollars in compensation over a 10 year period from a charity he set up to "serve the needy and spread the gospel." Long reportedly got $3.07 million--the rest of the needy got $3.1 million.

According to the Journal Constitution, Long received the following compensation over a four year period from 1997-2000:

•A $1.4 million six-bedroom, nine-bath home on 20 acres
•Use of a $350,000 luxury Bentley automobile.
•More than $1 million in salary, including $494,000 in 2000.

This about says it all -

Here's another scary quote, from J. Lee Grady of Charisma magazine about the pitfalls that an independent church of any size--from storefront to megachurch--can face when a pastor believes they answer to nobody but God.

Pastors take advantage of a lack of denominational accountability to enrich themselves, said J. Lee Grady, editor of Charisma, a national magazine that covers charismatic churches. Grady said, however, that he didn't know enough about Long's ministry to comment on it specifically.

"There are many independent churches out there today that are accountable to no one," he said. "Their board structures are controlled by a few insiders and no one can bring correction. That is not healthy. But it will not change as long as the congregations don't demand change."

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Political finance -

Services safe from tax cuts, says Key

National finance spokesman John Key has defended the party's tax cuts policy, claiming it would not axe funding for vital services but simply increase spending at a slower rate than Labour.

Interpretation –

We will allow the inflationary effects of the tax cut to reduce the value of spending on “vital services”.

From Cullen -
This $7.2 billion in lost revenue from tax cuts would have to be funded through borrowing and cuts to services.

National has said it would borrow $3.5 billion over four years to fund the costs, leaving, by Dr Cullen's estimate, $3.7 billion in cuts to spending.

National had said it would cut the savings incentive scheme Kiwisaver and some other items to save $950 million over four years. This would leave $2.7 billion in cuts which National had yet to identify, Dr Cullen said.

Interpretation –
Simple arithmetic.

Mr Key told National Radio today that Labour was proposing to increase government spending "much faster" than the rate of growth in the economy.

Interpretation –
Yeah, well that makes sense since Labour’s version of the tax cuts is essentially “government spending”. So, a point of difference, and Jonkey is right.

Dr Cullen was saying this rate of spending was what everyone should accept as normal and that National's slower rate of spending amounted to a cut in spending, Mr Key said.

"Well, that's nonsense," Mr Key said.

National would increase government spending as a percentage of GDP and would spend around $10 billion more by the third year, Mr Key said.

Interpretation –
We think that Labour is spending too much as a percentage of GDP. However, we want to tell you that we are not going to cut services, so I have to tell you that National will increase spending too.

What is more, we are going to give you $7.4 billion, and then spend even more.

Jonkey logic for ya.

National would be spending more but at a slower rate than Labour.

Interpretation –
1. We will borrow it so that the revenue impact is visited upon your children and your children’s children.
2. We will spend it, but we dont want to rush things unless another of our promises (like the tax cuts) comes totally unstuck (as it might) and we end up broke in two years instead of three...

From the surplus, National had enough to pay for all of the day-to-day expenditure it was committed to, "every nurse, every teacher, every doctor", enough to pay for all of the pre-funding of New Zealand Superannuation, and enough to have some left over to fund some capital requirements, Mr Key said.

Interpretation –
At the end of three years there will be nothing left in the bank.

Neither Labour or National had enough cash to pay for all capital items but that was not unusual, Mr Key said.

That was the way every OECD country operated and that was the way New Zealand had operated up until the past two years when it had very large surpluses, he said.

There was "very limited room" to make new expensive pledges, Mr Key said.

Interpretation –
That doesn’t stop us though, as we hope you haven’t noticed.

"Our main pledge has been to reduce taxes. That's been our big key policy plank if you like in terms of spending so we have move around with that."

Interpretation –
We’ll play “peas’n’cups” for as long as you like. You can ask anyeverywhichaway you like and we will have an explanation. We have succeeded in making the numbers so big that we don’t understand them. You voters have got no show!

Dr Cullen said: "There are no thousand dollar notes sitting around in this office for Mr Key to come in and give away as tax cuts."

Interpretation –
I got them all in my wallet.

National's promises were the "most profligate approach to try and buy an election since Sir Robert Muldoon".

Interpretation –
We had y’all sold from the start.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

I am now a NacMacFeegle.

I was going for ya, Brash Donnie, you were out front and leading strong.

There were doubts, like “gone by lunchtime” and “school vouchers” and “no more maori seats”. I was prepared to overlook those and take your word at trust. You spoke of referendums and I believed you. Bill English promoted the advantages of bulk funding of schools and I was prepared to over look the failure of the voluntary version. I was prepared to overlook the schools with BOT’s who could not manage a raffle.

I had doubts alright, Brash Bonnie, almighty doubts.

But I was prepared to vote National on the party vote.

Then I started getting these weird flashbacks.

There are the vague images of dancing cossacks. The Muldoon fear tactics that defeated compulsory superannuation that Labour government.

There are echoes of the prattling policies of the “cut the rates” councillor. “look at the waste...look at the waste...”. There are the lists of “wasteful expenditure”. There are the simplistic pleas to the purse-strings of the economically insecure. Good ideas, Brash Donnie, but there is “waste” in every government. It is of the nature of the beast. It is how government ensures the continuing fealty and support of its sponsors. Ah, those echoes... “trickle down”, “mother of all budgets”, “Business Round Table”... How well remembered they are.

We have the blatant appeals to the foibles and idiosyncrasies of the idiot majorities. You know the ones, Brash Donnie. The speeders, the traffic light runners, the dangerous overtakers, the people who believe that a traffic offence is a “revenue raising exercise”; not a case of their having broken the law.

If I leave the tax cuts out of the equation, Brash Donnie, just what am I voting for?

I can only assume that it is for a party with no new ideas. It is a vote for a party that has no new policy. It is a party that is relying upon prejudices and fears to gain votes. It is for a party that is prepared to promote the breach of traffic laws.

I think it was the tv advertisement that did it.

I am now a dyed in the face NacMacFeegal.

“Nae King!!! Nae Quin!!! Nae laird!!! Nae master!!! We’ll nae be fooled again!!!